The Transfiguration of the Lord Sunday

The Transfiguration of the Lord Sunday
February 7, 2016
Rev. Mark M. Vickers
Luke 9:28-36 (37-43)

Luke 9:28-43 New International Version (NIV)
The Transfiguration
28 About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray. 29 As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. 30 Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. 31 They spoke about his departure,[a] which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem. 32 Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. 33 As the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to him, “Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (He did not know what he was saying.) 34 While he was speaking, a cloud appeared and covered them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. 35 A voice came from the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.” 36 When the voice had spoken, they found that Jesus was alone. The disciples kept this to themselves and did not tell anyone at that time what they had seen.
Jesus Heals a Demon-Possessed Boy
37 The next day, when they came down from the mountain, a large crowd met him. 38 A man in the crowd called out, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son, for he is my only child. 39 A spirit seizes him and he suddenly screams; it throws him into convulsions so that he foams at the mouth. It scarcely ever leaves him and is destroying him. 40 I begged your disciples to drive it out, but they could not.” 41 “You unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you and put up with you? Bring your son here.” 42 Even while the boy was coming, the demon threw him to the ground in a convulsion. But Jesus rebuked the impure spirit, healed the boy and gave him back to his father. 43 And they were all amazed at the greatness of God.

Have you ever had one of those days when you wake up in the morning and do your morning “ritual,” and then look in the mirror and have this “oh my gosh!” reaction? You think to yourself, “Self, when I went to bed last night I did not look this bad! What has happened?” Simply put, my friends, you have been transfigured! Well, no kidding pastor! “Transfigured into what?” becomes the question. 

When we are sleeping and we feel peaceful and restful, our bodies continue to work. They continue to rejuvenate cells, body tissue, hair, and the like. So even in those few short hours of sleep that most of us get, we are changed. We are slowly transfigured into something new and different. But then comes the interesting part of being transfigured. When we look in that mirror and see our “new” selves, what do we do next? We try to change into something else. We shave, comb our hair, brush our teeth, and put on makeup, so we can recover what we have been transfigured from once again. For the sake of all in the world, in our cosmetically altered state we don’t want to frighten those with whom we come in contact, so we “cover up” our transfigured selves. Yes, honestly, if some of us were to come out into the world in our truly transfigured forms in the morning, we would seriously scare some people! I know I would. It takes a long time to put this makeup on!

But what happens when we are transfigured into a new self, the people around us change. The people who see us everyday change how they look at us, think about us, and react to us. You see, transfiguration bears witness to the identity of ourselves. Jeffrey Tribble in his wonderful commentary on Luke suggests just that, in this wonderful passage of God’s changing face, when he says, “The transfiguration bears witness to the identity of Jesus Christ.”

This wonderful, beautiful passage of scripture takes us up the mountain just as Jesus took Peter, James, and John with him up the mountain. We hear in the text that when Jesus began to pray “the appearance of his face changed and his clothes became dazzling white” ( v.29). Imagine how Peter, James, and John reacted? Now, Luke gives us a little hint that the boys were tired when they saw this newly changed Jesus. Along with that, they saw two others with him, Moses and Elijah—two others who had been transfigured. Peter in all of his excitement and dreariness did the perfect Jewish move: Oh it is great to have you all here, let us build three tabernacles (or dwellings) for you three to reside in. Because in Jewish thought, if you built these dwellings, the Holy ones would never leave. Peter was a bit selfish! He wanted the “changed Jesus” all to himself. 

Now, I’ll tell you, if there is company in my house and I come out first thing in the morning, building a place for me to stay is the last thing on their minds! Because we don’t deal well with a change in identity. 

But my friends, our change in our identity is marked by how we see Jesus Christ! How, as a congregation, can we develop a new way of seeing Jesus if we stay stuck on the old? One of the great things about the Christian life is that it is always changing! It is always on the move to be something different and new. As we begin to start out our new year here in 2016 at St. Timothy’s, we have to have a clear identity of who we are—who we are as a friend and disciple of Jesus, and who we are to one another and the world.

In the story of the Transfiguration,  we—along with Peter, James, and John—experience Jesus in a new way! In a way that has startled, amazed, and excited us to finally understand what it means to be in the presence of the Christ. The transfigured Christ that reminds us that we are part of an ever-changing, wonderful system of belief and action. 

So we need to ask ourselves three important questions as we begin to focus on our upcoming Lenten journey in the shadow of the Transfiguration: 

  1. How do we see ourselves transfigured into a new life in Jesus Christ? How are we going to do things differently and with the amazement of Peter, James, and John? 
  2. How are going to see each other in a new transfigured form? How am I going to look at people and the world through a new face of Jesus? 
  3. Finally, how are we going to act like a “Transfigured People of God?” How are we going to do things in a different manner, a different shape, and a different form that makes a mark for Jesus in the world? 

Just like Peter, James, and John saw the transfigured Jesus just by being in his presence on the mountain, we too have opportunities to be transformed, especially as we approach the cross at Easter. We begin Wednesday night with Ash Wednesday and the 40 days of introspection, then Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, and Good Friday. All are significant transfiguring parts of our journey. 

One of the great things about being a Christian is that we don’t have to wait for special occasions or High Holy Days to be transformed. We can become transformed in our everyday life, through prayer, reading, time spent in fellowship and service. Also, we have the penultimate means of transfiguration as we come to the Lord’s Table. Hence, this morning we are in essence climbing the mountain with Jesus; we are climbing to be present at a moment of transfiguration in our daily lives. 

We never know how we will be when we leave this table, but I pray, especially this day, that when you leave this table, and have partaken of the body and blood of Christ, you will be transfigured in your life as one who was invited to enter and see the glorious face of Jesus! 

Come now, my brothers and sisters, to the Table of Our Lord.