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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Sermon: Transfiguration of Our Lord

by Interim Pastor Hollie Holt-Woehl
Luke 9:28-36

In our readings for this Transfiguration Sunday there is a lot of “glowing” going on. Moses comes down from seeing the glory of God with his face is glowing. Paul talks about Moses’ veil as gets the way of God’s glowing. Jesus starts glowing and Moses and Elijah appear for a conversation.

In the Old Testament Scriptures God shows up on the mountains, God appears to Moses in the burning bush, after the exodus from Egypt God again appears to Moses on the mountain and gives him the Ten Commandments (twice), it is on a mountain where the prophet Elijah takes on the prophets of Baal and God answers Elijah with lightening and power, it is on a mountain where God passes by Elijah not in the wind, earthquake or fire, but in sheer silence. This story of Moses glowing after an encounter with glory of God, comes after the golden calf incident. Moses was up on the mountain getting the Ten Commandments the first time and is up there for forty days and forty nights so the Israelites lose patience and create a golden calf to worship. Moses comes down from the mountain to see this sight, is furious and throws the tables to the ground. God then punishes the Israelites, after this Moses goes back up the mountain and asks to see God’s glory. He is only able to see God’s backside, because he would not be able to stand God’s glory face to face (Exodus 33:17-23). God then writes again the Ten Commandments on stone for Moses to bring to the people. Moses comes down from the mountain with a glowing face. God shows up in mighty ways on mountains.

It would not be so strange, then, for Jesus to go up on a mountain. However what happens is strange. While Jesus is praying his appearance changes, he is glowing and Moses and Elijah appear with him and they are talking about Jesus crucifixion and death in Jerusalem.

On that mountain top was not the first time Peter, James and John had seen something unusual from Jesus. They had been with him for a while, they had seen a great catch of fish, healings, exorcisms, lepers cleansed. And just a few short verses before today’s Gospel Peter seems to have understood who Jesus is and make his great confession that Jesus is the Messiah of God. No small statement. It seemed like Peter had it figured out but he did not want to hear what Jesus said after the confession. Jesus spoke of his betrayal, crucifixion, and death. Despite Peter’s confession, despite all the signs and wonders they had seen, despite the teaching of Jesus—the disciples did not fully understand who Jesus was. They needed a clearer sign. Some glowing light that would point out the truth of just what kind of savior Jesus is would help.

Well they got it, they got their glowing light and Peter responded, “Hey, Lord it is good that we are here. How about we pitch a tent and stay a while? Let’s make this wonderful moment last.”

We are not unlike Peter, wouldn’t we all want it to last? Hasn’t there been a time in your life when things were so wonderful, and you were sure that God was on your side that God was gracious and loving? How good to be here on the mountain top in God’s glowing presence. We want them to last forever but they don’t.

Good times don’t last. Disappointment and disillusion set in when dreams and hearts get broken. It’s like we have holes in our hearts and the good stuff comes leaking out. The good times don’t last. What was once so clear is now not so clear. We wonder what happened. Where did God go? Where is God in darkness, pain, and death?

It is important for us to know that this story does not stop with Jesus, Peter, James, and John staying on the mountain top. The story goes on to say that Jesus went down the mountain with them.

When he came down from the mountain they encounter a situation which was out of hand. The whole impression is that of people running about not knowing what to do. People are staring at this boy being tossed about by an unclean spirit. The disciples were helplessly baffled; the boy's father was bitterly disappointed and upset. Into this scene of disorder comes Jesus. He sighs and wonders how long it will take for the disciples to grasp who he really is and what he is doing. But nonetheless Jesus addresses the situation with a word and his presence immediately the disorder was calmed.

So often we feel that life is out of control; that we have lost our grip on things. Only Jesus Christ can deal with life with the calm competence that brings everything under control. Jesus comes down from the mount to walk in the valleys and plains with us. Jesus is not transfigured up on the mountain to stay up there. He is transfigured up on the mountain so that he can walk with us and transform us in the valleys and plains of our lives.

There was once a middle age woman who came to the congregation I was serving. We was an active and faithful member but she seemed bitter, that’s too strong of a word, let’s say she had sharp edges. I saw her come and go from worship many times, still with the same sharp edges. Then one day she came to worship and her edges were softened and her face was glowing. I saw her come and go from worship a few more times, her face continued to glow. Finally I could no longer keep it in, I asked her what happened. She said she went to visit her mother one weekend and attended Catholic Mass with her. As she was going forward to receive the Eucharist, she felt this ball of emotion fill her chest and then fall to the floor when she reached out her hand to receive Christ’s body. “I don’t know what it was,” she stated, “but I feel different.” She had been transformed.

Paul talks about Moses’ veil as getting the way of God’s glowing (2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2). There are things that get in the way of us seeing God’s glowing or, as Paul says, the glory of the Lord. Paul asserts that Christians are being transformed through their communion with Christ and it does not just happen on the mountain top. Our transformation is not an event but a process. If our lives, our values, and our attitudes are not being transformed into the image of Christ, that indicates that we are not showing our faces to Jesus Christ through devotion, prayer, worship and service. However, if we turn our faces to Jesus through devotion, prayer, worship, and service we are transformed.

We are transformed by Jesus to go out from here into a world of pain and difficulty where it is not easy for us to follow Jesus. It may be easy here in worship—all we have to do is follow along in the bulletin and stand up and sit down when everyone else does. It is easy here, in fact it is good to be here, but there are no bulletins out there. And that is why it is so important to know that Christ goes with us and goes before us as surely as he has gone before us to the cross.

The season of Lent begins on Wednesday, it is a time when we focus on the discipline of being a Christian and being on a journey to the cross of Christ. As you journey through the valleys and plains of Lent with Christ you will be transformed by the One to goes all the way to death and beyond for you.

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