Ryan Williams February 27th, 2022
St. Albans Episcopal Church
27 February 2022
Exodus 34:29-35, Psalm 99, 2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2, Luke 9:28-43a
With everything going on in the world, especially right now in Ukraine I am finding it hard to know what to say.
At the same time, I am finding comfort in the strangeness of this encounter with the Transfigured Lord in Luke’s Gospel this week.
So in lieu of knowing what to say in this season, I think I’m going to talk about trampolines. Sound good?
When I was a child, we had a trampoline in our back yard. My sister and myself and our neighbor friends spent almost every waking hour in the summers playing on, or around, or under that trampoline.
The more we played with it the more creative we got with how we played. We also had a tree house near the trampoline, and my best friend at the time Tyler Newton and I would jump out of the tree house onto the trampoline over and over and over again –
Always trying to see how high we could bounce one another as we jumped from higher and higher heights.
It’s a wonder neither of us broke a bone or worse.
During the hottest days of summer, we would also unwind a water hose and hang it from the roof of the tree house and turn on the spigot –
So that the water streaming from the hose would create a waterfall cascading down from the tree house onto the trampoline
giving us some respite from the summer heat as we played outside.
We pretended that we were jungle explorers in the wilds of the Amazon who had stumbled upon a hidden oasis. Jumping and splashing through the waterfall.
Other times we would play WWF WrestleMania on that trampoline. I liked to be Sting while Tyler liked to be Hulk Hogan.
Our imaginations were limitless in our play on the trampoline as we devised new scenarios or adventures with each play session
And once all the jumping wore us out we would rest under the shade of the trampoline
As I got older and entered high school the trampoline became a dormant icon of my childhood.
It remained outside near the tree house, but it saw less and less use. The summer before my freshman year of high school Tyler and his family moved away, so I no longer had my best friend and fellow trampoline jumper next door,
And with the new schedule and priorities of High School the trampoline kinda’ got forgotten.
That is until the winter of my junior year. That winter we got a fair amount of ice and sleet, maybe double what we recently got this past week here in Bolivar.
And about a two-inch-thick layer of ice formed on top of the trampoline.
One night, my girlfriend at the time had come over for dinner and a movie with my family.
In an act of spontaneity, we decided to run out into the snow and ice and jump on the little used trampoline.
As we bounced the snow and ice that had collected into a single disk on top of the trampoline shattered into a million different shards of crystal that floated up into the twilight with each successive bounce,
freezing momentarily in the air reflected the moonlight like a million little diamonds before cascading back down to the mat of the trampoline in a torrent of sound.
It was quite the mix of sight and sound mixed with the childlike elation that comes with jumping on a trampoline.
Because everybody knows it’s impossible not to smile when jumping on a trampoline…
Needless to say, this magical moment was not meant to last. At about bounce number twenty
This old ill-used and ill-maintained trampoline gave out under the weight of two teenage kids and two inches of snow and ice.
On one perfectly timed jump between my girlfriend and I the canvas of the trampoline split
And the two of us tumbled right through to the cold hard ground
Along with all that snow and ice.
Thankfully, neither of us got hurt, and we were able to laugh it off and continue with our evening.
So why all this talk of my childhood trampoline? And what’s it have to do with Transfiguration?
Well, everything, of course
Because some time ago, someone much smarter than me compared the life of faith, and our life in Christ to jumping on a trampoline.
And specifically, for today, it is in the Transfiguration where God reminds us to approach His Son and the life faith much like a trampoline.
Because it is in the Transfiguration that we meet a God who is wider and wilder and more compelling that any god we might think up in our minds.
Each time we re-visit the story of the Transfiguration, we meet a God who breaks open any rigid theologies or ideas we might have about God and this world,
and we meet a God who invites us into something better.
There are some who would say that the Christian faith is a stagnant faith. That it is out of date; that it is old-fashioned; that it has nothing good to add to the present world we live in; that it has nothing to offer when it comes to the hardest question and challenges of the day.
The Transfiguration, however, shows us that God is always up to something new and wild in God’s plan to reconcile and redeem all of creation.
The Transfiguration reminds us that God is still speaking, that God has always been speaking, and that the Christian faith still has something to offer to this world.
There are others inside Christianity who think of faith like a crystalline structure. Not unlike that sheet of snow and ice that had collected on top of my trampoline.
For them faith is a rigidly built structure – possibly beautiful in some ways in its rigidity where everything goes in in its proper place.
And this rigidity comes with all sorts of answers and roles that we are to play.
Whether it’s about gender identities and roles, or views about God and salvation or government and financial systems or personal morality –
These people have an answer for everything in their extravagantly built if overly rigid structure. And it all appears to work…
…on the surface…
Until someone comes along and challenges one piece of the structure, or pulls out a piece to examine it more closely
Or for the metaphor we are working with today – It all works until two teenage kids come out and begin to jump on the trampoline.
