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Moments Of Glory
February 13, 1994

MARK 9:2-9

In Steel Magnolias, a grouchy woman character says, "Don't mind me, I've been in a bad mood for 40 years." 40 years is a long time to be in a bad mood. Surely, there must have been some moments of glory!

A moment of glory occurs when the spirit world breaks into the ordinary world. We all live in the ordinary world, but we are surrounded by a spirit world. Jesus was the person who most completely lived in both worlds at once, but there is the potential for all of us to experience moments of glory when God enters our lives in a quiet or in a dramatic way.

Peter, James and John experienced a moment of glory with Jesus which was described this morning in the reading from Mark. Mark is the first gospel written, preceding Matthew, Luke, and John. Mark was a Gentile, a Roman Christian, who probably served as Peter's interpreter in Rome when Peter branched out from the Jewish synagogue and began witnessing to Gentiles. As Peter grew older, Mark wrote down Peter's recollections. I suspect the account of Peter's experience of the transfiguration was especially revered by Peter.

There on the mountain, Jesus was transfigured before the three disciples. Jesus' clothes became dazzling white, whiter than any bleach could produce. In the brilliance, two figures appeared--Moses and Elijah--and began talking with Jesus. Peter was dumfounded. Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, This is my Son, the Beloved, listen to him."

We now read the account of the Transfiguration on the last Sunday of Epiphany, on the last Sunday before Lent. We go from the mountain top to the cross, a contrast of highs and lows which is repeated in most lives. The Transfiguration was not always observed on this Sunday. The Transfiguration was first observed on August 6 until the Lutherans, after the Reformation, moved it to February. About 2,000 years ago, the Romans began to use the calendar we know today. Julius Caesar renamed the seventh month after himself, the month of July, which he considered the most pleasant time of the year. Originally, the month had 30 days, but Julius took the liberty of borrowing a day from February to make "his month" at least as long as some of the other months. The adopted son of Julius, Augustus Caesar, convinced the Roman Senate to name the next month after him (August) and, like his father, he also borrowed a day from February in order for "his month" to have 31 days. Perhaps no one minded, thinking that the more you could shorten the cold, bleak month of February the better.

But, the Lutherans got some measure of revenge for February by moving Transfiguration Day from August to February. So even though February is still missing two of its stolen days, it does have a feast day to give it some measure of importance! Actually, it makes liturgical sense to move from the moment of glory--the Transfiguration--to Lent, the period set aside to remember and reflect upon the suffering and death of our Lord.

The transfiguration of our Lord was a moment of glory. The spirit world broke into the ordinary world. Have you experienced a moment of glory? John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, felt his heart strangely warmed. Francis of Assisi heard the voice of Christ speak to him while he was praying in a small chapel. Martin Luther was knocked down by a bolt of lightning. Sir Alister Hardy, a biologist at Oxford University, decided that science had lost sight of the spiritual side of life. He compiled over 5,000 accounts of adults who admitted having religious experiences, ranging from miraculous healings to feelings of unusual harmony with the universe. He found that one in three Britons has had such an experience. But most have kept quiet about it for fear of being thought stupid or worse--religious! Have you had a religious experience, a spiritual experience, a moment of glory?

Did it come with rolls of thunder and the inpouring of numinous light?

Did it come with a still, small, but certain voice?

Did it come as a voice of pardon, of forgiveness?

Did it come as a voice of insight and guidance?

Did it come to you at a church camp, or a retreat?

Did it come to you in a vivid prayer time?

Or, perhaps, your life hit bottom, and when you were in the pits, the Lord reached down, and the whole course of your life changed?

I have experienced many moments of glory. When the father of my granddaughters, one of whom was baptized this morning, was born, he was our first-born. When he was only a few weeks old, I remember standing by his crib in the middle of the night. A dim night light was burning. I stood there, fascinated by this small, tiny bundle. I marveled at how small his bones, muscles, and organs were; yet they all were functioning. And I was overcome with the flood of father-love. Imagine, he is mine. Jack is still an inspiration. He married the most wonderful woman, and they have been blessed with two remarkable girls. Ellie and I have three sons. We are proud of them all. Who can count the joy and the blessings they have brought to our lives!

I have also experienced moments of glory on the Walk to Emmaus. The Walk is a spiritual weekend of 72 hours. It is a short course in the Christian faith with worship experiences in which Christ meets you in a very special, unforgettable way. I covet the experience for you. Several of our youth are going to the youth event in March.

My wife, Ellie, experienced a moment of glory a few days ago. Early Wednesday morning she was praying for a dear friend, a former parishioner, who had been very ill. Her usual method of intercessory prayer is to image the person surrounded by the healing light of Christ, but this time she couldn't visualize him. She couldn't see him, and the light rather than a circle, was a brilliant star burst that was immediately followed by a second similar bright burst of light above and to the right of the first. She learned an hour later that he had died the previous evening.

A Canadian businessman lay in his hotel room, too depressed to go downstairs to the restaurant to eat. He was a worrier. He worried about everything--his business, his investments, his family, even his dogs. And now at mid-life, his anxiety had immobilized him. He lay across the bed and moaned, "Life isn't worth living this way. I wish I were dead." And then he wondered what God would think if He heard him talking like that. It occurred to him that he had not talked to God since he was a little boy, and he began to pray. He talked out loud about what a mess his life was, how tired he was, and how much he wanted things to be different. And then he heard a voice say, "It doesn't have to be this way."

Later he said, "I sat straight up and turned around. I laughed at myself. I said that I was hearing things. But then I was certain that I heard it. It doesn't have to be this way." He went home, talked to his wife, talked to his brother, and reported, "I'm changed. I'm a new man." He still has business problems. He still has to work hard. But things are now different. During the week he leaves his office and goes to the nearest church where he sits and prays. He says, "It clears my head, reminds me whose I am. It's a transfiguration. Because of those words, It doesn't have to be this way."

Moments of glory are not limited to special people, to "spiritual" people. Moments of glory are occasions when the spirit world breaks into your world. Because God loves you, and wants to be in relationship with you, God opens the door of the spirit world, and beckons you to follow, beckons you to be open, to be open to God's power, to God's grace, to God's glory.

© 1994 Douglas I. Norris