Matthew 17 Feedback for DPE
Sermon: "The Transformation of Life"
Thought One: Page 3, paragraph beginning, "This is where my life intersects. . ."
I'm not sure you need to be so cautious about identifying yourself with Christ and, in this case, his transfiguration. This cautious kind of stance may actually amount to a false modesty that subverts the intended transformative power of the gospel. The baptismal rite gives us a clear picture along these lines, boldly and explicitly identifying the convert with Christ's death and resurrection: "Buried with Christ in baptism, raised to walk in the newness of life." Similarly, I think the transfiguration story IS or should be about us as well. It is a powerful symbol of and guide for our continuing spiritual development. If we can be buried and raised with Christ, then surely we can talk about being transfigured with him as well. (This is not the same thing as claiming to BE the Christ ourselves, which I think is the claim you are trying to avoid.)
You might think as well of the implications of an alternate view of the transfiguration. I read* that some early Church fathers believed that the disciples were the ones who changed most in this story. They were somehow able to glimpse that which had always been present. It was a mystical experience for them, to see Christ as he really is. The experience changed them forever.
It might be interesting to think about identifying ourselves with these disciples also. What was it they saw? How can we see that also? What would it mean to us if we could have our perceptions refined in that way?
This view also reminds me of the wonderful C.S. Lewis novel <Til We Have Faces>. The title is explained late in the book something like this: We don't see God, and the reason is not because God is absent or invisible; it is because we ourselves have not developed the capacity to see. That is, we will not see God until we have faces.
*On the web, http://www.imagejournal.org/edit27.html, an editorial by Gregory Wolfe in Image, issue 27, Summer 2000.
I think confessional sermons like this are good for the congregation now and then. They remind us of your limitations and may challenge us be more dedicated ourselves, not taking your work for granted (or "for granite" as a student's apt mishearing of that phrase goes).
Also from CM to DPE:
Wonderful sermon. Here are a few thoughts.
You are doing an amazing amount of work on this every week. Is this
wearing you out? I imagine all of this discipline will have a lot of
benefits for your preaching. Can't see how it would be otherwise.
Thanks for all your work. See you Sunday.