The Sunday before the start of Lent is Transfiguration Sunday—the day we hear from Matthew, Mark, or Luke this strange tale of Jesus being transfigured—or changed-in the presence of his inner circle while speaking with Moses and Elijah. I have come to see this story as being primarily a signpost marking the way of discipleship. Jesus has shared with the disciples some troubling news about his future and they no doubt questioned whether they were on the right path. What all three versions have in common is the voice from the cloud—the voice that tells the disciples that Jesus is the beloved son and they are to listen to him. Whether or not this comforted the disciples we are not told but they did follow Jesus back down the mountain and on to Jerusalem.
These signposts are very important. We all need reminders and refreshers that this Christian journey is worth taking. There is so much to challenge our faith—the state of the world or the state of our own lives. What these signposts are with vary from person to person. It might be an unexpected phone call from an old friend. It might be a random act of kindness. It might be sermon from a known or unknown source.
For me, these signposts have taken many forms but one of the most common are the writings of men and women who have gifts in spirituality and theology. Today I want to share with you part of a sermon that has always been an important reminder to me. The preacher is Paul Tillich, whose primary vocation was not preaching but rather being one of the preeminent theologians of the twentieth century. Tillich’s theological thought and writings are complex and challenging, but his sermons—many of which were published in three small volumes—were accessible and encouraging.
The sermon I am referring to today is called “You are Accepted” and it takes for its text Romans 5:20- “But where sin abounded, grace did much more to abound.” Yesterday we talked about grace and you will hear the echos of Tillich’s observation in my words. The part of the sermon I want to share—which had a large impact on me— is when Tillich insists that grace begins with the awareness that we are accepted.
(watch the video below for the full passage)
It is no doubt harder than Tillich makes it seem, but there is great truth here. We are accepted. Nothing is required of us but this acceptance of acceptance. This is always a great reminder to me—one of my transfiguration moments.