Get up. Do not fear.

This morning, I had the opportunity to preach at St. Andrew’s Ev. Lutheran Church in Perkasie, where I was Director of Education/Pastoral Assistant from 2000-2005. St. Andrew’s is celebrating 150 years of ministry this year, and I am one of several former pastors and other staff members they are inviting to return this year. Here is the sermon I preached. Today was the festival called The Transfiguration of Our Lord. The gospel reading I preached on was Matthew 17:1-9.

Oh, and one more thing. While I was at St. Andrew’s, I developed this habit of preaching in verse sometimes. I couldn’t resist doing it again on this special day.

The last time I spoke from this pulpit
My hair was long, gorgeous and flowing
And sitting down here on my chin
A red beard, not a grey one, was growing
It’s been a few years, just about a dozen
Since I needed to use all that mousse
But as you can see, not all things have changed
I still preach like a bad Dr. Seuss

It’s great to be back, to hear Brian play
And that window is like a gift from above
But it’s you in the pews, though a lot of you are new
Who make me feel welcomed and loved
This church holds a place that’s so dear to my heart
Cause you trained me, you honed me, you know
And within all my bluster, my hair, and my youth
You helped my potential to grow

And it did. Now I’m the pastor of church up in Bangor
We call ourselves Prince of Peace
They’re a wonderful people, they remind me of you!
And today they’ve allowed me release
But the truth is, today’s not a vacation for me
I haven’t pastored at all for eight weeks
I’m right now in the midst of a medical leave
For it’s healing right now that I seek

And I hope you don’t mind, but I’d like to discuss
The disease that brought me to my knees
It’s something many of us hide in the dark places inside
And I’d like to shine some light, if you please

I live with depression, and sometimes it gets bad
Medication and therapy help
But something went wrong this past summer and fall
And I could no longer do it myself

I couldn’t find joy; everything felt bleak
Hard to work, and I lost track of friends
And the more I tried to snap myself out
The more I floundered and twisted again
Depression is not just a feeling of sadness
It’s like being beaten by someone inside
And it took me so long to finally stop
Trying to be strong, trying to hide

I hope it’s okay to tell this to you
But I’ve learned slowly over the years
That being open and honest about what we face
Is better than living in fear

I am grateful my church has given me this gift
This chance to find new ways to cope
And this morning I’ll tell you just a bit
About the vision I’m finding of hope

I’ve spent my time reading, meditating, and praying
Several therapists, and a few support groups
I’ve walked a few labyrinths, and even tried yoga
I’ll be honest, that threw me for a loop

I’m learning to quiet the voices inside me
The voices that tell me I’m bad
The voices that tell me I should have known better
That help me feel worthless and sad

I’m quieting those voices, and do know what I hear?
I’m hearing a message come through
A message that I am God’s beloved child
That God is holding me, saying “I love you”
It’s a message of clarity, of seeing myself
The way that God sees me, I guess
It’s not always easy to trust this message
To trust that God always says “Yes”

But I’m learning, I’m growing, I’m looking, I’m here
And every so often I see
A sign that I know must be from God
A sign that God really loves me

It’s not every day. It’s not every minute.
It still feels like I’m running a race
But once in a while, when I don’t even expect it
I receive a sign of God’s grace
And I’m also learning right now that it’s okay to trust
That in all those times God seems to hide
Though I do not quite see it, and cannot quite feel it
God promises to walk right beside

Now you might be wondering why I’m talking so much
About my sickness and journey to health
A sermon’s supposed to talk about God
And I’m up here blabbering about myself
But I believe this connects to our gospel narration
On this Festival Sunday we call Transfiguration

On a beautiful morning four men climbed a peak
Jesus led his friends up the mountain
When suddenly prophets and thunder and clouds
Poured down upon them like a fountain
And there stood Jesus, glowing and bright
Speaking with Elijah and Moses
A voice came from heaven: “Behold, it’s my Son!”
They were scared from their hair to their toeses

But through their great fright, and through that great cloud
The disciples saw everything clearly
This vision of Jesus, in glory and power
The dawn of a new life, the king of the hour
The colors as deep as a new budding flower
The light shining strong as the mightiest tower
The disciples saw everything clearly
This vision of Jesus, in power and glory
Which was nothing shy of revelatory
It didn’t quite fit in a neat category
Yet fulfilled all the writings, completed God’s story
The disciples saw everything clearly
That Jesus was God quite sincerely
That God was made flesh, loving them dearly

But the vision then faded, it didn’t last long
And Jesus looked normal again
He touched them and said, “Get up. Do not fear.
And follow me into the glen.”

So where did he take them, and where did they go?
Well, you’ll hear about that journey in Lent
But I think that those details are not today’s point
The point is accompaniment
For Jesus went with them, through bad days and good
This Jesus from whom God’s light had shone
He wiped all their tears, and he held all their fears
And they were never, ever, alone

And I think that’s the joy we can take from this mountain
The good news that we can embrace
As we walk along through the valleys of our lives
We can remember we’ll never lose grace

We just might see Jesus, we might glimpse his glory
But that’s not a promise he made
Sometimes we’ll see him, and sometimes we won’t
For my part, I’ve learned that in spades
But wherever we go, and whatever we suffer
The king of all glory walks with us
That’s the promise he made, the promise we trust
It’s the greatest gift that he gives us
For when Jesus is with us, our fears can calm down
Our worries and struggles can lessen
And that is the hope that I’m clinging to now
The hope that there is hope from heaven

So that’s where I am, and here’s where you are
All of us trusting together
That whether we see him, he’s here every day
Jesus walks with us forever

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