“The Majesty of God”

Luke 9:28-43

7 February 2016

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, pastor

East Rochester & West Walworth: Zion United Methodist Churches

 

Luke 9:28-43

Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. 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. 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. While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” 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.

 

On the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, a great crowd met him. Just then a man from the crowd shouted, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son; he is my only child. 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. I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.” Jesus answered, “You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here.” 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.

And all were astounded at the greatness of God.

 

Prayer.

 

Today, we are given the Jesus we want.

You know, the Jesus who dresses like Elvis

 

And lights up like the Vegas Strip.

We want the Phoebe Snow pure Jesus

Standing center stage

With multiple spot lights

Reflecting off thousands of sequins sewn into his robe,

While he slowly rotates

Like a futuristic car at a glitzy auto show.

 

The Jesus we want

Is the center of attention,

The one leading a crowd of star-studded VIPs,

 

Moses and Elijah dressed like made men kissing the bosses finger,

Each sporting thousand dollar tailored suits

And hundred dollar haircuts.

 

The Jesus we want

Stands on top of the mountain,

Controlling the clouds,

Commanding the attention and verbal approval of God Almighty.

 

This Jesus we want

Grants to his faithful

A brief glimpse of what the future kingdom of God is like.

Let us all stand in awe

This Transfiguration Sunday.

Let us all stand in awe

Of the majesty of God!

 

When diving deep into scripture,

Pay extra close attention to mountains:

What happens on mountains,

Who is taken up mountains,

And the action of God on top of mountains.

The Jesus we want

Is on top of a mountain

On this Sunday that bookends the leading edge of Lent,

 

But the Jesus we get

Is on top of another mountain

On the Sunday at the concluding end of Lent;

A mountain named

Calvary.

 

Unlike today

Where we hear the voice of God proclaim,

“This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him,”

(Luke 9:35)

And back at the Baptism of the Lord,

The voice of God proclaiming,

“You, are my Son, the Beloved;

With you I am well pleased,”

(Luke3:22b)

 

At the foot of the cross

- Elevating the blood dripping corpse of our Jesus -

We hear the voice of a centurion proclaim,

“Truly this man was God’s Son!”

(Mark 15:39)

 

Pay attention to mountains.

 

It is good today that these two apparently unrelated Gospel narratives

Are read together as one.

We are served up

A foretaste,

Of the Jesus we get

When Jesus leaves the mountain of his transfiguration

And the next day comes down

Only to be swallowed into a great crowd.

 

The crowd was so great, in fact,

That to get noticed

One had to shout louder than everyone else.

To be heard,

One had to rise above the noise.

 

The Jesus we get has a

Convulsing, foaming at the mouth, mauling, seizing little boy presented to him

From the arms of a desperate, pleading, shouting father,

“I beg you

To look at my son;

He is my only child.”

(Luke 9:38)

 

The Jesus we get

Isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty.

 

The Jesus we get

Goes into the valleys where the need is greatest,

Where people live back-breaking lives;

Where people labor, suffer and die.

 

The Jesus we get

Leaves the safety of the well-worn, traveled path

 

And descends into the barrio,

Drops into the overcrowded maze of human distress

Where people linger in stifling heat

Sweat and chills alternating

In darkened rooms of poverty.

 

The Jesus we get

Hears desperation and

Reaches out and touches the unclean of the world.

 

The Jesus we get

Chooses to live amongst the poor;

Sheds light upon injustice

And breaks the yoke that keeps people enslaved by poverty.

(Isaiah 58:6)

 

The Jesus we get

Rebukes demons,

And questions why the rest of us didn’t.

Instead, we are standing around with our hands in our pockets

Whistling like we’re walking past a graveyard at night.

 

“I begged your disciples to cast it out,

But they could not,” this father pleaded.

(Luke 9:40)

Nope.

Probably not one of us lifted a finger.

We’re likely to complain that the father should have

Known better who could best treat his son.

If only you had called so-and-so,

Or sent an email to this person or that.

Instead of taking your boy to this hospital,

Maybe you should have taken him to another.

You should have known better.

 

The shadows of our face

Match our tepid hearts.

 

Our metamorphoses

Has been much more gradual

Than that of Jesus.

Oh, there may be some who

Had that miraculous encounter with God

Like Saul being blinded on the Damascus road.

 

But most of us have been living the life of a much more gradual transfiguration.

We like to control our spiritual journey.

Too much Jesus

Makes people stare.

Turn down the burner.

Let the Holy Spirit simmer in our lives

Until, you know, when the <hahem> hits the fan

And we are on death’s door.

Then let it out.

Get all up in Jesus

And summon him like a Jennie out of a bottle.

 

Let the Spirit out

And get into the game!

The game is discipleship

And the world is full of demons waiting to be cast out,

Convulsing children that need to be healed,

And economic beasts that need to be tamed.

 

Let us stop worrying what other people think

When they see us praying together,

When they rebuff our invitation

For them to join us in worship

And to engage in the work of ministry.

 

It isn’t a punch to the gut when 99 out of a hundred say no.

The glory of God is exalted when 1 is brought into the fold.

Take confidence that God works through every good intention,

That God is the only one with whom we should be pleased.

 

Let us pry our hands off the wheel

And turn control of our spiritual journey back over to God.

Leave it to God to chart the river that returns our boat to Christ.

 

 

Leave it to God to transfigure and refigure our disfigured lives.

 

Yes, the glory of God is revealed on the mountaintop.

At the same time,

Our Gospel today suggest

That God’s glory is also revealed

Where the nitty-gritty work of ministry takes place:

Out in the streets,

Deep in the valleys,

Out with people convulsed by disease and

Held hostage by social and psychological chains.

 

The Jesus we get isn’t sexy or glitzy.

He isn’t in the spotlight or on the stage.

 

The Jesus we get sheds glory upon God

In the hard work of ministry

Right outside these doors.

Let’s roll up our sleeves

And work with him

All for the glory and majesty of God.

Amen.