The Last Sunday after the Epiphany of Year B
2 Kings 2:1-12, Psalm 50:1-6, 2 Corinthians 4:3-6, Saint Mark 9:2-9

One of Consecration Sunday’s successes, I believe, was the fun the children were having. They were having their kind of fun at the same time we were having our kind of fun. And there were so many of them. Some families were present in three generations–another success, when you think about it, the important success of handing the faith down to the next generation.

Around small children, I have learned, some words are better left unsaid. I don’t mean bad words, but words like “cookie,” “candy,” and “cake.” The youngsters will stop eating their dinners and hold out for what they think is coming. The word “later” just doesn’t have the same effect as “cookie.” They want the dessert now. They no longer want to eat the main course and the vegetables and the salad. If you let the children eat the cookies, the candy, and the cake, they will have no room and certainly no appetite for the nutritious food they need. They would never have a healthy diet.

All of this compares very favorably with Jesus, his Transfiguration, and the Christian life, believe it or not. The glorification of Jesus, his triumphal entry, his exaltation on the Cross, and his Resurrection and Ascension, are like the desserts. They need to come at the end. They need to come at the end, because they make sense as a result of the integrity with which Jesus lived. And the salvation Jesus’ glorification opens to us awaits us, just like the dessert the children want so badly. But, if we start with the dessert, we may never get to what we really need. If we start with dessert, it’s as though what we really want is to have our cake and eat it, too. If we start with dessert, it’s as though we don’t have an obligation to believe everything we should believe or to serve and to minister to each other as we should. If we start with dessert, it’s as though we’re looking for escape, or instant satisfaction, or a way to evade the anxieties of life. But what we really need to do is to live life as Christ would have us live it.

And when it comes to knowing how Christ would have us live life, can any of his sayings be better than this: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me”[1]? We look for dessert, and he gives us a full meal, everything we need. We look for salvation, and he gives us a cross. We look for Easter, and he gives us Lent.

A full meal, a cross, and Lent, they are what he gives us, because they are what we need to live the life he wants us to live. They are the instruments, they are the means we need and we use to get where we are going. They lead to dessert. They lead to salvation. They lead to Easter.

But today, the Last Sunday after the Epiphany, we’re given a little taste, a half of a piece of candy, if you will. We’re given in the Gospel a look at the Transfigured Jesus, a brief look at glory’s transforming and illuminating power. For a minute, just a brief minute, we can see Jesus’ face in glory, without the thorns and without the agony. They will come later. But we can taste and see where those thorns and that agony lead. And we can freely choose the things we really need. We ourselves can act like adults, mature people and Christians. With important and adult things, we can act like mature people. In the very matter of our life and our salvation, we have the opportunity to act as mature as we think our children should be.

And so, on Wednesday evening, Ash Wednesday evening, we have the opportunity to eat our spinach–to do what we really need to do: to confess our sins, to receive his forgiveness, and to live as he would have us live, by embracing his cross as if it were our own.

[1] Saint Mark 8:34.