MARK 9:2-9

Good Morning.  Are you watching the Olympics?  I watched the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics Friday night.  I think the South Koreans put on a good show.  They danced.  They sang.  They lit up the sky.  It was spectacular.

Of course, their opening ceremonies don’t hold a candle to the opening ceremonies of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

We drove pick-up trucks out on the field.

All the spectacle aside, what I like most about the opening ceremonies is the Parade of Nations.  All the Olympic athletes enter the stadium, country after country.  One fortunate Olympian from each team gets to carry their country’s flag.  The others smile and laugh and wave.  They take selfies with their teammates.  Their joy is contagious.

This year I noticed something I’d never noticed before.  So many of the countries competing have never won a medal at the Winter Olympics.  Not one.  When you stop and think about it, that’s not surprising.  There’s not a lot of snow and ice in countries near the equator or many other parts of the world.  It makes sense that Norway always wins lots of medals.  Not so many for Nicaragua.

Again and again the TV commentators told us that such and such a country had never won a Winter Olympics medal, and they weren’t expected to win one this year.

“But,” the commentators would add, “look how happy they are.  They’re just glad to be here.  They get to participate in The 2018 Winter Olympics, and that’s enough, medals or no medals.”

Hmmm.  I never thought of it that way.  In fact, most Olympians never stand on the winner’s platform.  They never receive a shiny medal or a beautiful bouquet of flowers.  They won’t beam with pride or shed a tear as their national anthem resounds through the stadium.

But these Olympians will remain forever grateful that they earned a chance to participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeong Chang, Korea.  Like the commentators said, “They’re just glad to be here.”

So, where am I going with this?  Today is the last Sunday of Epiphany season.  On The Last Sunday of Epiphany the gospel is always the Transfiguration.  Jesus leads his disciples Peter, James and John up a high mountain.  They see Jesus transfigured.  His clothes become dazzling white.  The prophet Elijah and the lawgiver Moses suddenly appear, and they converse with Jesus.  The gospel writer doesn’t tell us what they talk about.  We can only guess.

Then Peter gets side-tracked.  He wants to build their dwellings: one for Jesus, one for Moses, one for Elijah.  Sure thing, Peter.  While Peter reaches for his hammer a cloud overshadows the scene, and a voice proclaims, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him.”  And suddenly Elijah and Moses are gone.  The transfiguration is over, or so it seems.

So, what’s this got to do with the Winter Olympics 2,000 years later and half a world away?

Only this: when Jesus went up the mountain, he took three disciples with him: Peter, James and John.  And I wonder: why only three?  He had twelve disciples, right?  And why these three?  Were Peter James and John winners in the Disciples Olympics?  Did they somehow excel beyond the others?  Why were these three chosen to ascend the Winners’ Platform?  And who got the gold, the silver and the bronze?

I don’t know the answers to these questions.  I do know this: elsewhere in the gospels Jesus tells his followers not to concern themselves with such matters.  Basically, we’re told to tend our own gardens.  We’re told to keep our eyes on our own paper.  What God does with others is not our concern.

More importantly, I know this: I may not be up there on the mountain top with Peter, James and John.  I may not be a witness to the transfiguration.  But I am waiting patiently down  here below.  I’m waiting with countless other disciples, like you.

And like all those Olympic athletes who have no realistic hope of winning or being recognized, I‘m just glad to participate.  I’m glad to be a part of the countless number of people who never make it to the mountain top. We wait below.  We don’t need any medals.  We’re happy for Peter, James and John.  We’re just glad to be among those who want to follow Jesus.

When we give it our best, our best is enough.  Of course, that begs the question: are we giving our best?

Amen.If you would like to respond to this sermon or receive future sermons by email, contact me at

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