Sunday, February 10, 2013

Caterpillars and Butterflies

Transformation Sunday is a curious thing. How many things do you know of that can transform in one day? Not many, I bet. So how did transformation Sunday get its name? Many, possibly everyone, will tell you it is marking the day Jesus was transformed. That, is very interesting. Let's look at the story for a minute. “As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning... a cloud appeared and covered them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. A voice came from the cloud, saying, “This is my son, whom I have chosen; listen to him!” When the voice had spoken, they found that Jesus was alone.”
So. Peter, John, and James saw Jesus, his face changed, and his close bright white. Then, they themselves were covered with the cloud. Just as suddenly, everything, including Jesus, was back to normal. So normal, in fact, that, if we look at the next verse, “The next day... A man in the crowd called out, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son, for he is my only child. A spirit seizes him and he suddenly screams; it throws him into convulsions so that he foams at the mouth. It scarcely ever leaves him and is destroying him. I begged your disciples to drive it out but they could not.”
Someone comes to Jesus for healing, and the disciples drop the ball. Jesus actually loses his cool and he scolds them. “What a generation! No sense of God! No focus to your lives! How many times do I have to go over these things? How much longer do I have to put up with this? Bring your son here.”
I am pretty sure I have heard many adults scolds their children in the same exact way. Jesus said this to the disciples, my grandfather said to my father, my father said to me, and I am sure I will say it to someone when I grow up. That, I'm sorry to say, tells me that absolutely nothing was transformed on the top of that mountain.
Sure, Jesus changed, but he changed back. Tadpoles transform into frogs. They don't change back. Clown fish, if the colony is threatened, can transform from male to female and keep the colony alive. They don't change back. Caterpillars transform themselves into butterflies, but they don't change back. A quick visit to informs us that transform the means to change in form, appearance, to change in nature.
Jesus did not change in nature.
Jesus changed in appearance.
I guess change Sunday just doesn't have the same feel to it as Transformation Sunday. Let's examine this story again. They heard the voice of God exclaim that, “This is my son,” and that they should “listen to him.” Didn't God know that the disciples believed Jesus was the Son of God? Did God doubt the faith of the disciples? When I look back at the bumbling nature of that group, I have no doubt. God felt they needed a kick in the seat of the pants. Throughout Jesus' ministry, The disciples, time and again, just don't seem to get it. None of them are exactly the shiniest penny in the fountain. They are just ordinary people. Very ordinary. Most likely they were more ordinary than any of us. We have heard story after story during the season of Epiphany about Jesus proving that he is truly the Messiah. He has been building his ministry. He has thousands of people turn out to meet him. Famously, 5000 turnout at one point, because they believe Jesus to be the Messiah. Somehow, Jesus himself has hand-picked 12 people that just don't get it. They seem to have less faith in Jesus than the thousands that Jesus is ministering to. Just a few chapters ago, Jesus told a woman that her faith had healed her, yet the disciples don't have faith. It got so bad that God stepped in, changed Jesus to get their attention, and then spoke to them himself.
My mother has told me that she believes she has heard God's voice. Not a feeling, his actual voice in her ears. Twice. Once, when she was unconscious and having a ruptured aneurysm in her brain repaired. Once, when she was having a triple way heart bypass. Both times, she nearly, and arguably should have, died. Both times, God told her she was going to be okay. She believed him. She recovered completely from both surgeries, because God told her she would. My mother is not a religious person. When she came to rock Springs, she declined to come to church with us, but God spoke to her, and she believed him.
God told the disciples that Jesus was the son of man. God commanded them to listen to Jesus. At the beginning of this chapter, we learn that, “Jesus now called the 12 and gave them authority and power to deal with all the demons and cure disease. He commissioned them to preach the news of God's kingdom and heal the sick.” Yet, the day after God spoke to them. Most likely several hours after God told them, reminded them, to listen to Jesus, a man told Jesus he had asked the disciples to heal his son, and they couldn't do it. They didn't believe.
In thinking, and praying, and researching the sermon, I have come to a conclusion, and if Craig Thompson weakened the beams in the ceiling, this might bring them down.
Jesus was not transformed. He had always been the Son of God. He changed, that is his face and his clothes changed, but they changed back. Jesus was not the subject of the trans-formation. Jesus was not the target of the trans-formation. Jesus was supposed to be the reason for it. The disciples were the subject, the target, of the transformation. It was their moment. It was time for them to break out of their cocoons, spread their wings, and take flight. They failed. They didn't transform. At least not that day. It took a while.
It took a long while. It took until Jesus was crucified, plus a few weeks, plus a few after postmortem visitations, but they finally made it. They spread their wings and carried the message across the world.
So, here's what I propose. Let today mark the beginning of the Season of Transformation. Let today be the day God tells you to get the lead out, to listen to Jesus, or simply, that it will be okay, and believe him. Believe him, and starting today, let your faith heal you. It may take a while, and that's okay. God may kick you in the seat of the pants along the way, and that's okay also. Begin. Make a start. Do something to begin the transformation of you.
Do you want to be a caterpillar, or butterfly?