“Transfiguration”

Luke 9:28-36

3 March 2019

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

West Walworth: Zion & East Rochester United Methodist Churches

 Video Link to “Transfiguration” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xOJtkwLGYXs&feature=share

Luke 9:28-36

 

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.

 

Prayer.

 

I got my taxes done last week.

It wasn’t good.

It reaffirmed one of many axioms of life to be true:

 

The only certainty in life is death and taxes!

 

Luke’s account of the transfiguration of Jesus

Reminds me of two additional axioms of life and faith:

The only absolute in life is the absolute love of God.

And, the only constant in life is the constant state of change.

Transfiguration, by definition is

“a complete change

In form or appearance

Into a more beautiful or spiritual state.” (Google Dictionary)

 

Something in Jesus changes.

Physically he changes.

Visually he changes.

The trajectory of his purpose, motive, and methods change.

I’d even suggest that the arc of God’s intervention in salvation history changes.

The Gospel invites us to keep pace with this change.

 

Are we up to the task?

 

Since Christmas, we have been following Jesus

Almost exclusively traveling throughout Galilee,

His hometown province in northern Israel.

Jesus launched his ministry of preaching, teaching, exorcism, and healing.

 

We remember how the ministry of Jesus began,

With his baptism and the gift of the Holy Spirit.

We recall Jesus calling his first disciples from the shore of the Sea of Galilee.

He orients them, instructs them, and prepares them to become apostles.

To this day, the Church draws heavily from Jesus’ Galilean ministry

To prepare people for a life of discipleship.

This is Christianity 101.

 

The presence and actions of Jesus draws a crowd.

Of course it would:

The world is in search of healing.

Just look at our long list of prayer concerns.

The world longs to learn the truth about God,

Not some rigid fundamentalist rant.

 

A diverse crowd assembles,

Drawn like metal filings to a magnet.

The crowd included Jews and Gentiles,

Dark skinned, mixed race Samaritans from the South and

Caucasian, worldly Greeks from the North.

All surged to touch him, that they may be healed.

All crowded closes to hear and learn from Jesus.

Jesus was preaching from the barrel,

Teaching his familiar Beatitudes,

This time delivered on a coastal plain.

 

Jesus preached truth.

What he taught was explosive, revolutionary, a complete reversal of the world’s order.

What Jesus taught reveals all the details

Of a loving and gracious God,

Deeply invested in life and relationships.

 

The only constant in life is the constant state of change.

 

The air was charged with electrons.

All that was needed was

A divine touch.

The moment was electric.


Jesus makes the pivot

In dazzling light.

 

Once the ozone cleared,

God’s arc of salvation history would begin to play out:

Passion,

Death,

Resurrection,

Ascension,

And, as so eloquently described in the Gospel of Luke / Acts,

The descent and beginning of the age of the Holy Spirit.

 

To prepare for the monumental changes that Jesus is about to enact,

He takes Peter, James, and John on a prayer retreat.

They go to a near-by mountain top.

Being on top of a mountain gives the allusion that one is near God.

Larry, our real estate agent would affirm the importance of

Location! Location! Location!

 

Good call, Jesus.


Just like all mountain top experiences in life,

One can not live at the peek for long:

Mountain tops are barren, windswept, and devoid of water.

The air is thin.

Mountain tops are cold, often overcast, and rushed:

One has to get down from the mountain before daylight is lost.

 

Jesus prays.

Peter, James, and John claim they were “just resting their eyes.”

Actually, they peek.


Reminiscent of a burning bush,

God’s presence is made known

When the appearance of his face changed

And his cloths became dazzling white.

 

Epiphany!

The whole manifestation of God in Jesus Christ his Son,

Confirms to a world languishing in sin and brokenness

That something new is in the making.

Epiphany! God with us, doing something new!

 

Moses appears before their eyes;

The first prototype sent by God to deliver to the world the gift of Law,

That the world might be saved from sin.

But as each successive wave of judges

Attempted to rule as God’s representatives,

Each judge sunk deeper into corruption, sin, and death.

(See the Biblical book of Judges)

 

The only constant in life is the constant state of change.

 

Elijah appears before the eyes of Peter, James, and John.

Elijah is the forerunner,

Historically the next divine initiative

To warn the world of their sin

And to call the sinful to repentance.

The prophetic age used chosen individuals

To serve as God’s spokespersons

That the world may be saved by the repentance of sin.

 

The only constant in life is the constant state of change.

 

Moses and Elijah together with Jesus;

The Messiah,

The circle of salvation being closed,

With God stepping directly onto the world stage

In the person of Christ.

 

The only constant in life is the constant state of change.

