Saturday, February 20, 2010

Plugged in, Changed, and Back - a sermon

We went to go see Avatar last night – very cool, especially the beautiful 3-D. It’d like you’re almost there. Then I thought, hey! Let’s get some special glasses and do church in 3-D! That will bring people in!

It’ll be like you can almost touch people – everything will seem so real. Oh, wait a minute – everything IS real here. You can touch each other here.

There goes another brilliant idea.

But the movie had another connection with church. In a way, it was all about connecting with God – or at least the divine. In this movie, where humans invade another planet (called Pandora) and try to overwhelm the native inhabitants (who are giant blue people) so we can extract their resources, the natives can literally plug part of themselves into the planet.

When they do this, they are at one with their ancestors and their god Eywah.

The hero is a human who is given a native body to inhabit – an Avatar – so he can spy on them. He learns their ways and is finally granted the high honor of getting to plug into the planet. At that moment he has an eye-opening experience that changes him forever. He sees that what the humans are doing is wrong and becomes one with the Pandorans.

In a way, this is like the Transfiguration. The disciples aren’t spies, but they are plucked out of their daily lives and asked to follow Jesus around in a very different world than what they knew before. They spend months – years – learning a new way of life.

And then they are granted this powerful moment of plugging in to the divine in a way most of us can only dream of. They see Jesus illuminated. They see Moses and Elijah. The voice of God speaks to them from heaven. They are changed forever even if they don’t understand.

If the passage ended right there, you’d think, “Wow, they were really great.

But right after they come down from this tremendous experience, things fall apart. The disciples once again are unplugged from the divine. They are just guys who can’t figure out how to connect with God’s power to heal a boy.

You can see Jesus’ frustration – he wants them to finally get it so he can finish his mission here. I can only imagine him thinking, “Even after the transfiguration, they don’t get it? They have no faith?” He sees that they have not been changed at all, or at least not nearly as much as he would have hoped.

We are a slow and stubborn people.

I say we, because the disciples are pretty much like the rest of us. We also get these moments of plugging into the divine – maybe not as dramatic as the transfiguration or as direct and repeated as plugging our bodies into the earth – but we get them.

We get to see miracles in our daily lives if we look. Just last week I witnessed an improbable healing. Look back at your life, and I am sure you will see times when the veil between you and God has been pushed away if only for a moment. God is more real than ever before, and all things seem possible. WE are empowered to see and hear more clearly.

God is not as hidden as we want to think.

And yet, just like the disciples, once that moment is over we tend to forget about it.

We come down from that mountain and immediately get overwhelmed by the demands of everyday life. You can call this our flip flop experience, where suddenly things don’t seem so clear anymore. Suddenly, very few things beyond the usual seem possible. We go from enlightened to in the dark.

Now, if we left the story at that, this would be depressing. And in fact, the Gospel does NOT end like a movie where the hero gets to permanently turn into a blue giant (and get the giant blue girl). It passes through the crucifixion and to the resurrection – another “plugging in” moment for the disciples – and keeps on going.

Where it goes is into the daily work of living as a child of faith – a child of God.

We understand how they had to deal with mundane organizational issues as well as internal and external conflict. We know how their story – our story – keeps going on.

And what we learn from this moment of transfiguration is that like those blue people on Pandora, we, too can plug in. We are doing it right now, right here. When we pray together, when we receive the body and blood of Christ. Christ is revealed here, and we are empowered. Here, now, we know that all things are possible.

This is your mountain top. You can return again and again – it’s better than 3-D. It’s real. Amen.