MATTHEW 17:1-9

Today is the Last Sunday of Epiphany season.  Lent begins this Wednesday, Ash Wednesday.

So today is a day of transition.  Next Sunday things will be different.  Purple is the color of Lent.  There will be no more flowers on the altar.  There will be no more Alleluias, either.  Lent is a solemn season.  Lent is penitential.  Things are about to change.

When I was a boy we played marbles.  I don’t think kids play marbles anymore.  They play video games, and that’s okay I guess, but when I was a boy marbles was the thing.

There were two kinds of marbles: friendly marbles and serious marbles.  Mostly I played friendly marbles.  Friendly marbles meant this: you played for fun.  You won or you lost.  Either way, when the game was over, when all was said and done, you collected your own marbles and went home.  You took home the marbles you brought.

Serious marbles was different.  In serious marbles you played for keeps.  Serious marbles was risky.  Nothing was guaranteed.  When you played serious marbles, you might very well lose your marbles.  In serious marbles “the winner takes all.”  When you played for keeps, you were “running with the big dogs.”

Today, perhaps for the first time, Jesus plays serious marbles.  Thus far his was a charmed life.  Things came easy.  Jesus was special.  He was a teacher, a budding rabbi.  He was a boy wonder of sorts.  Some disgruntled Pharisees aside, he appealed to most people he encountered.  The crowds followed wherever he went.

But things are different today.  Today is a turning point, a day of transition.  Today is the Transfiguration, and after the Transfiguration Jesus makes a decision.  He makes a commitment.  He decides to play for keeps.  The gospels tell us that after the Transfiguration Jesus “set his face toward Jerusalem,” and from that point on nothing was the same.

No more Boy Wonder.  Now he challenges the powers that be.  Now he stakes his claim. 

Now the drama begins.  Storm clouds gather.  Now he sets his face toward Jerusalem.  As he later said, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you.  How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!”  Jesus is playing for keeps.

         And you know something?  That’s what he invites us to do: to play for keeps; to make commitments; to take risks.

After the Transfiguration Jesus does what he was born to do.  He calls us to do the same.

What were you born to do?  Have you been playing for keeps?  If not, what would it mean if you should?  Are you ready to play serious marbles, to make serious commitments?  What would that look like? 

It’s different for each of us.

It’s essential for each of us.  There’s life, and then there’s life abundant.  Life abundant never happens without commitments. 

Lent begins this Wednesday.  Lent calls us to abundant life.  Lent calls us to transformation.  We’re called to change, to take risks, to make commitments.

Jesus has set his face toward Jerusalem.  He’s on his way.  Will you join him?

The way of the cross is not easy, but it is the path we were born to follow.

Let’s play for keeps.  The Abundant Life is worth the risk.  It may seem daunting.  It seems daunting to me.  I just keep in mind Jesus’ words to his disciples in today’s gospel: “Get up and do not be afraid.” 

We’re walking with Jesus.  Let’s get up and not be afraid.


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