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"Beyond Reason, Transformation" Last Sunday After The Epiphany - February 11, 2024

Okay…this is a bizarre story. I think it’s okay to admit that. Perhaps…even important to admit that this is a bizarre and let us say…. an “unreasonable” story. And all of us have entered through those doors this morning with our modern notions of science and nature, basic laws of physics, logic, and…reason. Plus, we’re Episcopalians!! We pride ourselves on being “reasonable” people. 

Remember…the three-legged stool of Anglicanism. 

Scripture. Tradition. AND…..Reason. 

But here we are….You chose to wake up on a Sunday morning, get dressed, maybe wrestle children into their clothes, wipe snotty noses, sorta…comb their hair, and then everyone piles in the car. You skipped…YOU skipped a morning at the table with a cup of coffee or a mimosa, you skipped the Sunday paper – the sports page, the funny pages, or cracking open that new book…you skipped all that to come here…to surround yourself with other people (some of them you probably even find annoying), and now you have to listen to them sing, and then we all process up to the altar to take a scrap of bread and a sip of wine…there’s nothing reasonable about that!! It defies logic! You and I – just our being here this morning is a testimony to our unreasonableness!! All the reasonable people have stayed home this morning…All the reasonable people are somewhere on the front 9, or in the gym, or on the couch…All the reasonable people look at the Church and say, “Why on earth would I do that??” 

And you might be saying, “Waaiiittt a minute Fr. Jared…there’s plenty of reason to be here, plenty of sound argument why WE are in the right place….just do some reading…just dive into some apologetics…all the right reason is there….” And I say NO….

I have, in many ways, grown tired of reason. Not all reason of course, I’m not trying to make a case for lunacy or ignorance… I’m just tired of the kind of reason that’s always carrying around on weary shoulders the burden of proof. The kind of reason that always holds before life’s swirling mysteries the yellow legal pad of pre-written answers…the kind of reason that turns faith into dead certainty…which (I think) achieves a faith that is certainly dead. 

Even G.K. Chesterton – that walrus of a man, defender of orthodoxy who loved reason - even he saw the limits of reason…when he wrote, “The ones to be most pitied in this world are not the ones who have abandoned reason, but the ones who have abandoned everything BUT reason.” 

So…excuse me if I don’t apologize – but I like being here with all you strange, unreasonable people this morning. Listening to strange, unreasonable stories. Like this one we hear from the gospel of Mark on this Transfiguration Sunday…

And no doubt, you can imagine, there are plenty of biblical scholars that attempt to make reasonable sense of it…Some say it is absolute historical fact and they’ll prove it….some say, it never happened – pure fabrication and they’ll prove it, some say it was a psychological experience, some say it was a psychedelic experience – and they’ll prove it (now that one actually sounds pretty fun…) and some even say it was an event of nature, misinterpreted by the disciples…Whew….What if…we leave that kind of reason…or try to suspend it, even temporarily, and just look at the story…in light of the whole story the gospel of Mark is telling. 

Jesus takes three disciples – Peter, James, and John – up the mountain. Then Moses and Elijah appear next to Jesus. Jesus in dazzling brightness. The disciples standing there, mouths gaping wide open, scared to blink. No one knows what to say…probably shouldn’t say anything at all – so Peter decides to say something. “It’s good for us to be here…let’s build something.” But they don’t do that…In fact a voice from the heavens says, “This is my son, the beloved, LISTEN TO HIM.” And they looked around and saw…and here are the words “only Jesus.” They saw only Jesus – who then, we can presume, tells them “Time to go back down the mountain.”

He takes them back down…into the highways and byways of trouble, sorrow, heartache, joy, laughter, tears…all of it…takes them back down into the imperfect holiness of their lives.  

Now…here’s a curious thing to me…What’s the point?? In this story what’s the point?? The Church has responded to that question with “Transfiguration Sunday” – and we tend to make it oh so special, and we tell a story about how Jesus took his besties up the mountain to give them some proof of divinity, some manifestation that he truly was the fulfillment of law and prophets, so they could have a special glimpse into the divine life. Sounds reasonable, right? 

Here's my problem… In the gospel of Mark, Jesus – is anything but reasonable. 

The whole gospel he’s telling confounding parables…no one understands them, not the disciples, not the scribes, not anyone….and the reason he gives, “I tell them parables so they won’t understand.” Anytime Jesus heals someone or performs some amazing deed that would absolutely prove who he is, he tells them “Shhhhhh….don’t say anything to anyone.” Hard to find “reason” in any of it….Ohhhh…but we want our Transfiguration….we want Jesus’ special moment in the sun, we want to join these three disciples in their proof, in their certainty. 

But, here’s what I can’t shake. Are these three special disciples, who get a supernatural prize for being so good? Notice who these three are….

They’re the loud mouths, the blow-hards, the stubborn, argumentative, know it all’s. James and John – love to bicker about who’s going to be first in the kingdom, even to the point where they ask Jesus if they can sit on his right and left when he claims his throne. Because they expect that to happen through the flex of divine muscle. Then there’s Peter, who just tried to argue with Jesus about the trials and sufferings he must undergo - until Jesus called him Satan and put him in his place. So…again are these three the cream of the crop, the star students…or three stubborn men who needed to surrender transfiguration to discover transformation. 

Because we still struggle with that…all these thousands of years later…we still struggle with that. The Church loves transfiguration…but transformation…that’s a harder story to tell, that’s a harder story to live. Just like we love resurrection…we’re a resurrection people, right…but the shape resurrection takes in our lives – reconciliation, forgiveness, justice, surrender, courage, compassion, mercy, grace….oh we don’t know about that…let’s just keep signin’ about an empty tomb. 

You know why I think those things are so hard for us…

Because they’re unreasonable. 

It makes no sense to live like that in this world. 

It is, without a doubt, a frightening task. It is, without a doubt, an unreasonable request. 

But, thanks be to God…

…we’re unreasonable people. 



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