Sermon – 02-23-20 – Transfiguration – Cycle A
Scripture: Exodus 24:12-18; Psalm 100, 2 Peter 1:16-21; Matthew 17:1-9
Sermon Title: “Eye Witness and Personal Experience”
A retreat! A retreat from daily living! Sounds inviting. I will write it in my date book. That spot is empty yet. Well this retreat does not get written into a date book. One day, Jesus just says, “Come with me, Peter, James, and John. I need you to be with me. Come away for awhile. Let us get closer to God. It seems that God needs me on this mountain now.”
It is good to have witnesses. Witnesses share what happens to the world – or not. At the end of this event, Jesus tells the three disciples not to tell anyone! “Tell no one about this vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.” This is a common command of Jesus, “Tell no one about this experience yet.” Being human, that kind of request somehow makes us itch to tell the next person we meet. I don’t think we know if James, John, and Peter waited.
What is this vision? There they are on the mountain. Drawings we have available of this event show Jesus standing higher than the three disciples. Some of the drawings which I have seen show at least one of the disciples sleeping. What else? Jesus finds his disciples sleeping at important times. Can’t you just feel the weariness that must be a constant visitor with the disciples? They walk and wait; wait and walk. We know that weariness, do we not? Two pages into a book and the book is falling out of my hands. A half-hour into a great movie, the one you looked forward to all day, and down go your eyelids. Waiting often does the same thing to us, especially if we do not know why we are waiting; not knowing what is going to happen.
Now that I have defended the disciples’ dozing, what is this event? Jesus calls it a vision when admonishing James, John, and Peter to be silent after the fact. A vision. It could not be real time because there were centuries between Moses and Elijah compared to Jesus. Yet, God chose this vision to bring history into a nutshell. Moses, representing law, and Elijah, representing the prophets.
Prophets proclaim God’s messages to people, whichever generation of people are living at a certain time. Prophets are called into service in each generation – even today. Think, who is proclaiming the true message in our lifetime? “Beware of false prophets,” Jesus says. How are we to tell? This same Peter, in the second letter of Peter in the New Testament, chapter 1, verses 20 and 21, touches on the subject of false prophets.
It is firmly established that Moses and Elijah are “truth.” They are the real thing with God. Here is this third person – Jesus. The law and the prophet appearing with the personification of love and forgiveness; a glowing Jesus. This glow was so bright the disciples had to shield their eyes; brighter even than the winter morning and late afternoon sun as we drive into that blinding brightness.
It is like Moses and Elijah are called to this time and place to hear God verify, “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased.” Just like at the baptism in the River Jordan when John the Baptist was the baptizer and the witness to God’s proclamation. But, this time God brings the past and the present together to show the unity of his plan for this world he has created. There is no separation between the Old and New Testament; the Hebrew and the Greek times. “This is my beloved Son.” But, this time on the mountain, God says, “Listen to him!”
Now the three disciples are not sleeping. They were awake to see the vision of Law and Prophet and Son of God together, never mind the problem of the time line. The eyes of the disciples were probably wide open with their minds thinking, “How can this be?” But, when the voice of God the Father came through the clouds distinctly, the disciples fell to the ground in fear. Jesus touches them and says they shall have no fear. A bright cloud appears with the voice of God. When it disappears, the Law and the Prophet are no longer visibly present. Jesus leads the three disciples down the mountain while he gives them the speech about telling no one.
After Jesus was resurrected and ascended, this Peter wrote at least two letters which we have in our New Testament. This compulsive, impulsive disciple reminds us that in this vision on the mountain, truth is affirmed.
“This is my beloved Son!” the voice of the Father was saying. We can say, “This is the Father’s beloved Son.” It is all about the love. God loves the Son person of the Trinity – Jesus. Jesus came to earth to show us that love; to share that love; to transfer the love to us so we can transfer the love to our neighbors. Yet, the source of the love is never depleted. The truth shall be shared along with the love. Showing love is fine but without the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ, love is a noisy gong and a clanging cymbal. The whole picture requires the Law with the Prophet with the epitome of love and light. The Transfiguration unites generations of believers and participants with the ultimate breathing and living truth – Jesus Christ the beloved Son of God.
Peter, James, and John are witnesses and participants in this great drama. They experience it in real time. We are invited to share this experience in real time because it is still happening. According to Peter in his second letter, the light is still shining like the bright morning star. We shall let it increasingly fill our hearts until Jesus comes again. When will that happen? Can we depend on it happening? Peter writes, “Don’t forget that for the Lord one day is the same as a thousand years, and a thousand years is the same as one day. The Lord is not slow about keeping his promises, as some people think he is. In fact, God is patient, because he wants every one to turn from sin and no one to be lost.” 2 Peter 3:8,9 Aha! Does that sound as though we have a marketing job? No one is to be lost!
Oh God, give us courage and conviction. Let us not hide in a fashionable place of keeping the secret of God’s love. Help us to keep on keeping on until every last person on earth is in the fold. Help us to be among the men and women who are moved by the Holy Spirit to tell and invite. May we plant and water and share the transfiguration light so that the Holy Spirit can come along and inspire each person on earth to feel the light and the warmth and accept the love. In the name of this Jesus, we pray. Amen