The Rev. Melanie L. McCarley
Today I’d like to begin with a story about the gift of perception. This tale, by Laura Richards, gifts us with the story of an epiphany.
There once was a little boy who worked hard in field, barn and shed, for his people were poor farmers. All day long he would labor in the fields; but sunset was his special time, for then, the boy would climb to the top of a hill and look across at another hill that rose some miles away. On this far hill stood a house with windows of clear gold and diamonds. They shone and blazed so that it made the boy wink to look at them. But after a while, the people in the house would put up shutters, as it seemed, and then the dwelling took upon itself the appearance of a common farmhouse.
One day, the boy’s father called him and said: “You have been a hard worker and have earned a holiday. Take this day for your own; but remember that God gave it, and try to learn something good.”
The boy thanked his father and kissed his mother. Then he put a piece of bread in his pocket and started off to find the house of the golden windows. After a long time he came to a high green hill; and when he had climbed the hill, there was the house on the top. But it seemed that the shutters were up, for he could not see the golden windows. He walked slowly up to the house and then he could well have wept, for the windows were of clear glass like any others, and there was no gold anywhere about them.
A woman came to the door and looked kindly at the boy and asked him what he wanted. “I saw the golden windows from our hilltop,” he said, and I came to see them, but now they are only glass.” The woman shook her head and laughed.
“We are poor farming people,” she said, and are not likely to have gold about our windows. But glass is better to see through.” The kind woman bade the boy rest, and sent her daughter to bring him a cup of milk and cake.
The two children began talking. The boy explained about his quest to find the house with the golden windows. The little girl nodded, and said she knew all about these windows--but he had mistaken the house. “You have come quite the wrong way!” she said. “Come with me, and I will show you the house with the golden windows, and then you will see for yourself.”
The two of them went to a knoll that rose behind the farmhouse, and as she pointed, the boy saw a house with windows of clear gold and diamonds. And as he looked closer, the boy realized that he was looking at his own home.”
The way home was long, and it was dark before the boy reached his father’s house; but the lamplight and the firelight shone through the windows, making them almost as bright as he had seen them from the hilltop. When he opened the door, his mother came to kiss him , and his little sister ran to throw her arms about his neck, and his father looked up and smiled from his seat by the fire.” Have you had a good day?” asked his mother. Yes, the boy had had a very good day. “And have you learned anything?” asked his father. “Yes!” said the boy. “I have learned that our house has windows of gold and diamonds.”
The gospel reading for this Last Sunday of Epiphany is always the same--the story of the Transfiguration--where Jesus leads the apostles Peter, James and John up to a high mountain, by themselves. And there he is transfigured before them, his face shining like the sun and his clothes dazzling white.
Think of the Transfiguration as the capstone to this season of Epiphany. It is the culminating revelation as to who Jesus is. Yet, I cannot help but find it interesting that Jesus wasn’t transfigured before the masses--surely, it would have been a fitting end to the Sermon on the Mount. Instead, he is revealed before the very people who had proclaimed him to be the Christ, the Messiah. It begs the question, why bother at all? If Peter, James and John had already acknowledged the true nature of Jesus, why confirm what they already knew in their hearts?
But this, I believe, is precisely the point of the Transfiguration--it confirms what the disciples knew in their hearts. It is a confirmation of what they already believed. Think of the Transfiguration as a divine gift.
Remember the story of the young boy which I used to begin today’s sermon. How many people, having ventured to another hilltop, to search for a house with golden windows, would have been disillusioned and disappointed to find themselves facing a house (and a family) very much like their own. How many would have looked upon the glowing windows and left dejected, convinced that all they had seen and believed had been merely an illusion--a trick of the light, as it were.
Instead, the young boy of our story had the grace to look upon a house and a family very much like his own, and see the true nature of the treasure found in his family and the farm in which he lived and worked--a place which had windows of gold and diamonds. The gold and diamonds--they weren’t those of a magical palace or a rich person’s fancy, they were a reflection of the goodness which lay inside. Of parents who loved their son, and provided for him, and encouraged him to give thanks--not to them, for having a day off--but for God, and to take time to learn something from the Almighty. In its way, the gold and diamonds shimming in the windows were indeed a true reflection of the nature of that young boy’s home and family. It was a confirmation of what that boy already knew in his heart. He saw it for what it was, not an illusion, but the truth of a much deeper reality. That vision and its revelation was a gift, and the young boy accepted it as a such.
In much the same way, the Transfiguration was a gift to Peter, James and John. It was a confirmation of what they already believe.
If the Transfiguration of Jesus happened today, would it convince any skeptics out there. Probably not. The well reasoned among us would search for the “trick”, we’d blame it on the light and begin searching for hidden wires and the like. The issue isn’t about proving who Jesus is--it’s about believing who Jesus is. The lesson for us today is that God does not disappoint. God confirms our faith, if only we develop the gift of sight--not so much the ability to see with our eyes, so much as to perceive with our hearts. Like that young boy in the story of the Golden Windows--we are surrounded by diamonds, we are, even now, enveloped in the radiance of God’s splendor--yet seldom do we have the gift of seeing it--not for what we hope it to be, but for what it truly is. As this season of Epiphany draws to a close, let us remind ourselves that true sight isn’t found in our eyes, it is confirmed in our hearts. In Jesus’ name. Amen.