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Transfiguration Sunday Transfiguration Sunday

Icon of the Transfiguration
Icon of the Transfiguration
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Transfiguration Sunday

Posted on Thu, Feb 11, 2016

Luke 9:28-43a

February 7, 2016


Transfiguration Sunday

Gospel Text: Luke 9:28-43a


The Transfiguration

28 Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. 29 And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. 30 Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. 31 They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. 32 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. 33 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. 34 While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. 35 Then from the cloud came a voice that said, ‘This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!’ 36 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.

Jesus Heals a Boy with a Demon

37 On the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, a great crowd met him. 38 Just then a man from the crowd shouted, ‘Teacher, I beg you to look at my son; he is my only child. 39 Suddenly a spirit seizes him, and all at once he shrieks. It throws him into convulsions until he foams at the mouth; it mauls him and will scarcely leave him. 40 I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.’ 41 Jesus answered, ‘You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here.’ 42 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. 43 And all were astounded at the greatness of God.



Way back when I was traveling on my first Lutheran Youth Encounter team traveling the south-central states, I was with six other friends and we would be assigned to a church for a week to teach music, skits, and service projects. At one church we were assigned to prepare a skit for the Gospel text for next days worship… we were assigned “The Transfiguration” … None of us were Bible scholars, and none of us were familiar with any of the amazing nuances the story “The Transfiguration” is filled with and Luke writes about so well. So when we read it, we panicked! How often do you see people suddenly become dazzling white, with two Bible Heroes, long dead, appearing to Jesus, and then the booming voice of God speaking through the clouds?  When I look back, I have no idea what we did, or how it turned out… All I remember is that we NEVER did that skit again! The only thing I remembered was someone telling me that the disciples saw the “GLORY” of God when Jesus was dazzling white… and for some reason, that statement bothered me for years. The thought that we see God’s Glory is some kind of spectacular event was greatly challenged in seminary, especially after I began to read Luther, Bonheoffer, Barth, Tillich and other scholars. It became startling clear in the simple book, Baptized We Live, by pastor Dan Erlander (The book I give out to all new members). We don’t see the Glory of God in big productions, dazzling white clothing, or any kind of visual or auditory extravaganzas! We best see the Glory of God when we see Jesus nailed and dying on the Cross for the sake of our forgiveness and reconciliation. It is in that very particular event, God obediently fulfills the promise of our salvation by giving Jesus life. We truly see that we truly are the object of God’s love in the death and resurrection of Christ, AND THAT IS WHEN WE SEE GOD’S GLORY… not in a showy production but in mercy and love.  Not very attractive to marketing agents, but the only way God could be faithful for achieving the Promise of making us one with God again.


Shortly after that forgotten Sunday, along with the members of that congregation we went on a service project to bring supplies to a homeless shelter in the ‘rough neighborhoods in downtown Denver.’ There we would feed people and basically let the people know that there is a church that cares for them. The issue for me was, I grew up in a very Wonderbread-like comfortable suburb, and I had never even heard the word, “homeless people” before… No kidding… and the leaders from the church kept hammering into us that this was the “dangerous side of Denver that nobody ever hears about!” We were warned to stay together and don’t go out on the street alone! I felt like we were going into Beirut or something! After the warning messages I was thoroughly stressed out, but when we arrived, all we were doing was passing out clothing, blankets, sandwiches to people in need. And this was the first time I really began to understand what “service” as a follower of Jesus meant, and what I was supposed to do as a Christian in order to show mercy and kindness. The purpose of Jesus COMMANDMENT to love and serve began to make sense to me and I was slowly becoming a wiser 19 year old.


