Transfiguration Sermon, March 3, 2019

The holy gospel according to Luke, the 9th chapter.  Glory to you, O Lord.

Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. 29 And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. 30 Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. 31 They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. 32 Now 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. 33 Just 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. 34 While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. 35 Then from the cloud came a voice that said, "This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!" 36 When 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. [37 On the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, a great crowd met him. 38 Just then a man from the crowd shouted, "Teacher, I beg you to look at my son; he is my only child. 39 Suddenly 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. 40 I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not." 41 Jesus answered, "You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here." 42 While 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. 43 And all were astounded at the greatness of God.]

The gospel of the Lord.  Praise to you, O Christ. 


Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.


Spoiler Alert!  You know what that means.  It means someone is about to reveal an important part of a story - a part that you haven’t seen yet, either in a movie, or on television, or read in a book.  


We get excited or get worried about what might happen to our favorite characters.  Does the couple get married and live happily ever after?  Is she pregnant? Does someone die?  Who killed him?  


Some people don’t want to know.  They don’t want to hear anything before they read the book or see the show themselves.  Others enjoy the story more if they read the end first and find out who done it.  


Today’s gospel lesson contains a spoiler. I have read to the end of the book and I can tell you that what you have heard is true. 


Here it is: Jesus is God’s son.  He dies a horrible death, but then he rises from the dead.  


Jesus wants the disciples to know the end of the story, so that they will not be afraid about what is happening. He doesn't make them wait until next season or leave them with a cliff-hanger.  


Jesus takes his closest disciples, Peter, James, and John, up to a high mountain by themselves.  Mountain peaks are important.  Moses received the Law from God at the top of a mountain.  On the seventh day, the LORD called to Moses. On that day, the appearance of the glory of the LORD was bright like a devouring fire.  


Jesus took his disciples up to the mountain peak on the eighth day.  Seven is the number of completeness, the number that means we are coming to the conclusion of a major part of the story.  That's why this story is a spoiler. 


But, eight is the number of infinity. It’s the number for God’s time. For us, stories have conclusions.  They have a beginning, a middle, and an end.  When we talk about time, we talk about the past, the present, and the future.  It makes sense to order our lives that way.  We can understand when things happened.  We know we can’t change the past. We live in the present. We can’t know the future. 


We have time lines. Time is linear for us.  It travels in a line. 


We count our years by the number of times the earth goes around the sun.  Our days are measured by the earth’s rotation on its axis. 


Sometimes when we travel by air and we go through different time zones faster than the earth rotates or even in the opposite direction.  When we experience time changes like that they seem strange to us because we are so bound by time as hours and days and years.


I know you already know this, but I am reminding you of the way we think about time, because time is different for God than it is for us.  The story of the Transfiguration helps us see that.  We have past, present, and future.  For God, there is the present.  When Moses asked the name of God, God said, “I am.” Present tense! 


For God, the creator of the earth and sun and stars, time is not marked by the rotation of our planet. Time does not move in a line.  God’s time is always present tense! 


Jesus took his closest friends up to the mountain top and they entered God’s time.  Their vision was not marked by the linear human understanding of time.  They saw Moses and Elijah, the two most important people from the Old Testament, and they saw them alive, and they knew who they were.


Think about that for a minute in human time.  Moses lived approximately 1250 years before Christ.  Elijah lived about 900 years before Christ.  They didn’t have photographs back then, yet the disciples recognized them. They knew them because up on that mountain top, they were in God’s time.


In God’s time, the past and the future are always present.  God can reach backwards and forwards in our time.  God's time is resurrection time. 


One thing that means, is that for God, nothing is ever wasted.  We waste a lot.  We waste time. We waste energy. We waste money.  We made decisions in the past that we wish we could change.  We look back on some of our choices with deep regret.  


With God, nothing is wasted.  God is the redeemer of the past as well as the redeemer of the present and the redeemer of the future.  God doesn't go back to the past and erase our mistakes or our bad choices. God does something new with them.  God resurrects them.  God transforms the evil into good.  


God is able to use our past in ways that bring comfort or health or peace to someone.  From our perspective in human time, it is often very hard to see how God could possibly transform some of the things we have done. That is why God gives us a different perspective today. 


Jesus takes us up to the mountain top where we can see a bigger picture.  He shows us that in human time we are only in the middle of the story.  In God’s time, all has already been accomplished.  Jesus is the Son of God.  He has overcome sin and evil.  He has overcome death and the grave. 


Seeing things from the mountain top perspective can be confusing and terrifying.  The brightness is overwhelming. God is sensitive to our needs and understands that we mere mortals are unable to see well in such glaring light.  So God provides a cloud to give us shade.  


We can only see and hear in God’s time through the shadows of that cloud now.  But we have seen enough to know that we have all had times where we were with Jesus on that mountain.  


God's time intersected with human time when we were baptized. God's time intersects with human time when we declare the presence of Christ in the meal we share. 


Through the cloudy shadow, we have all caught a glimpse God’s time.  Like Peter, James, and John we, too, are sometimes overwhelmed. 


But Jesus went to them and touched them.  He told them to get up and not to be afraid.  He explained to them that he was part of our human time.  He also experienced life as past, present, and future. He told them that he would experience death as all humans do.  


He told them that he would be raised from the dead.  They didn't  understand that yet, of course.  Resurrection and transfiguration are understood only in God’s time.  


Jesus tells us to get up and not to be afraid. Now we measure time as past, present, and future.  Like Jesus, some day we will no longer count our days by the rotation of the earth’s axis. We will experience death, as all humans do.  


When that day comes, we, too, will be resurrected.  We will enter God’s time, and we will no longer need the cloud to shade our eyes from the glory of the LORD.  


Jesus says, "Get up and do not be afraid.  Go down the mountain and live out your lives as people who know the end of the story."  

Amen.