2 Corinthians 3:12 – 4:2—————–Luke 9: 28-43a
February 27, 2022————————Rev. Patrick Mecham
There is a scene in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in which Harry stumbles upon a magic mirror. When he stands directly in front of the mirror, he sees his parents standing behind him, smiling at him. His parents are no longer living, having died when he was only a toddler, so he loves looking into this mirror and being a part of a real family. Eventually, the Headmaster joins him there and explains that this mirror does not reveal what truly is—it only shows us what we wish were true. Here is what he said: “It shows us nothing more or less than the deepest, most desperate desire of our hearts. You, who have never known your family, see them standing around you.” He goes on to explain that it is not good to dwell overlong in front of this mirror, and that he is going to have it moved. It will no longer tempt him to waste time in front of it.
Just imagine that I had two types of mirror that I am ready to give to you. One type is a magic mirror that shows you what you wish were true. The other type shows you things as they truly are.
Think carefully about which type of mirror you would choose. You know as well as I do that sometimes the truth is unpleasant. There are many who would choose the magic mirror that only showed things as they wished they would be. You know people like this—blind to the truth BY CHOICE.
Our scriptures for today make reference to the TRUTH and how people respond to it. Our world today—just like the world Jesus encountered, and the world Paul addressed—our world today chooses lies and half-truths so much of the time. Friends, you and I believe that the truth really matters. Jesus promised, “You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”
I invite you to explore these texts with me, and listen (beyond my words) for the Truth that God is revealing to you.
When the Truth Is Scary
We didn’t read the Exodus passage in the lectionary today. But it’s the story of how Moses came down from the mountain (after having spent time in the Presence of God). He was carrying the two tablets of the covenant, to share the Ten Commandments with the people. Exodus tells us that the skin of his face was shining because he had been talking with God. When the Israelites saw him with this shining face, they were afraid to come near him! Eventually, he convinced them to come close and he gave them the Lord’s commandments. And then Moses put a veil over his face, until it was time to go and speak with the Lord again.
Somehow, the glory of God was shining through his face! It’s understandable that it was a bit scary, but I think it was meant to be illuminating. (Get the symbolism?!)
In our Gospel reading for today, we have the event that is commonly referred to as “the Transfiguration.” It’s called this because, while Jesus was praying on the mountain with these select Disciples, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. (He was “transfigured.”)
Let me put this event into context. Jesus is coming near to the end of his earthly ministry. He is on his way to Jerusalem, and is savvy enough to know that he is headed for trouble. He had been advised to avoid this dangerous situation, but the text tells us that “he set his face toward Jerusalem.” (This is a colloquial way of expressing his determination.)
But Jesus needed to step aside and pray, to make certain that he was moving in God’s will. So he chose Peter, John, and James to go up a mountain with him for this time of prayer. (I’d really love to know why he only took 3 Disciples—but that’s how he occasionally operated.) So, the appearance of his face changed and his clothes became dazzling white, and Moses and Elijah were there talking with him!
[Just a side note: when the women came to the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus, they found the stone rolled away and suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them! But we’ll get to that in April!]
Moses and Elijah were talking with Jesus “about his departure which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.” This is confirmation that he is indeed on the right path! Another interesting thing is that both Moses and Elijah “appeared in glory.” Perhaps this means that they also were shining.
Well, Jesus is encouraged, and then a voice came from the cloud, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”
We can well imagine the lifelong effect this must have had on Peter, John, and James! After they get over their fright, they know (without a doubt) that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life!
Remembering the promise that we will know the truth, and that the truth will make us free, I wonder why the Truth is often so scary? Think about it: We sometimes tell ourselves lies in order to avoid the truth, perhaps in order to feel better. We sometimes tell others lies, perhaps in order to make them feel better? (“No! Those pants don’t make your bottom look big!”) Instead of seeking the truth, the pure truth, we often find ourselves holding two conflicting ideas—and accepting them both as truth!
Melissa and I were recently blessed to have an opportunity to see Fiddler on the Roof. In it, there is a scene in which Tevye and the men of the village of Anatefke are having a lively discussion. One man presents a particular viewpoint, and Tevye says, “He’s right.” Then another man counters with the opposite viewpoint, and Tevye says, “He’s right.” One of the villagers says to him, “They can’t BOTH be right!” And Tevye responds, “You’re right also!”
The Apostle Paul writes in today’s Epistle reading about how some minds have been hardened against the truth. But, where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom—and those of us who allow ourselves to see the truth are now being TRANSFORMED into God’s image. “You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”
Yes, the truth is often difficult, often frightening. But it is the basis for real trust and true relationships. Facing the truth also means doing the truth. James (one of those present at The Transfiguration) shines some dazzling light on the subject. He writes, “But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like. But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act—they will be blessed in their doing.”
So let’s go back to the idea of which mirror we would choose—one that shows us the truth or one which shows us what we wish were true. If we choose the true mirror, we might well see that there is dirt on our faces, but at least we will know that we need to wash!
I’ll finish with this thought about the truth: Adolph Hitler wrote this in his autobiography, Mein Kampf (which means, “My Struggle”): “By means of shrewd lies, unremittingly repeated, it is possible to make people believe that heaven is hell—and hell, heaven. The greater the lie, the more readily it will be believed.” Wow. If a lie is repeated often enough, it will eventually be accepted as truth. And I suspect that Vladimir Putin is lying to the people of Russia to justify the invasion of The Ukaraine!
Friends, the truth does matter. Sure, it’s sometimes scary or unpleasant, but it’s the TRUTH that sets us free! 1. Part of our job is to carefully examine that which we are told, and see if it stands up under the blazing light of God. 2. Part of our job is to choose the mirror that reflects the truth and makes it possible to see the dirt on our faces and wash it off—not just pretend that it’s not there. For example: some people, when they are given bad news by their physician, just choose to ignore it. They can’t face that difficult truth and the subsequent changes it will bring. And their lives will be diminished as a result.
Friends, part of MY job is to tell you the truth in a way that engages you in the search for truth…and to share some tools for living the Truth. I might well prefer to avoid some topics because I know that they are upsetting. But we are heading into Lent, and this is a time to reflect on our lives and prepare for the good news of Easter.
Let’s choose to see Truth, to look into the mirror that shows us as we truly are, and to welcome the Savior who cleanses us from every stain! Amen? Amen!