Transfiguration: God, people, and events coming together

Transfiguration, the first and only time a transfiguration happened, took place on a “mountain apart.” It was a day of “dazzling white clothing.” It was day when Elijah and Moses appeared. How? I do not know! It was a day for the building of three dwelling places. It was a day of a cloud. It was day for a voice, which said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” It is a day, let me repeat, about God, and Jesus, and people, and events, coming together!

Transfiguration is about God being God!

Transfiguration is about God, high and lifted up! Transfiguration is about God beyond our understanding! And, transfiguration is a day when it is clear, we don’t have God all figured out!

At the transfiguration God grabs events from here, there and everywhere, God grabs people! God grabs environmental things, like high mountains and rock for booths, or, altar! God grabs people, people from the past, Elijah and Moses! And, whatever God grabs it all comes together to serve God’s purposes! God did that a long time ago! God does that now!

Calum McCleod, a Presbyterian minister, once Pastor of Fourth Presbyterian Church, Chicago, tells of a young woman who suffered a very tragic loss! Her husband had died, leaving her with two young children, to raise on her own! As a result she was deep in sadness! One day, Calum and the young woman, talked about the presence of God, and God’s seeming absence, at a time of heart-wrenching loss!

She described, McCleod relates, how one day of great sadness and loneliness and with a sense of abandonment she drove to the Indiana Dunes! She sat there by herself and cried and cried! That’s all she could do! Overwhelmed, she cried! But, at one point she looked up and saw an eagle circling overhead, and in that moment she recognized the presence and love of God in her life! What was high and lifted up, the eagle soaring, changed her life! The message of the eagle soaring went to her heart, her soul, her mind! It was for her, God!

That’s how God works!

God gives signs that God is with us! That’s what transfiguration was about for disciples who needed something to assure them that God was with them as they faced a very hard future. They needed the blessed assurance, like we all do!

So, they came together, Peter, James and John did, in their time of need, on a high mountain where they saw Jesus in “dazzling white clothing,” where three booths or altars were built, where a voice was heard, saying, “This is my Son, the Beloved! And, there, on that high mountain, God gave them what God had to give and God gave them what they needed!

God, people, and events unfolding and coming together for us! And, they knew, those disciples did then, and we should know now, that God was with them, leading them, directing them, giving them something important to do with their lives, and on top of that loving them with a love that does quit! What else did they need? What else do we need?

God is everywhere!

And, God speaks to us in ways that defy explanation. God is with us in sight and sounds where maybe God’s name is not even mentioned.

  • Like an eagle flying
  • A flower blooming
  • A cloud soaring
  • A sunset
  • A sunrise
  • A snowflake falling
  • God is with us when we cry bitter tears
  • And, when we laugh so hard our sides ache

God is with us! What we see and hear, tells us that.

God is with Matt Mika

A lobbyist and longtime coach of the Republican congressional baseball team, Matt Mika, was one of four people shot outside the nation’s capital on a sunny day, on June 14, 2017! We probably remember the story! I tell this story not because of any political loyalties, but because things happen, things shared by all people, that have nothing to do with politics! A bullet wound is a bullet wound, no matter if you are Democrat or Republican! We all can hurt, no matter how we vote! We all laugh! We all experience good times! We all experience bad times!

Standing near the pavement stained by cleaning solution used to wash away the blood stains, Matt Mika, told his father, Joe, as they both stood on that spot months after where Matt Mika was shot! It took a long time for him to notice the flash of the rifle’s muzzle before he turned to run. He sprinted through a gate behind the first base dugout. As Matt Mika ran, he was shot in the chest, millimeters from his heart, and he was shot in his left arm, severing his median nerve. He collapsed onto a patch of dirt, his life slipping away!

Transfiguration events

But, thanks to an improbable series of events, like Transfiguration events, the particular path of a bullet, a specially trained paramedic who was quick on the scene, he lived! It’s God, people, and events coming together. After he was shot, almost everything thing went right. Everything had to. Matt Mika was labeled “red,” which means a severe case for the paramedics. Chad Shade, as it happened, a paramedic for fourteen years with the Alexandria Fire Department, found Matt Mika. He could see his heart inside a sucking chest wound the size of a fist!

