Sermon 3rd March 2019 Transfiguration Sunday
Text: Luke 9:28-36 – Jesus’ glory revealed
In our Gospel reading we have the account of what is known as the Transfiguration.
The account of Jesus’ appearance changing before his disciples, Peter, James and John while Moses and Elijah appear talking to Jesus.
Peter is struck with amazement and doesn’t want the experience to end so he offers to build 3 dwellings – one for Jesus, one for Moses and one for Elijah.
But God rejects Peter’s offer and tells him to listen to Jesus.
Peter, it would seem, wanted to keep that experience of God alive so he could return there whenever he needed strengthening of his faith.
But what Peter didn’t understand is that God is not a God who stands still.
When King David wanted to build a temple for God it sounds like God was rather disappointed in David despite his noble gesture:
the Lord spoke his word to Nathan, “Go and tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord says: Will you build a house for me to live in? From the time I brought the Israelites out of Egypt until now I have not lived in a house. I have been moving around all this time with a tent as my home.
As I have moved with the Israelites, I have never said “Why haven’t you built me a house of cedar?”
in the Transfiguration we hear God say to Peter, James and John the same words that were spoken at Jesus baptism - "This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!"
At the Transfiguration the disciples are given a glimpse of Jesus true glory.
For a brief moment the human flesh of Jesus is drawn back and they are able to see behind the human flesh the true power of Jesus as God’s beloved Son.
This is important because they are about to witness Jesus undergo humiliation, suffering and death and he will seem powerless.
But despite what their eyes will see, Jesus is wanting them to remember that experience to strengthen their faith and know that whatever they are going to experience in the future after his death and resurrection that the same glorious experience is waiting them in Heaven.
And that is also the purpose for us, that in times of doubt – times of suffering – times of difficulty – our baptism becomes a source of strength that points us to the future glory that awaits us to pull us forward through those times.
There are difficult times we go through – dark times –as Peter, James and John experienced even on that mountaintop despite that glorious experience:
It says - a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud.
Sometimes it can be terrifying following God’s will.
As we journey through life we will find that the times ahead can be quite difficult and uncertain - terrifying.
Even if the road has been clear for years and years there is no guarantee that just around the bend there is not a road block that is going to grind us to a halt.
A death, a sickness, a conflict.
Sometimes we don’t want to go forward but wish things could stay the way they are, like Peter did, or even pondering about going back to the good old days.
In the church it is no different.
We often ponder about the good old days.
Remember when Sunday Schools were packed to the rafters.
Remember when our church was full.
Remember when we only had the organ and page 6 or page 23.
It was much simpler.
No doubt, for Jesus, the way forward was quite frightening also.
Maybe Jesus pondered back to the good old days while he was still in heaven.
Perhaps Jesus even wondered why he couldn’t stay on earth as the popular Rabbi that drew massive crowds and healed many sick people.
But that’s when Moses and Elijah appeared speaking of his departure.
It’s interesting that the word “departure” is the same word used in the Old Testament for Exodus.
The exodus was when Israel left Egypt for the Promised Land.
And even though that journey to the Promised Land was led by God, it became terrifying and uncertain at times.
And all along the way they pondered about the comfort of their home back in Egypt – the food we ate – even though it was mingled with hard slavery.
The uncertainty of what lay ahead frightened them more than slave labour that would await them back in Egypt if they returned.
The beauty of our Baptism is that it comes with a promise that we are never alone in our journeys.
As he was departing from this earth at his ascension Jesus commissions his disciples to take Baptism into the world and along with it the promise: I am with you always till the end of the age.
That’s why Jesus didn’t want Peter or anyone to build a dwelling for him because he had already made his dwelling in us.
Likewise for David building a temple for God was not what God asked for.
God would make his temple in us as St Paul affirms in 1 Corinthians chapter 6 - Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?
We are about to embark on our annual Lenten journey.
It’s going to be a tough journey as we relive the aspects of Jesus’ passion.
It will begin with Judas agreeing to betray Jesus.
Maybe you’ve been betrayed by someone close to you.
Maybe you’ve been betrayed by the church.
How betrayed do Roman Catholics feel today by their church after what happened during the week?
Even the one that Jesus felt was his closest companion-Peter – whom he took onto that mountain top and revealed his glory – he too will deny him along the journey, not once but 3 times.
Maybe you’ve been denied by a friend when you’ve needed them most.
Maybe you’ve felt denied by the church when you needed it most.
Jesus will be abandoned by every one of his disciples the moment he is arrested.
Maybe you’ve felt all alone in your time of trouble – abandoned by your friends – abandoned by your family – abandoned by your church – abandoned by your faith.
Jesus knows all about that feeling when he cried out – My God, why have you abandoned me.
And finally Jesus will be handed over by his own people to be mocked and ridiculed before being put to death.
Betrayed by his own people.
And when Pilate – not a Jew – wants to release him – it is his own people who abandon him and demand his death.
Many of us experienced that same death last year at Synod regardless of which side of the debate you were on.
We felt abandoned, denied, mocked, ridiculed by our own people.
Sadly until we arrive in glory we are going to experience that.
But we take heart because we have a high priest in Jesus who has experienced this and more and can empathise with us in our suffering.
And again today he gives us a brief glimpse of his Transfiguration begging us to trust him and not give up hope as we take him into the world with us.
We will experience that in a moment as we gather at the mountaintop around the one bread and the one cup to strengthen and affirm our baptismal unity as children of God whom God loves.
Here God will draw back the earthly flesh of Jesus and reveal his glorified body and blood, given and shed for us for the forgiveness of our sins.
What we will experience here at this mountaintop of Holy Communion is the glory of God that comes through Jesus suffering and death as we receive his body and blood in Holy Communion – put to death for us.
As we leave from here, we will enter the cloud as Peter, James and John did which at times seems very fearful.
(a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud)
We will enter the cloud as Moses did in the Exodus which says - The people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was (Exodus 20:21).
Sometimes the way ahead seems dark and uncertain.
But with the glory and promise of our baptism we have received the light of Christ and we can confidently enter that darkness and uncertainty knowing that we are not entering it alone but with God who is right in the midst of that darkness to strengthen us.
He is Immanuel – God with us to transform our lives.