Tag Archive | Transfiguration

The Transfiguration of our Lord, 2016

The Transfiguration of our Lord, year C, 2016 (preached 2/7/16)

first reading:  Exodus 34:29-35

Psalm 99

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.”

Romanian Orthodox Church, Jericho

Romanian Orthodox Church, Jericho

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.

AMEN.

 

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The Transfiguration of our Lord, 2015

The Transfiguration of our Lord, year B, 2015 (preached 2/15/15)

first reading:  2 Kings 2:1-12

Psalm  50:1-6

second reading:  2 Corinthians 4:3-6

gospel reading:  Mark 9:2-9


The Transfiguration

The Transfiguration

Each time I read the story of the Transfiguration, I am tempted to go straight for Peter.  Poor Peter.  James and John stay quiet, but Peter blurts out, “let’s build a monument to the occasion!”

Blurting out isn’t the only response we see here – so is wanting to build something to remember it by.  We live in a world filled with monuments to events and important people in history.  And if there was ever a moment for a monument, this was it.

Jesus doesn’t answer Peter’s request, but the answer was obviously “no,” because they are soon heading back down the mountain with orders of secrecy.

Why the secrecy?  Peter, James and John heard the voice from heaven, they saw Moses and Elijah and a transformed Jesus.  Who could keep quiet?

But again, Jesus says no – don’t share the event with anyone until “after the fact.”  Because the “glory” only comes after the fact – the fact of the crucifixion and death.

FIRST Jesus must go through suffering.  Only then, in the resurrection, will God’s glory be revealed.  No cross, no crown.  No pain, no gain.

It seems flippant to say, but its reality is disturbing, shocking, and yet ultimately just what we need.  It’s shocking and disturbing because it flies in the face of all the measures of glory that this world holds dear.  When we think of glory do we think of a beaten bloody man hanging from a cross, or the dazzling man on the mountain?

The Transfiguration was a gift that allows us to see Jesus within the great salvation story of God’s people, indeed Jesus as the END of the line – but it was not the gift – THAT gift was the cross.  The disciples wouldn’t understand this until after the resurrection.  You and I have the benefit of their experience and their witness.

We have the gift of a god who could’ve chosen to be like an earthly king, who could’ve shown us glory through a miraculous military campaign, showing power by curing the diseased, manifesting strength killing those who were weaker, or tyrants who persecuted the people.

But NO.  Our God doesn’t work that way.  Our God chose a different path than the path we expect from the powerful and the glorious.

Our God chose to turn the meaning of strength and power and glory upside down.

A god who operates through human standards of success and failure, of joy and pain, is not a god I can relate to when my life is awful.  A god whose definition of glory equals that of ours, where winning is everything, can’t possibly understand me in my failure.  A god who defines strength and weakness by who can overpower and who is crushed, cannot possibly be present for me when I’m overcome and lost in pain.

God looked at all that and said, “No.  I choose a better way.”

It may not always feel like God chose the better way – like when we want to be rescued from a bad situation, or when we or those we love suffer – but it is ultimately the way that saves us.

God transfigures Jesus on that mountain, but God transfigures the whole structure of human valuing and judging, and in the process transfigures you and me.

This is why we can’t have Christmas without Easter, or Easter without Good Friday.

The crown without the cross, the gain without the pain, might do a thing or two to help us “feel” better in the here and now, but they do nothing to help us in the real struggles, the real pain, the real suffering in life – they would only give us a fairytale, where the only acceptable endings are happy ones.  But what happens to us then when our endings aren’t happy?

If God chose the crown without the cross, the gain without the pain, then God would have NOTHING to offer us, NOTHING to give us that the world can’t give.

For me, that god would be a waste of time.  Everyone loves a winner, but you find out who your true friends are when you lose, when you’re in pain, when you’re weak.  And THIS is where God chooses to be with you and me.

This is the whole point of the secrecy of the Transfiguration.  Jesus “ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen,” because the cross HAD to come first.

Before we could worship Christ we had to put him to death, so that God could bring him back to life and show us that our pitiful human demonstration of power stands NO chance against the TRUE glory of God.

Jesus tells them that all these “great” events – the healings, the teachings, the miracles, and the Transfiguration – need to be seen through the lens of the cross.  Anything less would lead us to worship a god just like ourselves.  We need more.  And Jesus gives us more.

Jesus gives us God who KNOWS our pain, who is WITH US in suffering, who HOLDS us in our struggles and LIFTS us when we fall.  Jesus is the shoulder to cry on, the strength against which we can scream in our desperate hours.  To what other god could we ever direct our anger and hate?  Any other god would crush dissent and doubt, but Jesus doesn’t – he loves us even IN them.

Any other god would want only the best and the brightest as followers, but Jesus calls the weak and sinful and sick and make us bright through HIS work.

Our weakness, our suffering, our doubts, our sinfulness – all those things are transfigured through Jesus’ sacrifice and love.

It doesn’t mean they go away, what it does mean is that even in the midst of them we have value to God, we are precious to God – and loved by God for all eternity.

