Down the mountain...now what?A sermon for the Feast of the Transfiguration February 19, 2023 by Sebastian Meadows-Helmer
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- Pr. Sebastian
Jesus, Peter, James and John went up the mountain
and had a glorious experience:
Jesus was transfigured, he shone bright like a diamond,
was announced as God’s son,
and was seen to be talking with Moses and Elijah.
And then the glorious event ended,
the party was over,
And the four friends went down the mountain.
Back to reality, back to everyday existence.
We too, have our mountaintop experiences,
our great exhilarating moments.
As Christians, we focus our attention on the transfiguring thrill
of Sunday morning worship,
with song, praise, readings and a meal.
Some Sunday worship is truly exciting,
like many of you might say last Sunday was.
But come down we must.
We can’t stay on the top of the mountain,
We can’t get stuck on our Sunday morning high.
We have to come down to the valley, get back to reality,
Get back to the 9 to 5, to the weekday.
But what are we to do,
once we have descended from our Mount of Transfiguration
And come down?
What is our mission and purpose once we’re down in the valley
after what we’ve experienced up in the clouds?
Well, I think it’s clear:
We are to do justice,
And take what we’ve experienced on the mountain
as food for the journey to bring God’s kingdom a little closer to reality.
We have a really good how-to guide
to living after coming down from the mountaintop
in our first reading from Leviticus.
While Leviticus does include laws that
presumably don’t mean much to anyone except orthodox Jews,
like the prohibition on wearing clothing of mixed fabrics,
There’s a lot of great wisdom and important instruction
in the verses we heard today.
What we can learn is that these chapters aren’t just about outdated laws,
but about guidelines that apply to everyday life.
The Heart of Leviticus is social justice,
and God reveals Godself through these instructions and teachings.
We learn about who God is by taking note of what we are told to do.
Rather than being a restrictive list of “thou shalt nots”,
These teachings are a source of freedom, goodness and life.
For the main principle here is: “love your neighbour as yourself.”
We love our neighbour for example by showing integrity of our behaviour,
Honestly matching our words with our actions,
Whether in our neighbourhoods, workplaces or courtrooms.
Our behaviour witnesses to the character of the God we serve,
Our actions reflect on the God we love and follow.
We are reminded that those who have much,
should share what they have with those who have less,
Recognizing that those who are poor,
are often poor due to no fault of their own,
but because of forces of physical and economic violence.
Leave something over for the poorest, to pick up the crumbs,
Don’t harvest every last single grape,
Don’t be greedy!
There is enough to share if we give a little bit,
Really, how much do we need?
We know from the 10 Commandments that it’s wrong to steal,
but stealing goes beyond that:
we shouldn’t deceive each other or lie to each other, even if it seems harmless.
Verse 13 talks about an issue that still occurs today: wage theft.
The idea that in some sectors of the economy,
undocumented men and women are hired, like migrants,
and are then underpaid, or even their pay is withheld.
You shall not withhold a hired labourer’s pay overnight!
Do not insult a deaf person,
Or put some obstacle in front of a blind person
that would cause them to trip!
Instead, we should strive to provide accessibility for all, and
Act considerately towards those with disabilities.
Judges: judge fairly, and do not show favouritism.
Our justice systems even today have these flaws:
There is still much to learn and improve:
The Rich with more money can hire better lawyers, and get off Scot-free,
While the poor, often Black, Indigenous and People of Colour, land disproportionately in prison.
Another good one: do not stand by while your neighbour’s blood is shed.
This is in fact commanding us all to be Good Samaritans.
If we see someone who is being hurt,
we need to step in and help save the victim.
And then a reminder to criticize your neighbour if you see them sinning.
If you don’t, you become responsible for their sin.
This is a harsh standard to uphold!
If you ignore the sin of your neighbour, you are complicit of this deed.
This relates to the instruction to always be a Good Samaritan,
We need to say something, else we become a co-conspirator.
And finally we are reminded that all these commandments
are summed up in the simple sentence:
Love your neighbour as yourself!
If we do these things we are told to do, then we show God’s care and compassion to our fellow human.
These ethical guidelines that explain how we are to treat our neighbour,
They remind us that our individual actions affect the wellbeing of the entire community.
How we treat our fellow human has repercussions for all of society,
and we who know how to behave
have a leadership role.
Why are we to do all these things?
God says: You must be holy because I am holy!
It’s not just about Jesus’ holiness and transfiguration,
but about our holiness and transfiguration.
OK, so God is holy,
but wait, we’re supposed to be, or “act holy”?
Usually that isn’t seen as a good thing,
And is a conception of hypocritical Christians,
“Acting all holier than thou”.
We might think that only perhaps Mother Teresa,
Martin Luther King or the Dalai Lama are really holy,
But no actually, we’re all on the hook for being holy (Kimberly Clayton).
We all need to strive to be holy.
Being holy is not a state of being
(like some halo permanently floating above our head),
But being holy is how one acts in everyday places and relationships.
Holiness is not about making grand sacrifices
or praying magnificent prayers,
It’s about the simple things:
Being a good employer.
You’re holy when you’re fair
And don’t gossip or slander.
Being holy means you don’t say “Oh God!”
unless you want God’s attention.
Being holy is not about doing some unrealistic selfless noble deeds,
Like a fairy tale prince,
But about simple decisions:
like not making life harder for someone with a disability.
Holiness is feeding hungry people at OOTC or on Shrove Tuesday,
Installing accessible, gender-inclusive washrooms.
Acting holy is phoning someone who’s lonely or isolated from the church,
Giving time or money to a good charitable organization like Food4Kids or CLWR, or
Listening to stories of marginalized Black Lives during Black History Month.
Holiness is being God’s presence to our neighbour.
When we come down from the mountaintop,
We need to remember to be holy, and
To love our neighbour as ourself!
Empowered, and recharged from our Sunday,
When we return to Monday,
We can be God’s presence
for all we encounter.
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