The Value Of A Memory
The Rev. Jon Roberts
Calvary Episcopal Church
Indian Rocks Beach, FL
28 Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And as he was praying, the appearance of his countenance was altered, and his raiment became dazzling white. And behold, two men talked with him, Moses and Eli′jah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep, and when they wakened they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. And as the men were parting from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is well that we are here; let us make three booths, one for you and one for Moses and one for Eli′jah”—not knowing what he said. As he said this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silence and told no one in those days anything of what they had seen.
Transfiguration of Christ, Tiziano Vecelli “Titian”, 1560
Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment
Until it becomes a memory.
It was lovely summer weather in the country, and the golden corn, the green oats, and the haystacks piled up in the meadows looked beautiful. The stork walking about on his long red legs chattered in the Egyptian language, which he had learnt from his mother. The corn-fields and meadows were surrounded by large forests, in the midst of which were deep pools. It was, indeed, delightful to walk about in the country. In a sunny spot stood a pleasant old farm-house close by a deep river, and from the house down to the water side grew great burdock leaves, so high, that under the tallest of them a little child could stand upright. The spot was as wild as the centre of a thick wood. In this snug retreat sat a duck on her nest, watching for her young brood to hatch; she was beginning to get tired of her task, for the little ones were a long time coming out of their shells, and she seldom had any visitors. The other ducks liked much better to swim about in the river than to climb the slippery banks, and sit under a burdock leaf, to have a gossip with her. At length one shell cracked, and then another, and from each egg came a living creature that lifted its head and cried, “Peep, peep.” “Quack, quack,” said the mother, and then they all quacked as well as they could, and looked about them on every side at the large green leaves. Their mother allowed them to look as much as they liked, because green is good for the eyes. “How large the world is,” said the young ducks, when they found how much more room they now had than while they were inside the egg-shell. “Do you imagine this is the whole world?” asked the mother; “Wait till you have seen the garden; it stretches far beyond that to the parson’s field, but I have never ventured to such a distance. Are you all out?” she continued, rising; “No, I declare, the largest egg lies there still. I wonder how long this is to last, I am quite tired of it;” and she seated herself again on the nest. “Well, how are you getting on?” asked an old duck, who paid her a visit. “One egg is not hatched yet,” said the duck, “it will not break. But just look at all the others, are they not the prettiest little ducklings you ever saw? They are the image of their father, who is so unkind, he never comes to see.” The story continues to unfold, and many of you probably know the rest. That one egg hatches and becomes known as, “The ugly duckling.” The Danish author, Hans Christian Anderson, wrote the story as a reminder that sometimes appearances are not all that they seem. The language is rich and vivid. Although intended for children, it’s message is conveyed well to a mature audience as there is cruelty expressed to this poor and innocent creature.
I wold love to read the rest of the story, but in summary, the duckling was not a duck at all. It struggled with becoming what it was; a beautiful swan. One could say the mama duck was the unsuspecting surrogate to a hatchling from a different mother. The story is memorialized and some have embellished its interpretation to fit into their own story of being unaccepted, misunderstood or cast out.
So true it is that many of our own struggles, the events that occur that gave us such enormous challenge are not appreciated in the moment, but rather in the memory. Looking back is always the pretty swan that graces the lake. Today, we have a similar story of a person who was widely considered different, odd and unusual. The language is vivid.
“Jesus took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray. And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.”
The story is about the transfiguration of Jesus into the Christ; The savior, the messiah to whom all the Law (Moses) and the Prophets (Elijah), pointed. All of those older stories passed down are now being revealed.
The barnyard animals who chastised and threatened him should be very ashamed and alarmed that they did not see him for who he was. People were not so kind. But Peter, James and John were, because they knew Jesus, or did they? We wish they had a cup of coffee or an ancient version of Red Bull to keep them more awake, because they were weighed down with sleep. Later, in the Garden of Gethsemene they fall asleep again. Maybe in the moments of fatigue and when we are tired, we don’t see too clearly.Perhaps in the moment we don’t appreciate the value of being in the presence of Jesus, who walks with us and talks with us, and says that we are his own; and there are no ugly ducklings to those who believe in him; Only Swans.
Stories are so important because they provide value to those moments of when we identify with who we are and what we are to become. That’s what Dr. Seuss believed when he wrote, “Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.” We now have a rich and powerful memory of the event of Jesus’ transfiguration, before his disciples and between both the representatives of the Law and the Prophets, all who point to God.
Everything is in relation to our own transfiguration of God’s glory revealed in our lives. God rejoices in how we live and change. We get discouraged by the moment, as our “peeps” and “quacks” become most pronounced. We flock together as birds of a feather. The eyes open and the garden before us seems endless. But seeing through reflection is an invaluable memory and something worthy to pass along. The story of Jesus and his transfiguration has all the right things to make it great: it has emotion, embellishment and authenticity.
Did the post-Easter Christians feel the presence of the living Christ with this encounter by wanting to immediately build altars and churches; most certainly. Did they embellish to the extent of making everything fit so wonderfully with the Old Testament story such as his clothes turning a dazzling white like those before; very likely. Did they authenticate the news of Jesus’ claim of messiahship; by location on a mountain, by turning towards Jerusalem and healing many who were sick right afterwards; the answer is “yes.”
We, like Dr. Seuss, like Hans Christian Anderson, like Peter, James and John can apply our own story about encountering God, through His Son, Jesus, and by His Holy Spirit. We should be able to share with others the memory of those precious, sacramental occasions when Jesus helped us change into self-less, gracious and beautiful creatures. We should be able to do so, given the license to use emotion, perhaps a little embellishment and certainly with authenticity in order to live out our purpose.
In the moment of this day, will you behold the value of the life God has given to you? Will you stop considering yourself an ugly duckling? Will you stop criticizing others who you have judged? Don’t fall asleep; hatch out of your shell, and follow Christ because sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.
 Theodor Seuss Geisel, “Dr. Seuss”, 1904-1991.
 Hans Christian Anderson, “The Ugly Duckling”, 1844.
 Luke 9:28-43
 Lisa Earle McLeod, Huffington Post: Life blog, “Why exaggerating your stories is good for everyone, mostly.” August 18, 2014.