Transfiguration Sunday is about two things:
seeing and changing.
Let’s start with seeing.
It doesn’t happen automatically.
For most people, it doesn’t happen at all.
In Paul’s day, Christians were the tiniest sliver
of the Empire – about point 4 percent.
Episcopalians alone are a larger percentage of America
than Christians were of Ancient Rome.
99.6% of the people thought they were complete fools.
Are we fools? The Christians wondered.
How could so many people be wrong?
We are larger than they were but we are a whole lot smaller
than we used to be.
Faith in Christ is less and less common these days.
If you take out the fundamentalists who invoke Jesus’ name
for things he wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot pole,
the followers of Christ are few and far between.
Most people don’t darken Church doors.
Even in the Church, we are not so comfortable
confessing Christ, and him crucified.
So, does trusting in him make us fools?
When Presiding Bishop Curry asks the Bishops
what the Jesus Movement might mean,
we shy away from the question.
It was a running joke in my seminary
that we had an informal taboo on our preaching.
We were not to say, the J word.
We could talk about a vague Christ,
what Theosophists call the Christ principle
defined as a spiritual abstraction and no living man.
But Jesus made us nervous.
Awhile back, we asked a dozen of our diocesan leaders
what Nevada needs that the Church might offer.
Not one mentioned Jesus. Not one said the gospel.
We spoke of social services in secular language
and Jesus is no part of that.
What’s going on? Why have we abandoned even the language of faith?
Maybe like Paul’s people, we wonder,
if the gospel is true, why do so few believe?
the god of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers
to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ,
who is the image of God.
When Paul says the god of this world,
he means the powers that be,
the values, norms, and assumptions about reality
that we have been taught all our lives as the way things are.
French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu calls it habitus.
He defines habitus as a corporeal knowledge,
a system of dispositions.
Bourdieu says these basic assumptions about reality
are virtually hardwired into our bodies
until we don’t’ even know we have them.
They are engrained in us over a lifetime of reinforcements,
silent as background noise- but no one dares to dispute.
We are almost hardwired to believe
the secularist view of the worldview.
It was the same in Paul’s day.
They were hardwired to the Imperial pagan worldview.
Today it’s secularism.
Neither can see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ,
who is the image of God.
We cannot market our way out of this.
We cannot persuade the world to believe
things that make no sense
in their secular-materialistic framework.
Arguing with them is wasting our breath.
All we can do// is show them Jesus.
We can show them Jesus over and over
for centuries if that’s what it takes.
It took us 400 years to dig this secular pit
It may take another 400 years to climb out of it.
The only way to do that – the only way to change the world –
Is to show them Jesus.
But what’s the point?
Why bother change the world?
The answer is simple:
God loves the world and so do we.
It may be a bloody mess but it’s our bloody mess.
For now, this world is our home.
And things are not great at home.
From Myanmar to Charlottesville to October 1 in Las Vegas,
things are not great.
There are a lot of problems we could count.
But let’s start with a 20% increase in hate crimes
in US cities last year
and doubling the numbers of murders
by white supremacists.
Sometimes Jesus said that people were on the road to ruin.
That wasn’t supernatural prophesy.
Anybody could see the world going to hell in a handbasket.
Jesus was offering them another way.
Today’s world doesn’t need Christians to say things are bad.
The world needs Christians to show them another way.
The world needs Christians to show them Jesus.
This is where seeing leads us to changing
because the only way we can show people Jesus
is by being Jesus right here and now.
You may be the only (gospel)l someone will ever read;
your kindness, the only sacrament they will ever receive.
If we are going to change the world,
we first have to be changed ourselves.
The aim of the Christian life is nothing less than
our transformation into the likeness of Christ.
Paul says we who have removed the veil
to see the Lord’s glory
are being changed into his image.
We are God’s children now.
It does not yet appear what we shall be.
But when he appears, we shall be like him.
We are here to become like Jesus – not so we can feel smug –
but so we can show the world some hope.
You are the light of the world, Jesus said.
You are the salt of the earth.
The Bible says,
You are the Body of Christ.
St. Theresa of Avila said,
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which he looks
compassion on this world . . ..
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes.
You are his body.
Christ has no body on earth but yours.
If Christians are not going to be Jesus
for this afflicted world, who is?
We show Jesus by our action in the world,
but it starts here.
It is imperative that we rethink what it means
to be in Church in a post-Christian world.
We are not here because it’s a small pond where we can be a big fish.
We are not here to get our way
or nostalgically repeat the rituals of our childhood.
We are not here to get something out of it.
This isn’t our spiritual gas station where we refuel
for the coming week’s secular life project.
We are not here to be reassured everything is alright.
It isn’t alright.
We are not doing our time in God’s doghouse
to stay out of Hell later on.
It doesn’t work that way.
We come here, as Paul says, to die to self,
to be crucified with Christ, that Christ may live in us.
The Eucharist is not food for the journey.
We offer our very selves to God at the altar to be transformed.
What we change into Jesus isn’t just the bread and wine.
It’s what the bread and wine represent – our bodies and our souls.
We are here to lay down all those assumptions, values,
and dispositions we call our selves
but Paul Bourdieu calls the habitus
that was programmed into us.
We are here to die to all that,
so we can know Christ
and become like him
not because it’s a spiritual high – it isn’t –
but because the world we love needs us to be Jesus now.