Sermon delivered on Transfiguration Sunday C, February 7, 2016 at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Westerville, OH.
If you prefer to listen to the audio podcast of this sermon, click here.
Lectionary texts: Exodus 34.29-35; Psalm 99.1-9; 2 Corinthians 3.12-4.2; Luke 9.28b-43.
Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
“This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” the voice calls out from the cloud. Peter, James and John stand there, terrified, for they did not fully understand what was happening. Just a few moments ago they were dozing off to sleep. They were tired. Their eyelids hanged heavy, like anvils suspended only by a piece of yarn.
What they have just witnessed in the middle of what should have been their sleep has amazed them and left them without speech. Just a week ago they were talking to their Master after the feeding of the 5000, and Peter had emphatically declared to Jesus that Jesus was truly God’s Messiah. This is in the next breath after telling Jesus that the crowds think of him as John the Baptist, Elijah, or one of the ancient prophets.
Now, tonight, on top of this mountain with Jesus Peter, along with James and John, see something that takes their breath away. Out of nowhere, as three companions of Jesus are going to sleep, something begins to happen. Moses and Elijah appear with the Lord and start speaking with him about Jesus’ coming exodus, his death. The appearance of Jesus face begins to change, and his clothes appear brighter than whitest white laundry grandma used to hang on the line in the back yard. The glory of God is bleeding through from inside Jesus, and the curtain of eternity is pulled back ever so slightly, allowing Peter, James and John to catch a glimpse of how things will be.
And then the cloud that envelops them as Moses and Elijah go away, signifying the divine presence of the Lord on this earth. God is truly present here tonight, and he speaks to Peter, James and John: “This is My Son, the Chosen One; listen to him!” Jesus, as Peter one week ago has testified, is the Lord’s Messiah. And standing next to Moses and Elijah, the one through whom the Law was delivered and who was a servant in God’s house, and the other a prophet who called people to the worship of the God of Israel, and through whom God did miraculous things like raising the dead, Jesus stands here. This is God’s true Son, the real Messiah.
The next morning Jesus and the three men come down from the place where the glory of God has been shown, and where Jesus’ teaching has been testified to by the presence of this same glory. God is here among his people. As is often the case, Jesus runs into a large crowd of people.
“Teacher, I beg you to look at my son!” cries out the voice of a father whose son is gripped by a spirit that is trying to take away his life. This father, who seeks nothing here but the healing of his child from the demon that tries to throw him into the flames of fire to be burned and into water to be drowned, this man falls at the feet the one who has just been transfigured before Peter, James and John. His heart is breaking within his chest for his boy, and even his appeals to the other disciples haven’t been able to cast this spirit out. He is distraught, he doesn’t know what to do, but maybe Jesus can deliver his boy from the demon’s iron fisted grasp. He has not completely given up hope that his son, his dear and beloved son, can be saved, but he’s close to it.
Jesus speaks out against the unbelief here in this moment. He has left the peace of the top of the mountain to be faced once again with a world that is still broken and filled with fear. Peter, James and John have witnessed the glory of God surrounding them in the cloud, and blazing forth from the brightness of Jesus’ face and clothing, and now they are faced again with a world that doesn’t see what they’ve seen. But only Jesus in this group of four knew exactly how hard a contrast there is in this place at this time.
“Bring your son here,” says Jesus, having compassion on these people and their unbelief which he has just rebuked.
As the man’s dear son approaches Jesus the evil spirit tries to show its lordship over this kid by throwing him to the ground, causing him to go into severe, neck breakingly hard convulsions yet again. The poor child’s father looking on, worried in the depths of his soul that this may be the boy’s last chance to have his life back from the evil that has overtaken him. His heart hurts now more than ever before, as if it were now about to break into two pieces right within his chest.
And with a word Jesus rebukes the unclean spirit. With just a simple word Jesus heals this young man. The boy, with his newfound freedom because of Jesus is given back to his father in good health.
God’s son, the one whom has been appointed and chosen by God the Father as the Messiah of these people, these people who had been standing there with unbelief weighing them down like the heaviest sack of potatoes one could hoist upon their shoulders, this Messiah who has been testified to as the Lord’s chosen by the appearance of Moses and Elijah and their testimony about Jesus’ impending sacrificial death, this Messiah Jesus is God among his people. And he delights in glorifying his father in this moment, and restoring his beloved creation, the son who has been demon possessed, and you and me.
This same Jesus has now performed miraculous signs in front of many people. The word is getting out on the street that we have a healer among us. He is sought after for his ability to make things copacetic in this world, and in the people’s difficult daily lives. But these people do not yet know what Peter has testified, that Jesus is the Lord’s Christ, and they did not see the transfiguration of Jesus, and the brightness of his face and the divine glory that shone through him but for just a moment. But we, having the blessing of hindsight from the apostolic witness, can know them to be true. And we not only know them to be true, but we hear the voice that spoke from the cloud, “This is My Son, the Chosen One; listen to Him!” And we know that Christ is for us too, and he will delight to be glorified in us and through us as we are healed.
We are those whom God has chosen to show forth his bright and shining glory now. In the midst of a darkness that tries to silence all good speech and blind people with the kind of hardship of wandering through life as a man wanders through his unlight house with children’s lego’s strewn about on the darkest of nights, the Lord himself shines through his people and guides others through the minefield.
With unveiled faces the Lord is pleased to make himself known in this world through us. Christ’s light burns brightly through our common testimony of his healing power that has been made to work in us. Mentally, emotionally, spiritually, physically, the Lord’s light burns like the beacon of a lighthouse, alerting ships to their right course through the dark night sea into the safe harbor of the Church and the Kingdom of God. And while the days of mortal life may be numbered, and we shall someday come to our end in this world, whether succumbing to tragedy or time, we have already seen the Lord’s glory, and we shall someday all be in the presence of the one who has been transfigured before the eyes of mere men. And we shall be there together, as we are today assembled as one, showing forth the glory of God in our common life together, reflecting in our unity together his healing power, his Lorship, and his love.
We are his children separately. We are his body and his bride corporately. And he delights in calling out to us: “Come to me all who are weary, and I shall give you rest.” “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.
May our Lord be glorified in and through us as we heed the truth in these words. May he find us trusting in him as our health and our salvation. For the voice from the cloud has told us: “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”
Jesus Christ, Son of God,
Who was transfigured on the mountain and showed us your glory;
Who was called the Lord’s chosen from the midst of the cloud;
We pray you to help us to listen to your Father’s voice as he says: “Listen to him!”
We ask this of you, who lives and reigns with the Father,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.