Rev. George Miller
Feb 19, 2012
If you were asked to pick one scene from a movie to show people what it means to be an American, what would it be?
There are so many choices; for me this would be the scene (show clip). The end of The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy realizes that the power of returning to Kansas existed within her the whole time, and that there is no place like home.
It’s been said that the popularity of The Wizard of Oz rests in the fact that it is all our story.
What does it mean to be American? To have a place to call home. After all, almost all of us have ancestors who left their native lands to come here in hopes of having a better way of life.
Americans are proud of where they live and what they call home, and if not, they move to a different location or dream of a place they can lay their roots down.
More often then not, like Dorothy, they discover home is not someplace over the rainbow, but where they find family, friends and purpose.
After all, don’t we all want an Aunty Em and Uncle Henry in our lives?
This is a poignant message today, because this week James and Judy are leaving to journey up north where they will have to make for themselves a new home.
Home is a concept that informs the biblical narratives. Adam and Eve were turned out of Eden. Abraham and Sarah leave their land to start a family. The Israelites wander the desert for years. The Exile forces people into a far off country.
And the Temple was destroyed not once, but twice, theologically leaving God homeless.
As a modern American culture that has found its residents moving around a lot and the housing market annihilated, how do we deal with the desire to have our own Kansas, our own Eden, our own place to call home?
Psalm 90:1-2 gives us a bit of an idea:
“Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting, you are God.”
In other words: no matter when it is, no matter who you are, no matter where you are, it is the Lord who we can call home.
Think about that. Think about what home is in the best concept of the word.
Home should be the place we feel safe, we feel loved, we feel…present. Not stuck in the past; not worried about the future, but where we are in the here and now.
For today, knowing that we are about to bid goodbye to Jim and Judy, knowing that we are about to enter the season of Lent, let’s explore this notion of home a bit more.
Today’s reading is referred to as the Transfiguration of Jesus. It takes place six days after Jesus has shared with the disciples that he will soon suffer, die and rise again.
Understandably, his disciples do not understand this particular teaching; they do not want to hear about it, especially Peter who pulls Jesus off to the side to rebuke him.
But Jesus sticks to his story and nearly a week later he invites Peter and two others to go for a walk up the mountain.
When they arrive at the top, something unexpected happens: they experience the presence of Moses and Elijah; they hear the voice of God and they watch as light emanates from Jesus.
Peter, who had been disturbed by Jesus’ talk of death, is the one to speak up: “Teacher, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings for Moses, Elijah and for you.”
Scripture says Peter didn’t know what he was saying, but I think he did.
With the recent news that his trusted leader was going to die, with the reality that their lives would take a serious turn, I think Peter saw an opportunity to protect Jesus by keeping him up on the mountain.
Perhaps he thought that in this high, holy place no harm could befall his leader.
I think something else also took place: that in Jesus, Peter realized he had found a place to call home.
That Jesus was his dwelling place.
What do we know about Peter? He had a mother-in-law who was unwell. He was astounded and disturbed by Jesus’ teachings. And he was in the fishing industry with his brother.
If you know anyone who made their living off of the sea, you would know it’s in their blood, it is who they are. They have the sun and wind burnt faces to prove it; they have the weathered skin to show it.
To take them away from the water would be like taking away their breath and blood.
And yet, what happens to Peter when he has an encounter with Jesus? He leaves behind the salt and the sun; he leaves behind the nets that need mending and the smell of fish to follow Jesus.
Into town, across the land, even to the top of a mountain.
Can anything be further away from living off the sea then climbing all the way to the top of a mountain?
And yet, what is it Peter says when he experiences Jesus being transfigured?
He says “It is good for us to be here, let us make three dwellings.”
Dwellings, which can be another word for home.
I think that atop that mountain, Peter is so in the moment that he wants to stay there forever. I think that Peter, who had made a life for himself off of the sea, has discovered that in Jesus, he has found a home.
And in that realization, Peter has been changed for the good.
Today we are supposed to talk about how Jesus was transfigured, but I would rather talk about how, like Peter, we are changed when we encounter Jesus.
Instead of the shoulda-coulda-wouldas we find ourselves more in the now and joyfully looking towards the what-can-bes.
Instead of focusing on that which makes us ill or unclean, we focus on that which makes us feel well and alive.
In Jesus, the things that once terrified us stop having so much power over us. Instead of being limited by the things we’ve always done, we are freed up to climb new mountains and explore different lands.
While at the same time, in Jesus we experience some of our restlessness disappearing and turning into rootedness because we know just whose we are and in whose hands the future rests.
In Jesus we have a permanent home, one that can not be destroyed, but like a tent can be taken with us wherever we go, whatever it is we face.
In Jesus we are changed for the better.
We’ve witnessed this right here in our congregation. Our sermon writing students, some who faced their self doubt and fear of public speaking who each gave a word worthy of being heard.
Council members who stopped worrying about if they knew what they were doing and trusted in Christ that they are good enough and that God knows what God is doing.
Our recent widows and widowers living with broken hearts who have learned how to face their grief by becoming active in the church and within the community.
Last fall’s Global Mission Fair in which we went beyond all expectations and raised $2,000 for ShelterBox, giving those who have lost their homes a dwelling place.
I could go on and on.
In conclusion, Dorothy travels over the rainbow and down the yellow brick road and discovers that there is no place like home.
Psalm 90 wisely states that for all time the Lord is our dwelling place.
In today’s reading, Jesus goes up a mountain and is transfigured.
I would also say that Peter changes: that it in the presence of Christ he has found a home.
When the Lord is our home, we can go anywhere and anyplace and know that there is constant. That we still have roots.
No matter how many mountains we climb, no matter how often we move, no matter how many rainbows we go over, as long as we know the Lord is our dwelling place, we will all have a place we can turn to feel safe, to feel loved, and to feel present.
For that, we should all say “Amen” and “Amen.”