My Second Sermon
Today I got to preach my second sermon ever and the first in over a year. It was on the Mt. of Transfiguration. This text found in Luke always falls on the Sunday between Epiphany (the part of the church year that talks about Jesus’ life as a teacher, healer, leader and the beginning of the Lent season that starts on Wednesday with Ash Wednesday when we start focusing on the death of Christ.) Jesus tells his disciples he is going to die and rise and they don’t understand. He withdraws to the mountain to pray with Peter, James, and John. This is not an uncommon custom of his before a big event and is very similar to the Garden of Gethsemane. On the Mt. of Transfiguration, he is joined by Moses and Elijah to encourage him. At Gethsemane he is joined by angels. In both cases the disciples are sleepy.
Why Moses and Elijah? Could it be that Jesus as True Man and True God is being encouraged this Sunday as True Man? Two men join him who have remarkably similar stories to Jesus in three ways.
Moses is backed up to the Red Sea after leaving Egypt with his motley crew of Israelites when the Pharoah and his armies with chariots attack and the people turn to Moses and do a complete turnabout. Where there not enough graves in Egypt that you brought us out here to die? Jesus at the cross will have the government washing their hands of him and the crowd yelling “crucify him!” He will stand alone. Elijah on the other hand, believing himself to be the last remaining true prophet calls for a showdown between himself and the prophets of Baal and Asherah of Jezebel and Ahab. Whoever’s God burns the sacrificed cow is the real God. The people are quiet as they will go with the winning side. Bring on the show. Elijah stands alone. Perhaps Moses and Elijah could both encourage the Son of Man that God majors in dealing with impossible situations.
Moses had to turn his life’s work over to Joshua. Elijah, thinking he is the last prophet is told by God to anoint Elisha. Both men had to turn over their work and Jesus was about to turn over his work to his motley crew of disciples. Pretty scary.
Thirdly, Jesus was turning towards death. The Son of Man and most people experience some fear. Moses at his death was walked up to the mountain by God, shown the Promised Land and then God himself laid Moses to rest and buried him, no one knows where. Elijah bade farewell to the different school of prophets and then crossed the river when the chariots of fire swept him into a new reality.
Up on the mountain, Jesus transfigures in that his clothes are dazzling white but he also emerges to face the cross. No one could see the difference, but I think the difference was there. If he understands all our feelings then he knows the panic of facing the impossible, the dread of turning over our work to someone else, and the pondering of facing death.
In the face of a transistion, he withdrew for prayer, went with friends and was strengthened by friends, and headed into the change. May you know that God is always with you in your fears and your transitions.