 

Luke is the only account of the Transfiguration to reports the content of their conversation:

“They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure,

When he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.”  (9:31)

 

Already, Luke is looking one step ahead.

In hindsight, our Gospel author tells us that


God’s unfolding plan was never to stop

With death and resurrection.

God intended to send the gift of the Holy Spirit

To guide and empower us post-ascension,

After Jesus left with the promise to return.

 

God completely ignores Peter’s offer to Jesus

To draw out this moment of Epiphany.

The Lord doesn’t play fetch when it comes to

Our will, petitions, or prayers.

The Lord always acts

In God’s own time

In God’s own ways

According to God’s own plans.

 

Note to self: playing fetch with God

Ends with a discouraged, shallow faith,

Feeling like you’re being ignored, and

Becoming ultimately frustrated.

I’d suggest that

Telling God what to do is idolatrous.

 

God doesn’t fetch.

Rather God speaks from a cloud

With his familiar words,

“This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” (9:35b)

Reminiscent of his baptism,

Jesus emerges into the newest era of life

With the same divine words that ushered in his first calling.

Jesus is clearly identified to Peter, John, and James

Who he is: God’s son, the anticipated Messiah, and

By what authority Jesus has license to act:

When Jesus speaks, God is doing the talking.


When Jesus speaks, God is doing the talking.

We better pay attention.

 

The only constant in life is the constant state of change.

 

Jesus is transfigured from a teaching, preaching, healing, ministering Son of God

To a more beautiful, spiritual state.

Jesus is transfigured into

God on a mission

To bring redemption and salvation into the world;

God on a mission

To send the Holy Spirit to guide and develop

God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.  

Individual salvation breaks open a new divine reality;

That God intends to save the collective whole.

God intends to save the world.

 

This change is dramatically revealed to us this coming week

As the Church likewise pivots from Epiphany to Lent.

The Ash Wednesday worship experience

Hits us with startling, mortal abruptness:

 

“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return”

Spoken as ashes are imposed.

 

Yet, the anxiety of change is tempered

By the enduring axiom of God’s

Unending,

Unconditional,

Overwhelming

Love.

 

A living, breathing, resilient Church

Must be willing to pivot when God pivots.

The Church has endured much change down through the centuries.

Early apostles gathered to deal with how to fund the spread of Christianity.

Early Church leaders divided into East and West over beliefs, rule, and the wording of creeds.

Our Western Church divided again over the abuses of clergy and distorted doctrines.

Our Protestant heritage is marked with change

As there has been further division into denominations.

 

In our Wesleyan heritage

Change took place over issues of slavery,

The Sunday School movement, and

The Social Gospel movement.

Attendance and participation has ebbed and flowed,

Sometimes dramatically.

 

The only constant in life is the constant state of change.

 

United Methodist are teetering on the precipice of change.

This past week United Methodist delegates from around the world

Gathered to bring resolution to the issue of human sexuality.

How’d that work out?

 

The voice of “stay the course” won.

Everyone lost.

Epiphany?

God showed up, certainly.

The mercy and love of God is with those who are hurt

Even as the future remains clouded in a fog of mystery.

If only answers came easily.

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“Do not be afraid,” Jesus reassures on numerous occasions.

Do not be afraid of change.

Do not be afraid of adapting to change.

Change is coming from both within and from outside

The Church of Jesus Christ.

 

To believe in a relational God and to follow Jesus as our Lord and Savior,

It is helpful to be aware of how God responds to the needs of the world.

Jesus changed at his transfiguration.

God changes to meet the needs of a needy world.

To keep in relationship with God,

We, too, must be willing to adjust course.

We, too, must be willing to leave the familiar Galilee behind

And journey with Jesus to Jerusalem,

To the cross and

To the tomb.

 

To keep moving towards Jesus,

We must move.

We must allow God to transfigure us.

 

Transfiguration is hard.

It requires us to give up the old, familiar, comfortable ways.

It forces us to trust in the Lord,

That the new and uncharted path down which we are being led,

Is indeed, the will and way of the Lord.

 

Transfiguration is frightening.

Through all the whirlwind of change

One thing remains firm, solid, and absolute:

The love of God.

God loves you.

God loves all His children.

 

God created.

God continues to create.

Nothing stays the same.

Indeed, the only constant in life is change.

 

Jesus changed right before the eyes of his closest disciples.

He changed from being a preacher and miracle worker

Into Messiah, God’s chosen,

Redeemer and Savior of the world.

Jesus changes from life, to death, to resurrection.

 

So too are we called to change;

To draw closer in our journey with Jesus Christ,

To respond to God’s evolving plan,

Bringing His kingdom to earth as it is in heaven.

Amen.