The Vision

Sermon for Sunday, February 19, 2023 || Last Epiphany A || Matthew 17:1-9

Imagine with me the disciple Peter near the end of his life, reflecting back on that surprising journey up the mountain that we just heard in today’s Gospel reading. He’s speaking to a group of young followers of Jesus, who have just asked him to recall something about his days with Jesus and the other disciples.

Jesus knew I wasn’t a big fan of hiking. We walked everywhere, so why would I want to walk during my free time, too? I suppose that’s what growing up around boats does for you. Not a lot of places to walk around on a small fishing boat, and that’s just fine with me. But Jesus – Jesus loved to walk. He told me once he loved to walk because his mother walked all the way from Nazareth to Bethlehem while he was still in her womb. And when he went hiking, he thought of her. But that’s not what I want to talk to you about today. How you all let me wander.

Jesus convinced me to go on a hike once with him, James, and John. They were fishermen too, but they liked hiking more than I did. I agreed because I never wanted to be too far from Jesus, no matter what we did. Less than a week earlier, he had told us what was going to happen to him, and I was dead set against letting anyone hurt him. So I went along as more of a bodyguard than a willing participant. Well, Jesus had quite the hike in mind. This wasn’t just a stroll by the seashore. We went straight up a mountain. My knees were killing me by the time we reached the top. The view was nice, but not worth the effort. And my knees still had to make it down again.

I was grumbling about this to James and John while Jesus walked a few paces apart from us. And that’s when it happened. The weather shifted. Clouds formed above us, their bright edges gilded by the light of the sun. A welcome breeze swept across the mountaintop. And where the sun had been shining a minute before, now Jesus shone with a light as bright as the sun. If anyone in the valley below could have seen through the cloud cover, they would have thought a bonfire had been lit atop the mountain. I looked at Jesus, and despite the brightness, I could still see him without squinting. And he wasn’t alone. Two other figures stood with Jesus. I blinked my eyes, and the figures were like afterimages, like I was seeing in triple. But Jesus was speaking with them like they were really there. Who could they have been but Moses and Elijah, two prophets of old come to advise and encourage Jesus in his mission.

I didn’t want the moment to end, so I proposed building some tents for them to take their ease. But I didn’t know what I was saying. We had no materials to make tents. The words were barely out of my mouth when thunder crashed around us, and as the thunder died away, I heard a whispered voice, as quiet as a heartbeat. Maybe it was in my heart. The voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased. Listen to him.”

I fell to the ground in fear, but then Jesus was there, lifting me up and telling me not to be afraid. The dazzling light had faded from his face, and I wondered in that moment if I had imagined the whole thing. But James and John and heard and seen everything I had. It wasn’t a dream or a hallucination. It was a vision.

That’s a funny word, isn’t it? Vision. We use it to talk about the sense of sight, our vision, what our eyes actually see. And we use it to talk about what we want to see, what we hope will come to pass, what our hard work and planning and deepest desires and God’s call on our lives mingle to create. A Vision.

I’ve relived this memory so many times over the years, and the skeptical part of me always tries to convince the rest of me that it didn’t happen the way I remember. That we were tired out by the hike and dehydrated or whatever. But the rest of me stitches this memory into all my other ones, and I recognize what the Vision is, this Vision I want to tell you all about today.

The question hinges around what changed the day on the mountain. Was it Jesus? Did he actually change his appearance so that he shone like the sun? I don’t think so. Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. So, if he didn’t change in that moment, what did? It was my eyes, my vision. On that mountaintop, I saw him the way God saw him, as a luminous being, full of light, the Beloved of God. God gave me the gift of transfigured eyes, eyes that could see as God sees.

I’ve spent the rest of my life trying not to isolate this gift only to when I find myself on mountaintops. I try to remember that God gave me this gift to use all the time, this gift of seeing as God sees. And so I try to use it every day. I look at the person I am with, and I try to remember to see them through God’s eyes, just as I saw Jesus that day on the mountain. And on the rare day I do remember to do it, the person I am with is just as luminous, just as full of light, as Jesus was. They, too, are the Beloved of God.

Looking at you now, I see through the gift of transfigured eyes. You are God’s Beloved, and so is everyone else. That’s the Vision I have – to make a world in which everyone feels like God’s Beloved, is treated like God’s Beloved, is embraced as God’s Beloved, each and every person and all of God’s creation full of the luminous love of God. That’s the world I see in my Vision, and it’s the one my eyes long to behold. I won’t live long enough to see it this side of paradise, but that won’t stop me from working for it. You, young ones, probably won’t see it fully realized either. But that cannot stop you from practicing to see with those transfigured eyes, to see the reality of God’s belovedness radiating out from every corner of creation.

So, the next time you go walking with Jesus – and he’s there, I believe that to be true, walking hand in hand or one step ahead…the next time you go walking with Jesus, look out at this world with eyes that see the grandeur of God. See as God’s sees, belovedness everywhere you look.

One thought on “The Vision

  1. Thank you, Adam, for this lovely meditation on yesterday’s Gospel reading. I hope to be able to see belovedness everywhere.

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