The Transfiguration of our Lord, year C, 2016 (preached 2/7/16)
first reading: Exodus 34:29-35
second reading: 2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2
gospel reading: Luke 9:28-43a
I don’t know about you, but for me the last few months of 2015 and the first month of 2016 were, to put it nicely, NOT so nice. I won’t go into personal details, but even events in the world were chaotic and sometimes awful.
It’s left me in a bad mood all the way around. I’ve been negative. I’ve been short with my husband and kids. I’ve wanted to retreat into my own little shell, to use the words of Greta Garbo, “I want to be left alone!”
But we can’t do that can’t we? Very few people in this world are called to be hermits, or monks, or cloistered nuns, leaving “the world” behind. Most of us are called not only to be a part of the world, but ACTIVE in it.
Hopefully most times we respond to this call and say, “Thank you God, for allowing me to serve you and make a difference in the world and with the people around me.” Other times we just say, “Thanks a LOT God.” (sarcastically)
When faced with these moments we might think that we simply need an “attitude adjustment.” Really, what we need, and what God offers to us is a “transfiguration” – a transformation. I looked up the secular definition of transfiguration and it reads, “a change in form or appearance – metamorphosis.”
This is what happened to Jesus in today’s reading, the story of “The Transfiguation” – when he went up the mountain with the disciples to pray. We read, “the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white.”
In that moment the disciples were able to see a different Jesus – not just their beloved rabbi, but the Jesus that stood in the company of arguably the two greatest figures of the Jewish faith – Moses and Elijah. It was an event so stupendous that Peter wanted to make monuments to commemorate the occasion.
They were able to recognize the importance of it on one level, but they really had no way to comprehend the WEIGHT of it, because they still didn’t understand what was to come for themselves, or for Jesus. For what was to come had nothing to do with earthly glory or building monuments – what was to come was shame and fear and death.
The Transfiguration is the changing of Jesus, not in the literal biology of who he was, but in how the disciples saw him. Jesus was changed.
- He was dazzling. But he soon would be beaten.
- His clothes became white, but soon the guards would strip him and gamble for his clothes.
- He was talking to Moses and Elijah, but soon the crowds would taunt him and wonder if Elijah would save him from the cross.
If that was the only change, the only transfiguration, we’d be in big trouble – but it wasn’t.
- Because Jesus also went from dead to living. From laid in the tomb, to risen again on the third day.
We call our gospel reading today “The Transfiguration,” but truth be told there are many types of transfiguration that happen in Jesus’ story. And just as Jesus was transfigured, he transfigures you and me.
Our first transfiguration happens at Holy Baptism, when we become children of God, joined to Jesus and saved through Jesus for all eternity.
Our baptism changes us. It is there that we are adopted into God’s family and get a new name and the forever mark of the cross. But baptism is only the beginning. God’s forgiveness renews us every day.
Every day we are being changed, transfigured, going through metamorphosis, from sinner to saint, saint to sinner, sinner to saint…
Not all Christian denominations celebrate the Transfiguration today – many celebrate this event during the month of August – but I think this is a perfect time. Celebrating the Transfiguration right before Lent is a good way for us to reflect on the person and ministry of Jesus, but it’s also a good way for us to approach Lent.
I began this sermon by confessing my bad attitude. As we approach Lent this year, I’m thinking of way that I can work on letting God transfigure that. It just might be a part of my Lenten discipline this year – God transfiguring my heart and head. A metamorphosis from negativity to joy, from doom to hope, from fear to confidence.
I’ve shared a bit of my thinking about how God can transfigure me this Lent. I invite YOU to reflect over these next few days before Wednesday, about what God can transfigure in YOU.
When you look in the mirror, beyond all the surface appearances – in the words of St. Paul from our second reading – what do you see reflected back at you? What do you wish God could transform? Lent is the perfect time for that self-examination, and for allowing God to transfigure us.
Because Lent is more than giving up chocolate, Lent is about how we can recognize and appreciate all God has done and is continuing to do in our lives. Lent is about acknowledging the darkness so that we can see the Light.
It’s also appropriate too that our annual meeting is today – a good time to reflect on how we have lived as a congregation in faith, and where God can work to transfigure us as a community together. We are not static things. We are living, breathing, moving, growing creatures – changing all the time.
The Transfiguration invites us to see Jesus’ transfiguration – but also how Jesus transfigures US. How through faith God is constantly making, remaking and remaking us again – beginning at baptism, and continuing throughout our lives – to the life to come.