“Transfiguration”

Sunday Epiphany 8

First Reading: Exodus 34:29-35

29Moses came down from Mount Sinai. As he came down from the mountain with the two tablets of the covenant in his hand, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God. 30When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, the skin of his face was shining, and they were afraid to come near him. 31But Moses called to them; and Aaron and all the leaders of the congregation returned to him, and Moses spoke with them. 32Afterward all the Israelites came near, and he gave them in commandment all that the Lord had spoken with him on Mount Sinai. 33When Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil on his face; 34but whenever Moses went in before the Lord to speak with him, he would take the veil off, until he came out; and when he came out, and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, 35the Israelites would see the face of Moses, that the skin of his face was shining; and Moses would put the veil on his face again, until he went in to speak with him.

Psalm: Psalm 99

1The Lord is king; let the people tremble.
  The Lord is enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth shake.
2The Lord, great in Zion,
  is high above all peoples.
3Let them confess God’s name, which is great and awesome;
  God is the Holy One.
4O mighty king, lover of justice, you have established equity;
  you have executed justice and righteousness in Jacob. 
5Proclaim the greatness of the Lord and fall down before God’s footstool; God is the Holy One.
6Moses and Aaron among your priests, and Samuel among those who call upon your name, O Lord,
  they called upon you, and you answered them,
7you spoke to them out of the pillar of cloud;
  they kept your testimonies and the decree that you gave them.
8O Lord our God, you answered them indeed;
  you were a God who forgave them, yet punished them for their evil deeds.
9Proclaim the greatness of the Lord and worship upon God’s holy hill;
  for the Lord our God is the Holy One.

Second Reading: 2 Corinthians 3:12–4:2.

12Since, then, we have such a hope, we act with great boldness, 13not like Moses, who put a veil over his face to keep the people of Israel from gazing at the end of the glory that was being set aside. 14But their minds were hardened. Indeed, to this very day, when they hear the reading of the old covenant, that same veil is still there, since only in Christ is it set aside. 15Indeed, to this very day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their minds; 16but when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. 17Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, 29And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. 4:1Therefore, since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart. 2We have renounced the shameful things that one hides; we refuse to practice cunning or to falsify God’s word; but by the open statement of the truth we commend ourselves to the conscience of everyone in the sight of God.

Gospel: Luke 9:28-36 [37-43a]

28Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. 29And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. 30Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. 31They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. 32Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. 33Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah”—not knowing what he said. 34While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. 35Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” 36When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.
  37On the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, a great crowd met him. 38Just then a man from the crowd shouted, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son; he is my only child. 39Suddenly a spirit seizes him, and all at once he shrieks. It convulses him until he foams at the mouth; it mauls him and will scarcely leave him. 40I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.” 41Jesus answered, “You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here.” 42While he was coming, the demon dashed him to the ground in convulsions. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the boy, and gave him back to his father. 43aAnd all were astounded at the greatness of God.

CHILDREN’S SERMON:  Have you ever had an experience that changed your life?   It might be as simple as “I do” or perhaps “I don’t” or perhaps an accident.  Share that “Ah ha” moment with your neighbor.”

Let us pray.  Lord, May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight, my Rock and my Redeemer.

SERMON

Today we come to the end of Epiphany 2022.  Epiphany focuses on the events of Jesus’ life that enlighten us about who our God is.  As we look at the life of Christ, his teachings, his actions, the unfolding of who he is, as part of the Trinity, our lives change.  We transfigure as we grow in relationship with Christ.  In our Old Testament reading we see how Moses had to cover his face because of his encounters with God, his face shone.  He was somehow changed, enriched.  Paul too agrees that we are changed by our encounters with God and his word but we need not cover our faces because our lives will show the gradual transformation as our faith grows.

         Today we stand on a mountaintop again.  At the beginning of Epiphany season we saw Jesus at his baptism. We are baptized into the reality of a God that is triune, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and that mystery is working in our lives as we grow in faith. Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount and on the Plain, laying out how the kingdom of God, the reign of God, works differently than the kingdom of Rome. God works in the ordinary places of our lives using ordinary vessels like us to transform ordinary events into joyous celebrations like at the wedding of Cana.  Fishermen go from failures to kneeling believers realizing God’s power in them performed the miraculous.  Demon possessed people were freed, blind saw, deaf heard and the dead were raised.  We are part of that very story and we come to church today to be reminded, yet again, that our God is a God of “ah ha” moments in our lives.

         Today we come to the Mount of Transfiguration.  Wednesday will be Ash Wednesday and the Lent season will start and we will turn our attention to the journey to the cross.  But first we must internalize the “ah ha” moment of transfiguration. I think we are witnessing Jesus pulling back the veil and becoming more real, becoming his better self, even as we, by knowing him gradually grow into our better selves.  What do we see?

29And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white.

Jesus transfigures physically.  A caterpillar becomes a butterfly.  A tadpole becomes a frog.  Water on a mountaintop might become ice. Not so with Jesus.  Jesus did not become a different kind of being.  He did not return to being spirit with the Father and Holy Spirit.  He did not give up his humanity.  He was recognizable.  It is as if he became more himself, himself glorified, himself fully revealed and not tarnished or cloaked by the sinful atmosphere of our world.  Luke says Peter, James and John saw Jesus in his glory. Matthew reports that Jesus’ face shone like the sun.  All reports note the dazzling white clothes.