And then that beautiful crystalline structure gets shattered into a million dazzling dancing pieces.
And it all comes tumbling down
And so, the people with these crystalline shaped faiths – there’s no jumping allowed for their faith. No fun to be had here. There’s no sense of play or examination or curiosity allowed because that’s dangerous.
The great irony is that in the Transfiguration it is Jesus that does the shattering. It is Jesus that gets on the trampoline and shatters his disciples’ preconceived notions of who He is, who God is and what God is up to in the world. And it’s not until after the resurrection that these same disciples begin putting the pieces back together.
I mean ask any priest or theologian today what is going on in the Transfiguration and see what their answer is. You’ll probably get a about as many answers as “professionals” you ask
Because in reality we don’t know. We are at a loss today, much like the disciples were standing with Jesus on that mountain all those years ago.
And that’s kind of the point. The point of Transfiguration is to remind us that we can’t nail down God
That God is bigger and stranger than we could ever conceive of, so we shouldn’t try to nail down every detail.
But the Transfiguration also shows us that Christ is someone to be trusted and followed. That we ought to listen to him and walk in his footsteps. And it is there that we find true life.
That’s why we in the Episcopal Church don’t really do systematic theology. You’re never really going to find an Episcopal theology. And that’s because in our tradition we recognize that there are a lot of facets to God and Jesus, more than can be systematized or catalogued.
There’s great diversity in how we come to approach and understand God, and we need to always be open to this reality.
That’s why for us, the unifying dynamic isn’t our theology, but our worship. Because in our worship we approach this strange but trustworthy God daily, weekly, and seasonally training our hearts and imaginations to trust this God, to follow Jesus with open hearts and playful minds ready to be surprised at every corner.
One of my favorite professors in seminary would often say that Jesus shatters our conception of God over and over again –
That Jesus is present in the shattering.
But also, importantly, Jesus is also present in the gathering – because he is there with us as we gather up these shattered pieces and helps us make something new.
But this shattering and gathering isn’t a one-time affair. It happens over and over again in the life of faith as we follow Jesus every deeper and upward in this life of faith
Into the infinite joy that is life in Christ.
So, this is why our faith needs to be more like the trampoline than the crystalline structure.
It must always be ready to stretch and bend as we discover the new delights that are to be had with Christ.
As we get introduced to new ideas about God and this world, we must be able to stop and take out a piece, to examine it and look it over without the whole structure collapsing.
And most importantly, we must approach this life of faith much like a child with sense of play.
Like I said, it’s impossible not to smile when jumping on a trampoline.
Because in approaching faith like a trampoline reminds us that it’s not up to us to nail everything down – to figure everything out. And more importantly, it’s not up to us to save the world. God is already on it.
Our job is simply to get on the trampoline and take part in this reconciling work, and maybe find some joy in it as we go…
This is the call of Jesus, and this is the life we are invited into in the Transfiguration.
It’s a life of boldness and assurance like Paul makes in 2 Corinthians today. But it’s not the assurance of having things all figured out.
It’s the assurance that God is up to something good in this world and the best place to be is in step with him, playfully following along the way, ready and open to accepting the new delights waiting to surprise us.
This has always been true about God throughout the scriptural witness and throughout history.
This is perfectly within God’s character.
When the Israelites were delivered from Egypt God was up to something new.
When Moses went up that mountain and came down with a face that shone with the glory of the LORD, God was up to something new.
When God delivered the commands to Moses and made the people of Israel into a nation God was up to something new.
When God revealed Himself in Jesus God was up to something new showing the world God’s character and love for Creation.
And while we believe that the Incarnation of Jesus is the pinnacle – the climax of God’s story, this does not mean that the journey is over.
Far from it.
God is still up to things here and now today, and we can see it and experience it if we continue to approach this life of faith with an openness and a playfulness. And a willingness to be surprised.
Maybe you find yourself and your faith today is much like that snow covered trampoline.
Maybe you originally came to Christ with a childlike sense of wonder and play and flexibility,
But over the years the rules and the expectations and the structures and particularities built up on top of your sense of wonder and play like two inches of snow and ice,
And you are afraid that if you got back out there to jump again the weight of all that crust that’s built up over the year send the whole thing collapsing.
Well, this is where the metaphor itself strains to the point of breaking
Because Christ is inviting us to come jump and play. Christ continues to beckon us into the infinite delights of his goodness and grace.
Christ invites us to jump. To shatter those things that are toxic or untrue, or just simply no longer work.
And Christ promises to be there in the shattering and the gathering. To ensure that trampoline doesn’t collapse under the weight of the shattering the old ways of believing and being.
And Christ assures us that he will always be there to show us a better way forward into the infinite Triune dance of God.
So, what do you say? Let’s get out there and jump.