Transfiguration: A Sermon for Pastors

Confession: Transfiguration is my second least favorite Sunday of the year, next to, you guessed it, Christ the King.

I feel like I made up some BS in my children’s sermon about this being a text that appears on a “minor Holiday” every year because it reminds us we don’t, nor can we ever have it “all figured out” with God, because with God, all things are possible (Matthew 19:26).

I like it, I stick by it.

I listened to “The Working Preacher” podcast for Transfiguration and they spent about five minutes telling me (the preacher) how impossible of a text it is to preach, and how you shouldn’t fall into the pitfalls. Helpful guys, really… (or not).

So I fell on the sword and preached about the desire to stay in a mountaintop experience and how God told Jesus (like Moses and Elijah before him) to get their ass off the mountain and return to the struggle of a messy and complicated life where ministry sucks.

I believe I even said, “God doesn’t need us to build dwellings (NRSV) because God dwells within us.”

I like this sermon. I do. I love a good “get off your ass and on your feet” call.

But as I’m preparing and preaching I’m painfully aware that this week is my 6th anniversary in this church. And I was seven years at the church before that and 2 years at the church before that.

I am tired.

I am painfully aware of the struggles of ministering down the mountain. So literally as I was preaching the word of God to the people fo God in my time and place, God’s still small voice whispers, “you know Shannon, it might be time to go up the mountain.”

In our worship service there is a hymn after the sermon, followed by prayers of the people. A beloved member of my congregation stood during the prayers and gave thanks for the life of his brother-in-law, a man we buried this week.

“I want to thank Shannon for her beautiful tribute and service to this wonderful man, we are so lucky to have her.”

Tears filled my eyes. It was a good funeral sermon, for a good man, and I pray such things can be said about me when my days have ended.

I know I’m tired, a few hours after the funeral I was in my bi-weekly therapy session declaring to my therapist how completely spent I feel, and I don’t see an end. I’m desperately trying not to burn myself out.

And although there is a sabbatical planned for me next year, it’s far away.  “It’s time to go to the mountain, Shannon.”It’s time for renewal, it’s time for healing, it’s time to be transfigured.

The season of Lent is coming. Adding spiritual practices can sometimes add stress, but Jesus shows us time and time again how important climbing to the top of the mountain can be, or disappearing for a few hours to pray, or getting some sleep, even when there’s a storm coming.

Pastors we have to care for ourselves, we have to go to the mountaintop and renew ourselves so we can go back down into the struggle. And yes, thanks to the Gospel of Mark and countless commentaries I’ve read, we have to not just go to see, we have to go to listen.

Because the top of the mountain isn’t just about the view, sometimes it’s about standing in the fog of the cloud and trusting, listening. Stopping. Sometimes seeing the beauty can give you another thing “to do”.

I hope you preached the word of God to your congregation today that they need to take the God that dwells in them into the world, but I hope you too can listen to that voice that tells you to go and listen on your mountain, whatever that may be.

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