Sermon For Sunday, February 10, 2013

Luke 9:28-36


Franklin Circle Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

Cleveland, Ohio

Rev. Allen V. Harris, Pastor & Preacher

To hear a podcast of this sermon, click HERE:  130210SermonPodcast

(* indicates changing the slide in the digital presentation)


*In the Broadway Musical, “Billy Elliot,” made from the movie by the same name, Mrs. Wilkinson is a ballet teacher in a small town in North Eastern England during the UK miners’ strike in the early 1980’s.  The basis of the play and the movie is that a young boy is drawn more to dance lessons than he is to boxing lessons, and the teacher, and then his family, soon learn he is quite adept at dance.

*In one of my favorite scenes in the musical, when Billy is still just an onlooker, Mrs. Wilkinson is trying to inspire the kids to do their best.  She does this through urging them to “shine!”  She sings,

Try to keep your arm in line

Come on at least pretend you’re doing fine

You can wow ’em every time

All you have to do in shine

Forget about content

Focus on style

Steal an inch on them

And they’ll give you a mile

And smile, smile, smile, smile

*The song recognizes that all of the kids in her class – and us by extension – live complex lives filled with struggles and hardships, but that when it comes to such things as dance the difficulties of life shouldn’t hold you back.  What’s important is to “shine!”

It doesn’t matter if your life’s a mess

The whole process will coalesce

Girls, just try to effervesce

All you really have to do is shine.

And in the dialogue the dance teacher says over the music, she reveals her true understanding of what she is doing: “Outside our lives are lonely and sad, but in here they sparkle!…  So [here] our tawdry little lives are transformed by the power of art.”

This is such a sticky wicket because we are taught in church and in school and by our parents that really the content of our lives is what is most important, and that outward appearances can be deceiving.  “All that glitters is not gold!” we are warned.  But at the same time we are given hundreds, if not thousands, of examples in our world, through entertainment, the media, sports, and elsewhere, that it is, in fact, all about the show!

What is it?  Are our lives about content, or should they be about the image people have of our lives?  *Well, meeting Jesus, Moses, and Elijah up on the mountain, beside Peter, James, and John I get mixed signals.  The text tells us that Jesus’ appearance changed and his clothes became dazzling white.  When Moses and Elijah join him, they “appeared in glory.”  You might as well as had a Broadway theater costume designer on the set and we could go ahead and use words like bedazzle, sparkle, glow, glimmer, twinkle and, yes, shine!  There’s even a big booming voice that comes from backstage to make the event truly perfect for Playhouse Square!  In fact, the spectacle is so enchanting that Peter, for one, wants to just set up shop right there and spend the rest of his apostolic days basking in the glory that he just witnessed.

Jesus, rightfully so, reminds the crew that as delightful – even titillating – as the show was, there is still work to be done down in the valley below.  The hard work of ministry is always just down the hills, just around the corner, just in the other room.

And for me, this is exactly the point of intersection between content and style, between substance and image, between the Season of Epiphany or “Manifestation” and the Season of Lent with it’s biting realism, honest self-assessment, and deep sorrows.  Here, the Sunday between the two, is a moment where we get to recognize that if the content is good, true, worthy, meaningful… then there is absolutely no reason in the world we can’t let it shine!  “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine!”

Jesus never was one for superficial appearances and self-congratulatory personas.  He challenged the religious leadership of his day on such shallow, artificial, and phony faith all the time, and judged them harshly.  But at the same time I think that Jesus really understood how hard this work of ministry is, and he knew that Peter, James, and John were going to see and live through some pretty hard stuff because they had chosen to follow him before their lives were over.  So, in just a moment of deep revelation, Jesus allows them to see if only for a moment or two on the hillside the profound glory of God that results from lives deeply committed to “loving the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind, and loving your neighbor as yourself.”

*Is this a little bit like the overused saying, “fake it till you make it?”  Perhaps.  But I’d like to say it is more like God’s deep and abiding love that is present in all things but needs a little attention from us to let it radiate from our lives, to let it “shine!”

You might be feeling lousy

You might be feeling blue

A little apprehensive

A minor touch of flu

They couldn’t give a monkey’s cuss

They couldn’t give a fig

Come on son get over it

It’s all part of the gig

Give ’em the old rinkle tinkle

Give ’em the old kabam

Knock ’em sideways blow their minds out

There’s no time for half time frolics

Grab the buggers by the bollocks

Show ’em what class is all about

Give ’em that old razzle dazzle

And shine

You know, even if it’s just for one Sunday, I’m willing to let the seriousness of ministry and the hard work of helping people to ease up just enough for us to smile, to laugh, to celebrate, and to shine.  For the love of God, folks, let’s SHINE!