First Congregational Church
(United Church of Christ)
Greg Briggs,
Interim Pastor

101 State Street
Charlevoix, MI 49720

Sermon & Weekly Bulletin- February 23, 2020 – Transfiguration Sunday

02-23-20 Bulletin- PDF

  1. Prayer and Introduction
    1. “May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of our hearts, be acceptable in your sight, our rock and redeemer. Amen”
    2. “Spirituality is not a bucket list: Seeking the divine up there and down here”
  2. Epiphany to Transfiguration Sunday
    1. Seeing what the magi came to see
    2. Fast forward in the story – Jesus is famous enough that he is now being tasked
      1. Fed the 4000
      2. Pharisees and Sadducees ask for a sign. Jesus warned disciples about them, then asked disciples “who do they say I am” and then “who do you say that I am?”
  • Hint that the disciples are getting it. Peter says “you are the Christ, the son of the living god”
  1. Today’s story – Three disciples are given the vision others (Jesus’ opposition) asked for
  1. Symbolism in Transfiguration
    1. Continuum Moses, to Elijah, to Jesus
    2. Then Peter, tries to hold on to the moment – to literally enshrine them
    3. God claims Jesus as his son
      1. “This is my Son whom I dearly love. I am very pleased with him. Listen to him!”
      2. Echo from his baptism Matthew 3:17 A voice from heaven said, “This is my Son whom I dearly love; I find happiness in him.”
    4. This overwhelmed the disciples – filled with awe and fear
  2. Jesus – veiling himself again
    1. Jesus veiled himself and, as a human, Jesus touched them to reassure them
    2. “don’t tell anybody about it?” why not?
      1. So we are not distracted?
    3. Mountaintop experiences fade
      1. Peter, having seen all this, still denied Jesus
    4. Enshrining is static, but Jesus and the spirit are dynamic
      1. We can’t stay on the mountain top – divine revelation can become one more addiction to chase
      2. We are dynamic too, spirituality is not just a bucket list, but a re-membering, re-inforcement, re-discovering
    5. Danger of “true” revelations – one more potential division
      1. mountaintop experiences aren’t required – doubting Thomas, blessed are those who have not seen, but still believed
    6. Seeing the divine in the everyday
      1. And admitting how much harder that is – purpose of Lent, where we fall short
        1. Blind spots – Lent we will focus on what keeps us from seeing God’s presence in the world and in one another
      2. Jesus speaks to these concerns in the other Gospel passage,
        1. the final two antitheses
      3. You have heard it said:
        1. “eye for an eye” ( but I say, turn the other cheek)
        2. love neighbor and hate enemies (but I say love enemies too)
      4. Jesus’ 3rd way
        1. This isn’t just a passive turn of phrase
        2. Active choice, neither fight nor flight, but finding the divine in even those things that repel us – “non violent, direct action”
        3. Powerful survive and thrive on “dignity” and “respectability”
      5. Three Example of the Third Way
        1. “turn the other cheek” asserting love for enemy, and reinforcing our own divine worth as well
          1. Context: Insult, not fistfight
          2. Not slapped as an inferior, but insisting to be seen as an equal
  • Play off of roman law
  1. Shirt and coat – embarrassing them for their greed, shame, their evilness lowers themselves
    1. Context: only the poorest person would use their clothing for collateral for loan
  2. Go one mile, go second mile – roman soldiers
    1. Context: any roman subject could be conscripted to carry a soldier’s pack for a mile – Walk a mile in their shoes
    2. Asserting dignity and resetting the power dynamic
  • Getting them in trouble for your generosity – beg you to not be their beast of burden
  1. Love thy enemies
    1. The paradox of waging non-violence, also loves the opposition
    2. More than just “don’t hate them” recognize that all can prosper together –
      1. pray for their wellbeing, including their awareness of their sin
      2. A loving, playful\sarcastic call to see their own absurdity
    3. Third way – jester can speak to the king the way no other person could
    4. Seeing God in each person, and in the transforming power that exists in the world, in the face of fear, anger, greed, and the seemingly unstoppable rage of the powerful
  2. Third way examples
    1. Early Christians Christian martyrs
    2. Modern inspiring examples
      1. Ghandi
      2. civil rights movement, both MLK and Malcolm X (asserting dignity)
  • Third Way today
    1. The REAL citizen’s group of Charleston
    2. White Flour
    3. Covenant
      1. Search committee process – discussed at leadership retreat yesterday
  • Seeing the divine in the world means seeing God in the world – in places we don’t know or don’t want to admit
    1. Look for this third way, here on earth, here and now
    2. Not on a mountaintop, but right here – seek it, practice it.
    3. Practice the third way in your own lives


Matthew 17:1-9

Moving forward in the Gospel of Matthew, we come to the story of Jesus’ transfiguration. At this point in the story, Jesus has just asked his disciples who people say that he is, and who the disciples say that he is. Jesus also has begun telling his disciples that he will have to suffer, die, and will then be resurrected, which they found hard to hear.

17 Six days later Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and brought them to the top of a very high mountain. He was transformed in front of them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as light.

Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Jesus. Peter reacted to all of this by saying to Jesus, “Lord, it’s good that we’re here. If you want, I’ll make three shrines: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”

While he was still speaking, look, a bright cloud overshadowed them. A voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son whom I dearly love. I am very pleased with him. Listen to him!” Hearing this, the disciples fell on their faces, filled with awe.

But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.

As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Don’t tell anybody about the vision until the Human One is raised from the dead.”

Matthew 5:38-48

This reading continues Jesus’ sermon on the mount from last few weeks. This completes his list of what theologians called the antitheses and what we’ve called the syntheses “you’ve heard it said, but I say…” These are the syntheses of retaliation and love.

38 “You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. 39 But I say to you that you must not oppose those who want to hurt you. If people slap you on your right cheek, you must turn the left cheek to them as well. 40 When they wish to haul you to court and take your shirt, let them have your coat too. 41 When they force you to go one mile, go with them two. 42 Give to those who ask, and don’t refuse those who wish to borrow from you.

43 “You have heard that it was said, You must love your neighbor and hate your enemy. 44 But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who harass you 45 so that you will be acting as children of your Father who is in heaven. He makes the sun rise on both the evil and the good and sends rain on both the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love only those who love you, what reward do you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing? Don’t even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Therefore, just as your heavenly Father is complete in showing love to everyone, so also you must be complete.