This brief homily was given on my first Sunday at Gower Christian Church, following my installation as Pastor.
Scripture: Matthew 17:1-9
Hymns: “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms”, “Great Is the Lord”, “In God’s Time”, “He Touched Me”
As I stand here in this pulpit, I can’t help but ask myself the question – what am I doing here? I won’t lie to you – I feel a little bit like a fraud. Barely two weeks ago, I was working at a hotel front desk for $9.00 an hour, and now here I am, the leader of a congregation of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), one which has been around for nearly 160 years.
What AM I doing here?
I will admit, it does make me feel better to know that I’m the second pastor in a row that you’ve called straight out of seminary. Now, sure, this congregation DID call Bob Elliott when Gerald Ford was President, but that doesn’t matter, I’m still the second one in a row!
That having been said, when it comes to asking the question “What am I doing here,” it is comforting to know that I’m in good company there. After all, consider today’s Scripture – the story of the Transfiguration of Christ on the Mount of Olives. Jesus took three of His most faithful apostles – Peter, James, and John – up the mountain with him, and they witnessed a most miraculous sight – their teacher speaking with two of the most well renowned prophets in Jewish history, Moses and Elijah. And to put it in context, back then, there was no Google Image Search. The three apostles would’ve known who Moses and Elijah were from drawings that they had seen of them, copied over the years and passed down with the Torah in their synagogue or in the Temple in Jerusalem, and from descriptions of them from the Scriptures. And so the fact that they would recognize these two men, centuries dead, is all the more remarkable when you consider they had never seen a LITERAL representation of them.
Add to that the fact that a booming voice came out of heaven saying, “THIS IS MY SON, THE BELOVED; WITH HIM I AM WELL PLEASED, LISTEN TO HIM!” Combine all these things together, and you might have Peter, James, and John asking themselves, “What AM I doing here?”
Of course, one of two things could have happened at that point. On the one hand, you could have the way that Jesus reacted – taking everything that happened as a commissioning to go forth, walk amongst the Jewish people of Israel, and teach them in the ways of God. On the other hand, you could have Peter, who, in his desire to please Jesus, offered to build shelters for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah.
Now, obviously, Peter’s suggestion was at least a little silly – after all, Moses and Elijah weren’t really there. But let’s face it. It’s not like this was a scenario that Peter faced every day, and so he was trying to adapt the best he could. But in the end, he allowed his human limitations of his understanding to overcome the meaning of what was going on at that moment, and unfortunately for him, this story has been used – and perhaps unfairly so – to point out yet again that Peter had a tendency to jump without thinking.
And why do I say unfairly? Well, let’s be real – Peter is considered the first leader of the church, so he must have done SOMETHING right.
But the point is this – for me, this service, today, is, in a sense, my transfiguration moment. Before today, I was just me. Sure, I’ve been an ordained minister for nine months, but I wasn’t actually using that ordination to serve anybody. I’ve been a hotel desk clerk, living the Gospel but not necessarily ministering to the people. But after today, I will never be the same again. Starting today, I’m a pastor. I’ve been called to lead this congregation, presented with a God-given responsibility to shepherd the many souls that call Gower Christian Church their home.
And let’s face it – there will be some days when I have Peter moments. Days when I should shut up and let the voice of God speak to me, but instead I decide that this would be a good moment to offer to build shelters for Moses and Elijah. I’ll stick my foot in my mouth, I’ll irritate members of the congregation.
But I will carry on in this ministry to which I have been called. In spite of my human limitations, God has chosen me, through your leaders, to be your pastor. And know that in the months and years to come, you will get nothing less than my utmost effort to live up to being God’s chosen and beloved, so that God may say that with me, He is well pleased.