Changes and Chances

Three years ago this week I was at an Episcopal church conference in Louisville. I was there for four days, and I think I made four visits to the Louisville Slugger Museum. There was a batting cage there – I’m a former baseball player – so I went in and took some swings every day.

Then I woke up the next morning a bit more sore than I imagined, and I finally realized that I’m not as young as I used to be.

I thought that was going to be the big event that year…but that was also February 2020.

And we all know what happened in the next couple of weeks.

That conference ended up being one of the early super spreaders.

The first person in Tarrant County? Episcopal priest who was there.

First person in Washington DC? Episcopal priest who was there.

Fortunately I escaped healthy…maybe because I spent most of my time in the batting cage and nursing a sore back.

You and I know what that’s like.

We’ve all woken up that next morning and everything has changed.

We wake up wondering what just happened and what do I do now?

Sometimes it’s change we want, and sometimes it’s change we don’t want.

Sometimes the change is  good. Sometimes the change is not so good.

I suspect every one of you could tell stories about the changes you have experienced…

the changes that are happening in your life right now,

or the changes that you hope or fear will happen.

How do we live in the midst of change in ourselves, or in our community, or in the world?

I wonder if the disciples in today’s gospel might be asking the same kinds of questions.

Immediately before Jesus takes Peter, John, and James up the mountain he tells them he must suffer, die, and be resurrected on the third day. He will tell them this again after they come down from the mountain.

So what happened on that mountain took place between Jesus’s two statements of impending change.

And in our Hebrew Bible reading, immediately before Moses goes back up the mountain he presents the 10 commandments to the Israelites, and a little while after today’s reading he comes back down and finds them worshiping a golden calf.

So what happened on that mountain took place between moments of impending change.

I think that might be why we hear these transfiguration stories every year  on the Last Sunday after the Epiphany, the Sunday right before we enter the season of Lent, a season that focuses on change.

Change, whether on the mountain top of life or in the valley of the shadow of death, is a reality for all of us.

And maybe the transfiguration story can show us how to live in the midst of change.

In the midst of change, I become acutely aware of how many voices begin to speak.

Voices from outside, and even that little voice inside me.

There are voices chattering about what is happening and what should be done…

Voices of judgment,

Voices of second guessing,

Voices of self-doubt,

Voices of denial,

Voices of fear.

So many voices cry out for attention.

But the story of the transfiguration says there is only one voice to listen to.

The voice of God called out to Moses.

The voice of God called out to the disciples.

And the voice of God calls out to us.

What if in the midst of change we sought to hear and listen to that one voice, the voice of God?

What if we kept our ears open to what God is saying in our life, in the community, and in the world today?

This Lent I want us to focus on listening to God’s voice.

We’re going to start by hearing stories of communities that were changed…actually communities that no longer exist.

Over the next couple of weeks we’re going to hear stories of Ghost Towns.

Remnants of these once-bustling towns are scattered across Texas.

With 511 ghost towns, Texas has the most out of any state, according to Geotab, a GPS hardware company. The company compiled a list of over 3,800 ghost towns.

The majority of ghost towns date from the 1880-1940, an era of industrialization and westward expansion; an era of great change.

But each town has a unique story that contributed to its demise, and we’re going to hear some of those stories.

We’re also going to listen for what God is saying to us, particularly through the Hebrew Scriptures…the Old Testament.

We’re going to let God speak to us in the midst of the changes of this life.

I don’t know what changes you are dealing with.

Maybe it’s a change in your  health or well-being.

Maybe it’s a change in your family.

Maybe it’s a change in your work.

Maybe it’s a dream that didn’t work out, or even a dream that is working out better than you imagined.

In the midst of all of these changes, we’re going to listen for God’s voice.