To savor a moment is to look long, to drink in all of the experience, and then to remember it again and again, on purpose. What are the moments in life that you want to savor? Have you ever been to an actual mountaintop? Visited a faraway land and tasted something delicious? Have you ever smelled an ancient cathedral? Or maybe you want to savor the sparkle of your wedding day, or the giddy exhaustion of being a new parent to an infant, or the nervous excitement of prom. Maybe your moment worth savoring happened right here in this sanctuary—an experience of God’s nearness, a baptism, the resonance of the pipe organ, a Christmas program, or the taste of fresh bread and wine at Holy Communion. It’s important to take time to recall these things—it’s not an exercise in living in the past, it’s an exercise in recalling God’s grace. And it’s important to remember: it’s real! That moment worth savoring, that clarity of call—it’s real. What stands out in your memory that you want to take some time in meditation and prayer? Ask God to remind you, and set aside even a few minutes to hold that moment in gratitude. Ask God for the grace to savor the moment. Perhaps you’re wondering: what does this have to do with Transfiguration? I’ve never been transfigured; what difference does it make to recall a happy memory? Well I’m gonna be honest: remembering might just help you survive. You’ve probably noticed that we’re almost a full year into a pandemic that has utterly changed the way we live our daily lives. This sanctuary hasn’t been full for a year—even in the brief time when you might have attended worship in person in the past year, it was very different, with strict hygiene protocols and seating assignments. And a bunch of the other things that we would enjoy as a congregation—it just hasn’t happened. We’re missing the annual spaghetti dinner at Valentine’s Day. I’ve heard about chili cookoffs, ice cream socials, Christmas programs, and regular potluck meals—all things we haven’t been able to do. And it’s hard. I hear the grief when people talk about missing these things, missing one another, missing showing up for worship. We’re almost a year into this pandemic and even though there are vaccines coming available, it isn’t happening very quickly. We don’t know how much longer this is going to go on. It’s becoming clear that even when we can safely return to life in community, things won’t snap back to the way they were; some things will be different. How do we navigate this challenging time of uncertainty? Jesus never told his disciples that following him would be easy; and the closer he got to the cross, the more he tried to prepare them for the road ahead. In Mark’s Gospel, when the Transfiguration happens, Jesus has already tried to break the news to the disciples that he will suffer and die and rise again—that was the time he referred to Peter as “Satan,” so the news didn’t go over very well; we’ll hear this story as the Gospel lesson in a couple more weeks. And even as the disciples are walking with Jesus down the mountain, he’s telling them not to say anything about this moment until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. For all we can discern from hearing the story of the Transfiguration, it was a beautiful moment, an affirmation that Jesus is God, with the vision of dazzling robes. It was a reminder that Jesus is connected to the history of the people of Israel—represented by Moses, who delivered the Law to God’s people, and Elijah, who represents the prophets. And of course there’s the voice from a cloud: “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” Mark’s Gospel only mentions that voice one other time, and it was at Jesus’s baptism. I think it’s safe to assume that if you’re hearing a voice from heaven, this is a time to really pay attention. Jesus knows that his death awaits him, so perhaps this transfiguring experience is what he needed to prepare for that journey, to connect him to the importance of the mission of the reign of God, to give him the courage not to turn away or diminish what was going on, and to give him a moment worth savoring. For the disciples who witnessed this Transfiguration, they don’t understand yet what is ahead of them, and Jesus could have gone up the mountain by himself and made his disciples wait for him. But he took them along, perhaps because he knew they needed that experience. Jesus knew: things are about to get really bad, and these disciples are going to need a memory of something special to get through the difficult time to come. Reverend Michael Girlinghouse, who serves now as bishop of the Arkansas-Oklahoma Synod, wrote a helpful book called “Embracing God’s Future without Forgetting the Past.” He makes a distinction between yearning for the past and engaging a nostalgia for the past. Yearning traps people in the past, feeling sorry for a time or a simplicity that no longer exists. Nostalgia, on the other hand, can be a helpful “coping mechanism that helps us adapt to the present by drawing strength from past experiences.” Girlinghouse writes, “Nostalgia is a dynamic and motivational force that can help us take proactive action as we step into the future…nostalgic memories can help convince us that if we accomplished something once, we can accomplish something similar again. …Though the past cannot be re-created, nostalgic memory is a tool for drawing insights, wisdom, knowledge, and skill from previous experiences.” This makes me wonder about the mountain of transfiguration—did Moses and Elijah show up to encourage Jesus, to remind him of the places where the people of God have been in the past? Maybe they were engaged in nostalgia, remembering the stories of God’s people and how God brought them through difficult times. It wasn’t all happy, and nostalgia doesn’t deny the difficult reality of the past. But spending some time with nostalgic memories can remind you of your strength, your faith, and God’s power to bring you through it. Memories can remind you that you’ve been through hard times before, and you can do it again. We are people going through a difficult time right now. What if we look at the Transfiguration as a road map for navigating the challenges we’re in and the challenges that may still be ahead of us? This is why it’s important to take time to recall those special moments from the past—because they are real. The moments worth savoring are the ones that tell you something important about who you are. And the moments to savor are moments which are shared. Who was with you? Can you talk to that person or those people and remember together? Who are the ancestors you wish you could talk to and learn from their wisdom? Jesus talked with Moses and Elijah—who would you talk with if you had the chance? What would you ask them? Or if you happen to have a mentor on this side of eternity, can you get in touch with that person? Or maybe you’re someone who needs to be doing something, like our pragmatic friend Peter, who went up the mountain of Transfiguration and suggested starting a building project—let’s make booths! One for Moses, one for Elijah, one for Jesus… I believe the impulse comes from a place of deep love and devotion. So what would it look like to savor a special memory by caring for someone else? By baking that dish you always would bring to potlucks—share it with someone who could use a reminder that they are loved. Or write a letter, or print a photo of a special event and share it with the people who were there, or share a picture and its story on social media. And don’t be afraid to savor your special moments in the light of God’s Word. This is one way to listen to Jesus, God’s Beloved Son. Here’s just a sampling from Mark’s Gospel of things we hear from Jesus: “Follow me.” (Mark 1: 17, 2: 14) “Pay attention to what you hear.” (4: 24) “Do not be afraid; only believe.” (5: 36, 6: 50) “You give them something to eat.” (6: 37) “It is what comes out of a person that defiles.” (7: 20) “Deny [yourself] and take up [your cross] and follow me.” (8: 34) “But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.” (10:31) “Whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all.” (10: 44) “Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone.” (11: 25) “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” (13:31) We may not be in the middle of a transfiguration, but we are surely being transformed. May we be transformed in the image of Jesus Christ. May we be transformed for the sake of the reign of God. Savor the moments that remind you who you are and whose you are. Beloved, you belong to God.
Pr. Cheryl Walenta Gorvie