         Paul challenges us in Romans 12:2, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”  I have heard people talk about becoming an angel at death as if they become another type of being.  Moses and Elijah appear with Jesus, not as angels but as recognizable humans, talking and interacting with Jesus, all in a glorified, more real expressions of themselves.  I would like to think that as I grow in faith the worry lines relax on my face, my brow relaxes as sadness and grief are placed in his hands.  I no longer need to be bitter or vengeful as I trust the eternal judge of the universe to work out justice.  I suspect that those crippled by disease and accidents will no longer carry the scars of evil in our world.  Age may not be an identifying factor.  Jesus walked through the doors of the closed room after the crucifixion when he was scarred beyond recognition but all recognized him.  In the same way, as we grow in Christ we become more and more our better self until we are truly restored after death when we can leave our worn out shells behind.

         So how are we transforming our lives today?  May I suggest that as we gaze on the good and the holy, meeting with Christ in his Word, in his music, in his nature, with his family, we gradually become transformed into his likeness, our better selves, our selves we were created to be.  May it be so Lord!

30Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him.

The Transfiguration of Jesus was not only a physical transformation but also a social transfiguration.  Jesus was no longer limited to the saints alive on earth but suddenly he was in relationship with the saints of all time.  Moses and Elijah appear and talk with Jesus.  Moses and Elijah were also glorified in body, not angels, not spirits floating in space.  Jesus stepped into a more real social reality.

         I have often wondered what they talked about.  I do not think Moses came to remind Jesus of the law that had to be fulfilled.  I do not think Elijah came to remind Jesus that his death was prophesized and so he had to go through with it.  I have preached on this before but let me just summarize today. 

  1. Moses stood with his back to the Red Sea with death seeming immanent.  Elijah stood at Mt. Carmel having a smack down with 400 priests of Baal, outnumbered and facing death.  Both Moses and Elijah could encourage Jesus, true man, that God had solutions no one anticipates when faced with death.
  2. Moses stood with the Red Sea at his back and a mob of delivered Israelites petrified and wishing they had never been rescued from Egypt.  His popularity rating was zero.  Elijah stood facing the prophets of Baal and not one Israelite stood by his side.  We later learn that God had saved 7000 believers.  They all were M.I.A. and silent.  Elijah’s popularity rating was zero.  Even when our friends or followers flee as those of Jesus would, God does not.
  3. At the moment of death, God went with Moses up the mountain and personally closed his eyes.  At the moment of death, God sent chariots of fire to carry Elijah to heaven. At the moment of crisis, God himself is present and would walk with Jesus through death.

I firmly believe that Moses and Elijah were present at the Transfiguration not to guilt Jesus into the journey to the cross but to encourage him and to testify and to give hope. We serve God not from guilt but love.

     Two lessons come from this part of the text.  We will see those we have been separated from by death because we will step into an enlarged social reality that includes all saints.  How God works that out is in his hands.  Secondly, God has answers we do not anticipate as we travel and face challenges that seem impossible.  Even if we are not winning a popularity pole, we may not be wrong.  As we stand with children and grandchildren encouraging them to make godly choices, being unpopular, while painful, is not lethal.  But most importantly God is bigger than our awareness of him and he is always with us whether we see him or not.  That is good news.

“Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah”

Transfiguration gives us clarity about our physical reality.  We are more than we have become.  Transfiguration gives us clarity about our social reality.  We will be with the saints eternal.  Thirdly Transfiguration gives us clarity about spiritual reality.

         In our world of relativity, science, and inclusivity, it is easy to become confused.  Do all religions lead to God and is it only important that we love one another as we would be loved?  Is being nice, the ultimate litmus test of faith?  Wow that is a loaded question these days.  For sure we would not want to be thought judgmental or intolerant.

         Ole Peter opens his mouth and suggests building three worship centers, one for Moses, one for Elijah, and one for Jesus.  At this point God himself speaks. Jesus is the beloved son, not on the same level as Moses and Elijah.  Jesus is True Man and perhaps Moses and Elijah who were created in the image of God, appear similar to Jesus and did indeed do great things, but they were not God.  We must not become confused about whom we worship.  Signs and wonders point to the work of God, not to the divinity of the person who prays.  We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.  There is no other name given among men whereby we must be saved. “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”  End of conversation!  Listen to Jesus, not the TV, not the pod cast, not evangelist.  Listen to Jesus! 

         So whom are we listening to today and where do we find truth and wisdom?  Many are disillusioned.  Government has not stopped the potential of war.  Medicine has not prevented death by disease.  Science has not really found the origin of life.  Meditation does not give eternal peace.  Wealth has produced fat people.  We could go on and on but the eternal answers to life require we listen to Jesus. And even then, we will not understand everything this side of heaven. The truth is we are all God’s creation and God is the creator.  But he is working to transfigure us into our better selves as we grow in him.  Listen to Jesus!

“…when they had come down from the mountain…”

The disciples and we must come down the mountain and like the disciples, we face problems we just cannot solve.  We face reality.  We are broken people in a broken world and we need a savior.  The disciples could not cure the child seized by an evil spirit.  Some problems are not solved by faith but require prayer.  Some problems require divine intervention.  Some problems we must leave in God’s hands.  Ultimately, our transfiguration, our growth in faith, is not for our glory but for God’s.  Jesus healed the little boy and our text ends today with, “43aAnd all were astounded at the greatness of God.”  And that is how it should be.  As we end the Epiphany season and think of the “ah ha” moments that have touched us and transformed us as we have drawn closer to God and drawn from his strength to face our challenges, our prayer is that He will be glorified and that our world will see His greatness through our lives.  May it be so!

Let the people of God say, “AMEN!”

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