The Transfiguration Yr A Aug 6 2017 Audio
When I read the story from Exodus, it’s hard to keep the image of Charlton Heston in The Ten Commandments out of my head. When I read the story from Luke of Jesus turning dazzling white with Elijah and Moses appearing at his sides speaking with him, it’s hard to keep the image from Star Wars out of my mind, when at the end Obi Wan Kenobi, the transformed Darth Vader/Anakin Skywalker, and Yoda all appear in some sort of dazzling array of wisdom. There is some dazzling display in this story called the transfiguration, but if that’s all there is, we miss the point. There is glory indeed, but there’s a whole lot more going on as well.
Peter, and James and John go up the mountain with Jesus, and witness a dazzling display that causes Peter to want to capture it in time, and erect some tents and keep it tamely on that mountaintop. Not a bad idea, but also not in the nature of who Jesus is. This story of transfiguration reveals the glory of the Lord, to Peter James and John, and to us. But if we leave this revelation on the mountaintop, if we try to tame it, we loose, or maybe never even gain, the ability to engage in life expecting to see God’s glory in dazzling ways and in ordinary ways. I think this is really a story about what we see, or don’t see, and what we expect to see, and how that changes us.
We can walk through life never seeing God’s glory revealed, or, we can walk through life expecting to see God’s glory revealed.
What happened on this mount of transfiguration is that God shows Godself in no uncertain terms in and through Jesus. If Peter, James and John, or you or me, had any doubts about who Jesus is, doubt no longer. Not only is Jesus’ visage changed, Jesus is also clearly accompanied by Moses and Elijah, the two pre-eminent Jewish prophets. This all calls to mind the other story we read today. Moses comes off the mountaintop and the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God. The story of the transfiguration intentionally calls that story to mind, to show us that Jesus is in the line of these prophets, and to tell us that this is God’s son, we are to listen.
This story of transfiguration is bookended by Incarnation in the beginning of the gospel, and by the last supper, later in the gospel. These stories show us what God’s inbreaking kingdom looks like. Luke makes sure we know the glorious event of Jesus’ birth. The angels, and the shepherds announce Jesus’ arrival. The star in the sky even points the way for the wise people. Jesus, God’s son, is now present, pay attention. The transfiguration may be extraordinary, but shepherds, and barn animals, and a messy manger, are really just ordinary things.
And then, the disciples and all who were gathered on that last night before Jesus’ death, witnessed Jesus present in the bread and in the wine, the body and the blood. Truly, the kingdom of God is near. The transfiguration may be extraordinary, but bread and wine, broken and spilled, are really just ordinary things.
I think this is really a story about what we see, or don’t see, and what we expect to see, and how that changes us.
Remember, Peter. Peter wanted to put up the tents and keep Jesus, Elijah, and Moses on that mountaintop, and stay with them. Peter wanted to capture and tame this extraordinary event for all time, and I’m pretty sure Peter would like to have replicated it over and over again if he could. We’re really just like Peter. When we have a mountaintop experience, religious or otherwise, we want to stay with it, stay in it, repeat it. But the reality of life is that we can’t, and not being able to is disappointing. We grow nostalgic for that experience, and soon, everything we do is evaluated in comparison to that mountaintop experience, and everything else pales. And we begin to miss God’s presence in the ordinary, we begin to miss the sacred moments.
Some of you have been to Cursillo, for me it was TEC, Teens Encounter Christ. Remember what that felt like. You were flying so high nothing could bring you down. Until you went back to work or school on Monday morning. That let down was so astounding, that we even spent time at the last part of the retreat weekend talking about it, preparing for it, what it would be like to be with our friends who hadn’t had this experience. And we try to capture it even now. We say things like, remember Cursillo, that was the best of times. Even wonderful worship is that way. I love the services of Holy Week, they are deep and meaningful, and culminate in the Great Vigil. That week exhausts me, and when you come and participate in each of those services you are exhausted too. It’s a good kind of exhaustion, but we can’t do that all the time. We have to come down, and encounter Jesus in the everyday, the ordinary.
You see, if we stay there, and we yearn to be there, we miss God now. God reveals Godself in this transfiguration, and Jesus finds us in the ordinary. The ordinary stable, the ordinary bread, the ordinary wine. Pay attention, or you’ll miss it. Expect God in the ordinary, expect Jesus in the people you meet, expect Holy Spirit in the wind and the rain. Expect the still small voice. Each day we are transfigured. Change is a constant presence in our everyday life.
And all of those experiences, the extraordinary and the ordinary, inspire us to respond to the needs of God’s beloved people with renewed energy, confidence, and determination. God’s glory, Jesus’ presence really begins to matter when we pay attention to the times and people where we can really make a difference. Instead of erecting tents on the mountaintop, we can carry that glory of Jesus into the neighborhood, and make a difference in ordinary lives, with ordinary things, food, water, shelter.
We have been changed, we are God’s beloved. Jesus’ cross and resurrection reveals just how much God loves us and that this Love wins. We are called, commissioned, and equipped to make a difference in the lives of those around us. Maybe even our church is transfigured by the love of God.
See the glory in the ordinary all around you. Expect to be changed, to be transformed. Be filled with Jesus’ very presence in this place, carry that glory into the world, doing the work that God has given you to do.