Preached on 12 August 2018 at Church of the Ascension, Seattle, Washington
Feast of the Transfiguration (transferred)
Today we celebrate the Feast of the Transfiguration. It’s one of the few that we can celebrate on a Sunday. So, it must be a pretty big deal. But apart from how cool it must have been – terrifyingly cool – what do you think is the big deal? Why was it important in Jesus’ life? In the lives of the three disciples who witnessed it? What does it tell us about God, about Jesus, and about our own life with Christ?
Just a week before this, Jesus asked his disciples, “what’s the word on the street? What are people saying about me?” And then he asked, “What about you? Who do you think I am?” At that point, Peter blurted out, “You are the Christ, the chosen one of God.
Then, almost immediately, Jesus told them, for the first time, that he will suffer and die and be raised up on the third day.
All that happened just a week before what we heard today. Imagine what that week might have been like for him. Now here it is just a week later and Jesus asks three of his closest companions to come up the mountain with him to pray – to open themselves to God; to listen for God’s voice and guidance.
And God shows up, big time, along with Moses and Elijah. Jesus is visibly changed before their eyes and the disciples hear God say almost the same words that were heard at Jesus’ baptism. The same words that Peter proclaimed just a week earlier.
“This is my Son, my Chosen one. Listen to him.”
Jesus was Transfigured, yes, but for the disciples, this was a Conversion Experience. As spectacular as this experience was, their conversion didn’t begin and end on the mountain. It continued throughout their lives.
In Jesus’ life, the Transfiguration is a turning point. He comes down the mountain and sets out to make his final journey to Jerusalem.
It was probably a turning point for the disciples, as well. While they had been following this itinerant preacher and prophet for some time, now they had some evidence, so to speak, that he truly is the Messiah. He is revealed as Divine. They were already quite familiar with his humanity. For us, I think, it is sometimes the other way around. We are used to thinking of Jesus as divine, the son of God, but we sometimes have to be reminded that he was fully human as well.
I’m sure that this experience served as a touchstone and, later on, as an anchor for the disciples. In the chaos they must have felt when Jesus was arrested and crucified, they had something to hold onto; an anchor in the storm. And then, when they were going about their ministry, proclaiming the gospel, it was a touchstone – something to help them remember who Jesus is and who they are. They had a story to tell. We heard it in Peter’s letter.
We all experience milestones and turning points in our lives. Some of them may even become anchors or touchstones for us. An anchor to help us weather the storms in our lives. Touchstones to help us remember who we are, whose we are, our place in the world.
Most of us have experienced a certain ebb and flow in our spiritual lives. Some of us may have had mountaintop experiences of some kind. But while those are great and can turn our lives around sometimes, conversion is not a singular event, it’s a lifelong process.
All of this is true not only in our individual lives, but in the life of a community; even the life of a nation. This morning I would like for you to think about it in terms of the life of this parish, this congregation. This time of transition is a turning point in the life of the parish. It’s may be an opportunity for conversion; for growing closer to God, listening for God’s guidance.
Remember, God does the converting, but we have to show up, open and willing. Think about our two mountaintop stories this morning.
Moses goes up the mountain to be with God. When he comes down his face is glowing – the people know that something momentous has happened. They pay attention, even though they’re frightened. And then throughout their journey in the wilderness, he goes into the tent of meeting from time to time to be with God.
Each time, he first removes the veil, he’s open and receptive to what God has to say. And each time, he brings God’s message back to the people.
Jesus takes his disciples and goes up the mountain to be with God. And he is transfigured. He comes away, knowing what he is to do next; he’s focused. The disciples, too, are changed. They come down with a surety of their own path and of who Jesus is. They are strengthened for the journey that lies ahead of them.
What are some of the turning points and milestones in your own life? They may include moving into your first apartment or downsizing and retirement, the loss of a loved one or the birth of a child or grandchild.
What about the turning points and milestones in the life of this parish? In what way have those moments continued to touch your life? Have they anchored you? Have they been touchstones for you? Looking back, can you see God in them?
What about times when you know God was acting in the life of the parish – whether it was a mountaintop experience or something small? Were you changed? When Jesus came down the mountain, he was focused. How might God we transfiguring us? Where is God drawing us to focus our attention, our passion, our mission?
It’s up to us to show up, open and willing.
God transforms us. Thanks be to God.