Not always what we want, not always what we expect – but always what we ultimately need.  Thanks be to God.

AMEN.

The Transfiguration of our Lord, 2014

The Feast of the Transfiguration of our Lord, year A, 2014 (preached March 2, 2014)

First reading: Exodus 24:12-18

Psalm 2

Second Reading: 2 Peter 1:16-21

Gospel Reading:  Matthew 17:1-9

Today is the last Sunday before we begin Lent – just a few days before we receive ashes and remember that we are dust and to dust we shall return.

In the Lutheran tradition we celebrate the Feast of the Transfiguration – a glorious event to hold in contrast with the somber events directly ahead of us.  Today we are given an image VERY far removed from ash.  When we think of ashes, we think of gray or black – but today we are presented with “dazzling white.”

The definition of “transfigure” is:  to transform into something more beautiful or elevated.  I’ve thought about that a lot this week.  In my husband’s congregation an elderly woman who has been dear to us entered inpatient hospice care on Monday.  She never married and has no children, so she named me Power of Attorney and Health Care Proxy, so I’ve been spending A LOT of time with her.

During this time she has been sleeping mostly, with brief moments of lucidity.  As I’ve been signing all kinds of forms, speaking with doctors and nurses and social workers, doing her banking, sorting through her things, I’ve had this image in my mind – to transform into something more beautiful or elevated.

And I’ve been struck by two things – that the disciples were told to both “listen” and keep quiet.  Well, actually Jesus told them to “tell no one,” but keep quiet is a pretty good summation.

In our culture we spend a lot of time running around and DOING things.  We’re busy people.  We fill all our moments up so quickly and time races by.

This week I’ve been struck by the contrast between the running around I’ve had to do for my friend, and the absolute stillness of her, and me sitting with her.

This is what Jesus calls us to do I think.  This is part of the meaning of the Transfiguration.

Sure, it’s all about the lofty theological things too:  showing Jesus’ glory, connecting him with the Old Testament prophets, the continuity of faith, foreshadowing the crucifixion – but it’s also about THE VOICE telling us to “listen” and keep quiet.  To STOP what we’re doing and PAY ATTENTION to God and to what’s going on around us.

Because even in the Church we can get so busy that we forget to sit and listen for God – to keep quiet and let God speak, or let the silence speak for itself.

Peter, being Peter, thought the moment required a building project, yet another way to keep busy – but he was literally CUT OFF by THE VOICE telling him to LISTEN.

God wants to transfigure the meaning of “listening” in our lives, from something that WASTES our time, to something that makes our time more BEAUTIFUL.

It’s hard to listen, really listen.  Oftentimes when we “think” we’re listening we’re just being quiet and formulating what we want to say next.  The other person is talking but we’ve already moved on to our next point.  Sure, we may HEAR them, but hearing and listening are two different things.

“Hearing” is sound, “listening” requires work.  We may hear a siren go by.  Listening means we wonder where that siren is going and say a prayer.

We may hear a wave crashing at the beach.  Listening means being filled with wonder at the immensity of God’s creation.

Hearing is the sound coming out of our mouths when we sing a hymn.  Listening is paying attention to those words and letting their meaning fill our heart.

Hearing is the annoying sound the water bubbles make in the oxygen port coming out of the wall that is helping someone breathe.  Listening is realizing that those bubbles also sound like the water of a stream gently rolling by.

If the coming season of Lent is a time to reflect on our faith, this this day of Transfiguration is a good time to reflect on how we LISTEN in our faith.

How do you listen for God in your life?  How do you listen to those around you?  How do you listen to LIFE?

That last statement’s a bit strange I know, but it’s a part of faith too.  How many of us are SO busy that life just flies by?  So many times we get so wrapped up in stuff that we miss the moments that are precious and all too fleeting.

Transfiguration_by_Feofan_Grek_from_Spaso-Preobrazhensky_Cathedral_in_Pereslavl-Zalessky_(15th_c,_Tretyakov_gallery).jpegAs Christ was transfigured, his love also transfigures us.  His love makes us more beautiful than we could ever hope to be on our own.  His love transfigures us from folks that have to keep doing, keep performing, keep proving ourselves, to people who are loved JUST FOR BEING.

That’s right.  We have nothing to prove to God.  There is nothing we CAN prove to God.  In fact, Jesus went to the cross precisely because there is nothing WE can DO.

I’m no fool.  I know we have things in our lives that just have to get done.  But God’s interaction with Peter teaches us a great lesson.  He wanted to get busy and God told him to stop and listen.

We get so little time to listen.  We MAKE so little time to listen.  Yet God tells us listening is SO important in our lives and in our faith.  Peter wasn’t listening and needed God to shush him.

So as we approach the ashes of Wednesday, I hope each of us can think of some ways that we can create a little more “listening” time in our lives.  It may seem like just one more thing on our “to do” list, but the benefits of making that time are SO great.

Listen, so that you can hear the Lord speak guidance, wisdom, love and forgiveness into your life.  Listen, so that you may recognize the Lord in your midst.

AMEN.