Chad Shade applied HyFin occlusive chest seals, commonly used by medics in war to block airflow into Matt Mika’s body! Matt had that look Chad Schade said, that look that says, “I’m going to die, aren’t I?” The fact that he did not was remarkable! They did not have time for a rescue helicopter, so they put Matt Mika in ambulance for a fifteen minute ride to George Washington University Hospital in Washington, DC.

Chad Schade borrowed another technique from the battlefield, injecting an IV medication, called tranexamic acid to help Matt Mika’s blood to clot! He inserted three-inch needles into Matt’s chest to let air escape! He also helped re-inflate Matt’s lungs, which had collapsed as the bullet penetrated his chest and exploded into fragments inside him! After Matt Mika had arrived at the hospital, surgery began within minutes! Dr. Libby Schroeder, a trauma surgeon, spent two hours closing holes in his chest to restore lung function! She knew he had a chance!

Healing begins

Two days later, Dr. Schroeder embarked on another round of surgery, unsure what to expect. She had given his body time to heal, but knew that his condition could have grown worse had his tissue material deteriorated. When she opened his chest, she felt a rush of relief. The tissue had healed more completely than she had anticipated. She was able to skip the surgery. “I’ve told Matt,” Dr. Schroeder said, “he’s one of the luckiest people I know!”

Months passed before Matt Mika could feel his body healing. As time wore on, he felt more and more alone with his pain. So, Matt turned to other victims of mass shootings, trying to make sense of what his new life looked like. He received a call from Christina Anderson, who was shot three times in her French class in the 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech. He got in touch with Nick Robone who was shot in the chest at the Route 91 Harvest music festival in Las Vegas. He met with Steve Scalise, the House Majority whip, who was severely wounded on that day in June. They compared scars and discussed therapy. And, he struck up a friendship with Jayson Werth, a Washington Nationals outfielder.

Healing continues

Matt’s days were and are filled with a mix of rehabilitation and slowly increasing work hours. “I look better than I feel,” he says. At night, he feels the bullet fragments moving around in his chest. He sleeps on his back to relieve the pressure on his chest and left arm. He has no feeling in his left hand. He cannot wear ties or cuff links to work. He tried to replace a leaky pipe in his bathroom, but could not. He vacuums incessantly using the pushing motion to strengthen his wrist.

On some days shrapnel pops out of his chest, and he will send a photo of it to Dr. Schroeder to mark the absurdity. When he returns home from work, he is lonely and restless. He would rather that other people did not know about what happened to him. He talks to a therapist and his girl friend’s preacher.

Instead of the hockey, basketball and softball games he once played four nights a week, he reads. He reads stories about World War II heroes, and he watched Ken Burn’s documentary, “The Viet Nam War.” On his first day on the job after the shooting in June, he teared up! “It eats me up,” he says. “I’m angry this person has taken away my ability to be normal!”

New grass is growing now near the first base dugout where he and members of the Congress ducked for cover. Matt visits the site with some frequency. He stands at the patch of grass where he collapsed, and he calls these trips to that place his best therapy.

Transfiguration:  God, people, and events coming together

Transfiguration may be the farthest experience from anything we (you and I) have ever seen. It may be so far away we cannot even imagine it. And, we probably will never experience anything like it ourselves. The high mountain. The dazzling white. The appearance of Elijah and Moses. The voice of God saying, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him.”

But, what it teaches us we should not miss. There is God in our lives, the same God who gave his own Son into death to save us. There are altars, like the altars on the Transfiguration Mountain in our lives. Look to the middle of this church. An altar. There is the voice of the Lord coming at us in words we cannot mistake, a voice that says, “I am with you and I love you!” And, there are events unfolding in our lives that point to God.

See them, know them, and be glad about them! Thanks be to God! AMEN

~Sermon written and preached by Rev. Jerry Groth, Jackson, Wisconsin

Text: Mark 9:2-9

Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings,  one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved;  listen to him!” Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.

As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.





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