Until the Morning Star Rises

A Sermon for Covenant
Until the Morning Star Rises
2 Peter 1:16-19
Covenant Baptist Church, San Antonio
March 2, 2013
Kyndall Rae Rothaus

(Special note: Typical audio feed is down, but you can listen on youtube by clicking here

Today is Transfiguration Sunday—the Sunday before Ash Wednesday, the Sunday before Lent begins. To give you a refresher, the Transfiguration is when Jesus invites Peter, James, and John to join him atop a mountain to pray, and while there, he transfigures and begins to glow white. He is suddenly joined by Elijah and Moses, and the three of them begin chatting. (For a moment, seeing Moses, you might be reminded of the way Moses would glow too, coming down the mountain after meeting with God, so brilliant with light he had to wear a veil to shield the people.) Anyway, Peter hastily suggests that he wants to build each one of them a tent, or a shelter, and in none of the Gospel accounts does Jesus find this worthy of reply, so I imagine Jesus giving him the “Oh Peter” look, a facial expression let’s just say the disciples were accustomed to. Then the voice of God speaks, saying, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with him I am well-pleased. Listen to him.” And as quickly as that, it is all over. Moses and Elijah are gone, and Jesus tells the disciples to keep this strange event under the wraps until after the resurrection.

It is this odd little story about Jesus glimmering on a mountaintop that pitches us forward onto the dusty, unglamorous road to Golgotha. And this hilltop incident is just mysterious and confusing enough that we might prefer to go ahead and keep it under wraps, even as a post-resurrection people, but Scripture encourages us otherwise. In the text we read this morning from 2 Peter, we are specifically told that we would do well to pay attention to this particular story, for it confirms the prophetic message. 2 Peter 1:19 says, “You will do well to be attentive to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.” 2 Peter does little to make the story easier to understand, but for me, he makes it more enticing to try, because he calls this story a lamp shining in a dark place, and to the story he attaches a promise about the day dawning and the morning star rising. And so with this promise of light dangling over the Transfiguration, I climb to the top of the mountain yet again, trailing Peter, James, and John. I rub the sleep out of my eyes, and watch it all unfold with awakened wonder. (Care to join me?)

It was this phrase: “Until the morning star rises in your hearts” that tumbled around inside me like tennis balls in the dryer, rattling me loose, clanking in the ear of my heart, fluffing up an old flattened story for renewed wear.

Now, most preachers get complaints for preaching too long and talking too much, but my friends Brittany and Aaron have told me that my sermons are too short. So this morning, I must ask your forgiveness for an even-shorter sermon, because what I want to do is share with you the poem I wrote after listening to this text, a poem I call “Until the Morning Star Rises”:

Keep watching the light
Until you become light
Keep attending to the beaming of his face
Until you yourself are transfigured
Keep positioning yourself
in line with the glow
until you feel a gleam
break forth in you

Don’t you ever build a tent
you silly rash Peters
chomping to do something
significant, anxious to bottle
up this extraordinary moment
for safe-keeping.
Give your miracles away
for free distribute the mercies
you have known.
Don’t plop down inside
your big cozy tent
alone and safe,
your treasure secure.
No. No. No.

Run down that hill
like a wildfire, hot
while the power lasts,
spread burning love
lick the world
like flames, do not
veil yourself
like Moses even
when people ask you
to cover up—
such polite modesty
does not suit you
when your face is shining
with the afterglow
of God.

Glow, child, glow.
God is pleased with you.

At the bottom of the hill
your light will smack
hard into pain—people’s
hurts, your own wounds
like a wall—they call it
the valley of the shadow
and it is dark there.
Run there anyway.

Don’t speak too hastily
of Jesus or all you saw
up on the mountain.
It won’t make much sense
if told in haste. Also:
no one will believe you.
So take your time meandering
among the masses, meeting
as many eyes  as you can,
let your gaze be a window
into what you have seen.
Look back into their stare,
see more there
than you have ever seen before.
With those you meet exchange
small glimmers, tiny faith flickers.
Swap burdens. Share darkness.
Meld together.
Hold hands.
Journey on.

At some point in your wandering
you will begin to wonder
where all of this is going.
You will raise your face and
up ahead you will see
a rough, wood-carved cross:
this will shock you.
More even than the
darkness of the valley and
the friendship you found there,
this will shock you.

Jesus is hoisting
himself up onto it,
willingly, and he
is mouthing the words,
“Follow me,”
and you will protest,
“But, but the mountain!
You were glowing!
Let’s go back.
Why didn’t I tabernacle you
when I had the chance,
grab hold, keep you
encased with fabric
and poles, stake you
to the ground—make you stay?
Instead I lived loose
traveled light
made friends
and now you are
leaving us
with the sun setting
behind you,
possibly forever.

Silence.

Black Grief.

No reply.

You will close your eyes and
so will God in heaven,
sorrow overtaking sight,

but you will hear the earth
shake and rocks moan
and a great big veil
in the temple
will begin to rip.
You will hear it tearing
and it will be
to your ears like the
sound of pain and the
wailing of separation.

But it is not that.

It is the sound Moses heard
when he would rip
off his veil in the
presence of God, it is
the sound of sunshine
cracking over the surface of
the earth, it is the
sound of walls between heaven
and earth, walls between brothers
falling down at last,
it is the sound of
light beams shattering
blindness, it is the sound
of God dying, then rising
like a star in your heart.

Amen.

 

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