The Holy Gospel according to Mark, the 9th chapter. Glory to you, O Lord.
2 Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, 3 and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. 4 And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. 5 Then Peter said to Jesus, "Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah." 6 He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. 7 Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, "This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!" 8 Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus. 9 As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.
The gospel of the Lord. Praise to you, O Christ.
Grace to you and peace from the God of Glory, Our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
This morning, I want you to think about a special time in your life that you would like to live over again. Think of a moment that was so beautiful and wonderful that it is etched in your memory. Maybe it is your wedding day, or the day your child was born, or the first time someone told you they loved you.
Maybe it is a special moment when you are sitting alone watching a beautiful sunrise, or the time you scored the points that won the game, or passed that important test you were worried about. Maybe it was your first communion or your confirmation or a special Christmas Eve Candlelight service.
These special times are gifts from God to us. We enjoy the memory of them and just thinking about them brings back the emotions we experienced when they happened. When we talk about them our voices brighten and we become more animated. These are the “glory” times, the mountaintop experiences of our lives.
I like to think these mountain top experiences are like a preview for a good show - or the trailer for a movie. You get a little taste of the best scenes, enough to make you want to watch the whole thing. You know there is much more to come. There is suspense. You know it is going to be great. You try to imagine what is going to happen and you can't yet. But you have hope.
The transfiguration of Jesus is like a movie preview or trailer. We get to see a small glimpse of the glory of God. We get enough to know that the resurrection is the coming attraction. We know that in the end, God is triumphant.
Today we celebrate the Transfiguration of Jesus, the ultimate “mountaintop experience”. But Jesus isn't the first to have a mountaintop encounter with God.
Moses spoke to God during his mountaintop experience and received the 10 Commandments. His face shone so brightly afterwards that he needed a veil to cover it.
In the days of Moses, the people of Israel knew the mountain was the place to meet God. They were commanded not to even touch the base of the mountain so that they would not be consumed with God’s glory. Moses's presence at the Transfiguration tells us that Jesus is the fulfillment of God's law.
Elijah, the greatest prophet of the Old Testament, is also present with Jesus at the Transfiguration. In Elijah’s original mountaintop experience, he learns that God is not in the earthquake, wind, or fire, but in the “still small voice”.
The prophet Malachi tells us that Elijah will return before the “great and terrible day of the Lord”. His return was supposed to happen during the Jewish "Festival of Booths" which is why Peter suggested building three booths. Elijah’s presence at the Transfiguration of Jesus tells us that great and terrible day is near.
God still favors us with mountain top experiences that are our moments of Transfiguration. We have the memories of those times held dear in our hearts. These times are not only to impress us with glory, but to shine on us with grace and give us strength for the journey down the mountain.
And we must go back down the mountain. We live and work in the the valley. Our journey in this life does not mean we get to stay up on the mountain. We don't get to build the booths that Peter wanted, so we have a place to stay up there.
God equips us for the journey down the mountain and through the plains into the valley. One of the gifts we have for the journey is fellowship. We have each other. We are not alone. We can share the burdens of the day with other Christians. We can divide the load. We can share our sorrows and we can share our joys along the way.
God gives us companions on the journey, but that isn't all. God feeds us on the journey down the mountain and through the plains. God gives us our daily bread and all the necessities and nourishments for our body.
As Luther says, that includes: "food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, farm, fields, livestock, money, an upright spouse, upright members of the household, upright and faithful rulers, good government, good weather, peace, health, decency, honor, good friends, faithful neighbors, and the like". Try to remember all that when we say the Lord's Prayer.
God gives daily bread for the earthly journey, but God gives us a taste of the bread of heaven, too. We are nourished and strengthened for our journey, by the Bread of Life, himself. Christ Jesus, our Lord, gives us his own body and blood for the forgiveness of our sins.
We share the meal with the other Christians on our journey. We get a small taste of the feast that is to come, at the great banquet in heaven, where Christ now sits in glory. More than anything else, the meal gives us strength to go on and to do the work of Christ down in the valley.
God gives us all these for our journey. God also gives us those glimpses of glory, those mountaintop moments in our lives. Those are memories we can take with us, that we can pull out again, and relive when the trip gets difficult.
We can recall them when parts of our lives are broken and we are at the lowest places in the valley. We know that our mountaintop memories are only previews of the glory that is to come. Yes, God gives us mountaintop experiences to give us hope for the journey.
God gives us each other, feeds and nourishes us, and gives us glimpses of glory. But Jesus didn't stay up on the mountain and send Peter, James, and John down alone. Jesus goes with them down the mountain, back to their everyday lives.
We always have Jesus with us. And that is perhaps the greatest comfort of all. No matter where God sends us, Jesus walks with us.
When darkness descends on your life, look to the shining face of Christ. When you come to the altar today, know that you receive the bread of heaven. When you taste and see and believe, you reflect the light of Christ to others. They will see your shining face and know Christ is in you.