Feast of the Transfiguration and Education
A Sermon by Rev. Tom Bates
August 6, 2017
LINK TO PDF VERSION
The Transfiguration and Teachers are cool.
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in Thy sight, oh Lord, our God. Amen.
Today we commemorate two events: the transfiguration and the blessing of teachers, students and backpacks.
In the transfiguration, Jesus’ human form or human nature was transfigured by the Holy Spirit and Jesus and his inner circle, Peter, John and James hear God’s voice from a cloud saying “This is my son, my chosen one, and listen to him.” So we not only have Jesus’ face being altered and his clothes becoming dazzling white, we have a testimony from God as to Jesus’ divine nature. Who else was present at the transfiguration? Moses, who died, and Elijah, who did not die. Remember that Elijah was taken up into heaven by chariots of fire and horses of fire?
Remember too that Jesus and his three disciples went up on the mountain to pray. That’s why they were there. And while Jesus was praying, the transfiguration occurred. So why did God bring Moses and Elijah to the transfiguration? Our Gospel reading does not say. One speculation is that God wanted us to know through Peter, James and John that Jesus is Lord over both life and death, over the living and the dead. Maybe we also learn from the transfiguration that there is no transfiguration and no unity without the Holy Spirit. This event of both seeing the physical and the spiritual together is probably best described in the words of Adele Guisto, “The transfiguration is cool.” I hope if you take away nothing else about the transfiguration, you will remember that is was cool.
Lately, Father Paul has been picking different themes for different Sundays, For example, on August 20th; the theme will be “pilgrimage” with a blessing for Dora and Eduardo as they head off to Spain. His tentative plan is to ask the congregation to bring in something that reminds you of or is a symbol of your pilgrimages and to set up a sort of ofrenda. He’ll preach that Sunday.
For today’s sermon, Father Paul asked me to tie in the transfiguration and education. He was not asking me to do anything he, himself, is not willing to do. How do I do that? I asked Linda Shay, a retired teacher and Bible Student. She said education is transforming. You see why I asked Linda? I can do that, I thought, and I have – Education transforms, but transfiguration requires the Holy Spirit.
I read recently that according to Josh McDowell, the number one fear of Christian parents today is that they will fail to pass on their values, their morals and their faith to their children. Can parents find comfort in Proverbs 22:6? “Train up a child in the way wherein he should go: And when he is old, he will not depart from it.” I do not think this should be understood as a universal promise, because we all know that there many exceptions, even in the Bible. The old priest Eli and his sinful sons come to mind, but I do think in general it’s true and probably the best advice we have for Christian parents.
I do not know what to say about teachers except God bless them. Like many of you, I remember most of the teachers from my early years and remember them fondly. My high school math teacher and basket ball coach was like a father to me and a lifelong friend. The teachers in this congregation have and are not only a blessing to their students, but to this congregation as well. I’m pretty sure I could name every teacher in this congregation but one and I do not want to forget that one so can I ask all the teachers present and retired to please stand so that we can acknowledge your contributions.
A current saying is that teachers open the door, but you, the student, the learner, have to walk through it.
In my next comments, I’ll be talking about priorities. I’m choosing a political example to make my point, but am not making a political statement or taking either side in the argument. Some see a wall between Mexico and the US as a priority. Some, including ex-president Vicente Fox of Mexico, do not. Fox’s comments get some publicity because of who he is. In his video, he suggests that the money needed to build the wall could eliminate world hunger for a year or hire hundreds of teachers for many years. He also suggests that the wall could be defeated by a $15-20 ladder. I do not recall the exact numbers he mentions. To be somewhat fair, I understand that Mexico has built a wall on their southern border and terrorists and drug smugglers are and can easily enter the U.S. through Mexico. The wall is for our security and protection and a priority for many.
My final thoughts are for all adults. In the July/August edition of Reader’s Digest, there’s an article by General Colin Powell and his wife Alma. The article is titled “A Plea to America’s Adults.” They maintain that the well being of children needs to be a common commitment to our national life.
They suggest some basic practices that we can all do to impact young lives:
1. When trying to serve young people, we need to really listen. We need to take time to engage.
2. We need to be consistent in our relationships. We need to be there over the long haul. Engagement requires time and consistency.
3. To reach young people, we need to be convinced that they are capable of success. Children will not believe in themselves if we do not believe in them.
4. We need to remember that success depends upon overlapping factors as does failure. Here the Powells are talking about the negative factors of neglect, economic crisis, bad peer influences, trauma, drugs, leaving school and joining gangs and the positive factors of love, support and encouragement. I do not know what youth ministry at Good Shepherd will look like in the future. The 6th Street Elementary School will be a kindergarten only this coming year and there will be no Wednesday early releases. Jeanie Locicero has taken a teaching job in Deming. I can tell you that we did make a difference in young people’s lives through the ASP. We became identified with 6th Street Elementary. One parent told me her children had learned more about being a Christian from the ASP than they did going full time to a Christian School. We fed the ASP children and their families, in many cases, often introducing new and healthy meals. We worked closely with the 6th Street Elementary on discipline problems and were loving, supportive, encouraging and patient.
5. We can become mentors. This kind of consistent, unconditional commitment can change the whole world of a child.
6. As a church, we can show the patience that is required for progress.
7. Businesses can reach out and identify talented young people and give them the training they require. Whenever the Powells hear complaints about the lack of skilled labor, their response is “Grow your own.”
The Powells conclude: “The cause of helping children become healthy, morale, skilled adults is the cause that will determine the future of our nation. Raising children prepared for lives of accomplishment, self-respect, and contribution is our core responsibility. We can make a difference, one caring adult and one child at a time.”
I could not say it better and consider the ripple effect. The more productive people there are the more outreach and mentoring and the more outreach and mentoring, the better chances of transfiguration. Amen.