I titled my first sermon as a seminary student, “Transforming Moments.” The sermon was based on II Peter 1:16-18, “For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when that voice was conveyed to him by the Majestic Glory, saying, ‘This is my Son, my Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.’ We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven, while we were with him on the holy mountain.”
This eye witness account of a mystical moment has encouraged people through the centuries. For Peter, James and John the moment transformed their thinking about Jesus. They would never look at him in quite the same way again. It was a moment which would stay with them forever. On that Sunday morning, I talked about moments in our lives that reshape the rest of life. I hoped that I could in some way touch the congregation with both the mystical moment and the mystery of Jesus.
What I remember though, is the woman who told me she completely lost track of the rest of the sermon after the first few lines. As I described transforming moments in our lives, her mind stretched back forty years. On that date, forty years earlier, a telegram arrived. It notified her that her husband had died in action. In a moment everything in her life shifted into a painful world of loss and pain. Some forty years later, her thoughts were filled with a young husband she loved, who died in war.
Wars continue to take their toll on human life. In the United States our all volunteer military has caused a small number of people to carry a heavy load through years of never-ending war. Human suffering in the form of PTSD, maimed bodies and bereaved family members are a continuing consequence of war. But soldiers are not the only casualties of war. The mass migration of people fleeing violence inflicts great pain. In Syria alone, war has been catastrophic, with lost children, siblings and parents. For survivors, suffering continues in overcrowded camps with no place to go.
I yearn for that moment when spears will be beaten into pruning hooks and swords into plowshares. I yearn for a day when nation will not make war against nation. A time when there will be peace, not only on God’s Holy Mountain, but upon all of God’s good earth . . . A day when each person lives in a place of safety and security. I yearn for the vision given to the prophet Micah to be born into reality.
“God shall judge between many peoples,
and shall arbitrate between strong nations far away;
they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more;
but they shall all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees,
and no one shall make them afraid.” Micah 4:3-4
While my sermon may not have communicated the message I intended that long ago day, God’s word still spoke. For the Jesus, who got a grieving widow through her most painful moment, was present to love her through it once again.