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A Season of Light and Stars

Transfiguration, Common Lectionary Year C

Exodus 34: 29-35, Luke 9: 28-35

©2019 Rev. Dr. Elisabeth R. Jones

Scripture audio file
Sermon audio file

Back on January 6 the Season of Light and Stars began.
That day we imagined ourselves watching the canopy of heaven,
noticing God’s closeness in a night sky touching our earth.
We told the story of Wise Ones, led by a Star,
who reached the place on earth where Jesus could be found.
They noticed: Eternity in time
They noticed: God’s closeness,
They noticed: Love’s touch.
And having noticed, these Star Followers,
they returned to the world by a different way.

We end this Season of Light and Stars again
with Biblical Stories that are about
noticing God’s closeness.
noticing Creation’s majesty
noticing love’s touch
noticing and allowing ourselves to be transfigured.

Because, like all Gospel, all Good News,
Gospels are written and passed down through generations
not as “once upon a time” stories
but as “here we are right now” stories.

Running through our Season of Light and Stars
has been our own Star-led journey, some of us anyway,
as Star Words were handed out, seemingly at random,
and invited to notice…when it shows up in our daily experience,
when it reflects or when it shapes us.

In the past couple of weeks, some of you – many of you in fact –
have shared short or long reflections about Star Word experiences.
It is these that will preach the Gospel today.

The children will help us see these star word stories by creating
a felt board star pattern – a constellation,
as I share some of these stories
so when I give you a cue, one of you needs to come up and place a star.
Words that didn’t resonate… at first… or even yet.
Some of these seemed easy, or distant…. or irrelevant to people.
One wrote:

  • “The word I got seems to suit who I am, but it’s not revealing a lesson to me…I keep wondering what the universe wishes me to learn from this word.”
  • And I’ll include me here too, when I pulled “beauty” from the bowl, I thought “meh” but it’s been working away, every day, causing me to reflect on those less ‘beautiful’ aspects of my character, but also to notice just how much beauty surrounds me all the time.
    And this story:
  • Someone who tells of coming to church two weeks after Epiphany feeling very down about a personal situation.
    They write: “As star words were being referred to in the service, I started feeling more down, not feeling like I had been making a lot of connections with my word “Understanding.” And then all of a sudden there it was in the middle of the prayers of the people;
    you had included the quote from Einstein on the powerpoint:
    “peace can only be achieved by understanding”. As it shone boldly up there on the screen I felt so understood in that moment. There was my word as a special message for me when I most needed it.”

Words that challenged right from the start included this one:

  • “I was not happy with my star word and have been struggling with it ever since I received it! It is “production” and if ever there has been a time in my life where I feel un- productive it is now! So I have been trying to think how I can relate to it…. ….This afternoon some of my grandchildren are here and one saw the Star word on my range hood… “Oh “production!” That’s a perfect word for you, Grammy, ”
  • I disagreed but this child “you’re always doing and doing and doing! ” adding that their word is “Wisdom”…. I think this word fits this child perfectly!

Then there are the Words that seem easy, then go deep.

  • One was “Generosity”- realizing that the word expands so far beyond just financial generosity, to include the giving of the generous gift of time, attention, and relationship.
  • Another wrote: “My word is reassurance. At first I thought oh that is an easy one for me – in some ways that is my stock and trade. But it encouraged me to reflect on the anxiety that all the changes in my life were creating in me. … So I took my star word on many walks and asked ‘what was the Spirit inviting me to do.’ Surprise! I was encouraged to breathe and be reassured that the choices would “be good enough.” I found the experience another way of being mindful.”

Speaking of mindful, that’s how this cluster of star words looks:
*On receiving “Wonder” one of you sees that word every time they pause to watch and really notice the birds on the feeder in the garden,

  • “Optimism” has also served to help someone go through surgery and recovery. “The day of, and days following, my Star Word would pop into my mind and I would adjust my thoughts to being optimistic, looking forward to recovery in the coming months.”
  • And another whose word “Order” has helped them to be mindful of their limited energy as a Senior, to take the time to plan things through, and not be flustered.
  • Seeing Assurance as a guiding star is helping another person to see possibility, and to be assured “there will be colour in our world again soon” (helped by a flowering bouganvillia to give their Star Word some oomph!

For many of you, these words were odd gifts or affirmations of life or character

  • Feeling overburdened, and not quite sure what to do about it, one of you received “Choice.” “Receiving my star word” was an affirmation to step back from some responsibilities “I feel lighter already.” My Star Word is taped to the top corner of my computer, I plan to keep it there to remind me that I always have a choice.”
  • Similarly with “Patience”, a character trait this person didn’t really know they had, until the star and circumstance coincide. It becomes something this person can draw on again.
  • And with two others: “Blessing” reconnected one person with a long-ago heard promise, giving it new life for a new time of life;
  • “Exuberance” seemed like a mirror of their character, until they noticed how it had been suppressed by circumstance. Reconnecting with a skill brought that long-time gift back to life, like an Hallelujah of holy and human satisfaction.

Now I know that for many of you,
a gold star in January has not impacted your life.
I also know that none of us saw Jesus on a mountaintop,
transfigured in light.
But his Gospel story, and these Gospel stories
from people with whom we share identity
as the people of God’s Way, are given to us all,
a reminder to notice,
the closeness of God,
to notice creation’s awesome wonder,
to notice and embrace wisdom, love’s
gentle or challenging touch.

As another companion on the Way writes:
“This transfiguration story was never meant to shine light on Jesus’ glory alone. It shines a light on the glory of God at work in us.”[1]

Or put another way, and to lighten this from imperative to promise:
“Never doubt that you are (all) intended for Stardom.”
(Quote from Miss Piggy)

Rev. Dr. Elisabeth Jones.
With special thanks to
Peggy, Patricia, Shelagh, Jean, Steve, Faye, Sachi, Jeannie,
Martha, Paul, Norman, Elsa, Diana, Wendy, Cole, Isabelle, Margaret.

[1] Karoline Lewis, Dear Working Preacher (Transfiguration 2019)

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