Peter truly represents how we are all a little like Dory in the movie, “Finding Nemo,” always distracted by ‘shiny things!’ After seeing Jesus light up, and standing with Moses and Elijah, Peter didn't want to leave this ‘glorious’ place! What Luke is trying to teach us is that before Peter’s eyes, he could see how Jesus was fulfilling all of the Law and the Prophets! Jesus is being encouraged in his mission by the first and foremost representative of the Law in Moses; and in the same way, Jesus fulfilling all of the Prophets with Jesus standing with Elijah, the foremost representative of the ProphetsCertainly Peter didn't want to go back down the mountain to the suffering, demanding and stiff-necked people… And that is the rub of the text


Jesus didn't bring these three important disciples up on the mountain for a potluck with Moses and Elijah. Remember that whenever Jesus, Moses, or someone like Elijah went “up on a mountain,” God had something important to tell them, God has an important task to give them. Think about Moses on Mt. Sinai and receiving the Law of God, or Elijah on Mt. Horeb when God appeared in ‘sheer silence.’


I suppose I would have been like Peter, and not wanting to go back into the rat race… I love going on retreat to Camp Mokulei’a, taking time in prayer and meditation, or communing with our marine life. But this is blessing and a time of healing, gifts from God, but God’s ‘GLORY’ is found someplace else.


Luke takes us down the mountain with Jesus and His disciples to show us where we see and experience the Glory of God.  


They are only down from the mountain one day, and already a desperate father calls on Jesus to heal, to cast demons, out of his beloved son. The situation is desperate because the man has already called on Jesus’ disciples and they failed. Don’t ever think that Jesus is passive and always gentle… my confirmation students have been deep into the wrath of God in studying all about the Exile and why it happened and what the result was, and it isn’t a passive flowery story at all. God was angry when the people God who had been chosen to be His ambassadors with God’s message of faithfulness and justice that they were to demonstrate proclaim to the world, chose their own kings and traditions OVER God’s commandments. Just read 1&2 Kings and 1&2 Samuel. The result of their rebelliousness and greed was disaster for Israel and Judah for many generations.


But on this day, the father of the sick child had already begged Jesus’ disciples to do something, but Jesus’ disciples failed, and Jesus was angry and disappointed! His disciples walked, talked, prayed and saw what they could through faith EVERYDAY! But the moment Jesus isn’t on the scene, they failed. Remember the story about Jesus sending out the 70 two-by-two? What happened when they returned from their assignment in Luke 10?


 The Disciples Return

 17 The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.”

 18 He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. 20 However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”


But when Jesus’ disciples had a chance to heal, they failed.


God’s glory wasn't seen in a very cleaned robe, but in the mercy he showed by casting out the demon(s), or healing the boy when no one else could do it. It is strange, that the only one who really understood Jesus’ true identity at the time, was the demon… the demon has better eyes to see Jesus than even the disciples…


When I was 19 and singing about the love and glory of God, I had no idea what Glory, love, mercy and the justice of God meant; but now, after years of not just preaching the Gospel, but by holding the hands of someone in their last moments, bringing food to a family that really didn't know where their next meal was coming from, spending time with someone filled with doubt, fear and loneliness, I have learned that Glory has nothing to do with bright lights, celebrity, or recognition of any kind. God’s glory is seen and witnessed in those quiet times of mercy, compassion and pursuing God’s form of justice, justice seen in God’s unconditional love for us, even when we were/are dead to sin.


And this is a serious Truth, the power of the Gospel can bring hope to the hopeless, freedom to the captives, illuminate our path in justice and mercy, and most importantly bring to focus our mission as the Body of Christ in a very broken world.


Jesus said in Luke 4, 18 ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed (chosen) me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’


As Jesus’ disciples, with the power of the Gospel, we must do the same.


Beyond these doors our service begins… frankly most of the time, I would just like to sing and play my guitar during worship, but that would just be noisy and defeat the purpose of our forgiveness and our calling. This is truly a beautiful place, but now it is tome to go out and bring God’s Glory to all people you meet. Amen.


1 Kings 19.11-12

Elijah Meets God at Horeb

11 He said, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.’ Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; 12and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence.



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