When Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil on his face; but whenever Moses went in before the LORD to speak with him, he would take the veil off, until he came out; and when he came out, and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, the Israelites would see the face of Moses, that the skin of his face was shining; and Moses would put the veil on his face again, until he went in to speak with him. (Exodus 34:33-35, NRSV)
Is it any preachers favorite week? My colleagues who have been in ministry for ten or fifteen or twenty years groan over preaching the Transfiguration yet again. In year one and two and three, I heard them whinge and moan, and I wondered why. I felt I had something to say. I imagined I would never find the well so dry.
Then came year four. Oy. Oy vey, even. I.had.nothing. After meeting with my preacher group I was thinking about the admonition to the disciples to be silent, and I opened a Word file with the title "Gospel Confidential." It contains one sentence, and that one is a question:
Why can’t we talk about it?
Not that it’s a bad question or anything, but seriously, that was not enough.
The only thing I seemed to want to write about was a bad date story, about a date that might really have been good. I ended up preaching it. I’m not sure how much it had to do with the Transfiguration, but it preached.
This year, I want to do something really good with the texts.
Okay, there’s something wrong with that sentence. Every year, every week, I want to do something really good with the texts. Every week I want the message to be special, to open the word of God in a way that has particular meaning in the local context, to be inventive and creative and worthy of being preached.
I used to sing in the fabulous choir at Large Church, and the music director’s favorite anthem for the Transfiguration was huge and spooky and difficult and beautiful. No sermon I ever heard about it ever came close to expressing the unearthly quality of the thin place to which Jesus led his disciples. I wish I could hear it again, although much of it is still available in my mind.
Today I drove along a winding country road, uphill and down, snow on the rock walls and the aging barns and sun bright on the snow. I remembered times I felt the presence of God in nature and considered how I might weave them into a sermon.
The scenery grew less interesting as I came back into town. I slowed to turn up the drive of an assisted living center and later came closer to civilization for a home visit. I looked out a window with a retired nurse and saw a view that needed painting, another rock wall, more sunlit snow, bare winter trees. I received a finger-crushing hand embrace from a man of 96 who can hardly stand but still has strength.
And then I received a warm and excited greeting from someone who had every reason to be low. We sat in her living room, where she smiled and said, "You’re so pretty. I could just sit and look at you."
Surprised, I did not answer immediately.
"But you must hear that all the time," she said.
No, no I don’t. But coming face to face with the beauty of God’s creation and the people in it can do that to a girl.