Preached on 3 March 2019 at Church of the Ascension, Seattle, Washington
The Last Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C
Over the past few weeks, mountains have figured somewhat noticeably in our readings – going up them, coming down; mountain tops and level places. Seeking God in prayer and finding God among people.
Today, not only do we have Jesus and the three disciples going up the mountain and then back down again, but Moses comes down from Mt. Sinai and even our psalm has God on his holy hill.
Today, on this last Sunday after the Epiphany, we have Jesus and the three disciples go up the mountain where there is a spectacular encounter with God. There is glorious light, people long-gone talking to Jesus, Jesus himself and his clothes changed to dazzling white, the cloud, and of course the voice from heaven.
Then they go back down again.
Before we go into that though, let’s take a look at the longer arc of Luke’s story. I think it always helps to understand how one piece fits into the larger picture.
I’m going to back up to Jesus feeding the five thousand with five loaves and two fish. The next scene is Jesus alone with his disciples. He asks them, “What’s the word on the street? What are people saying about me?” Then, he asks, “but what about you?” Peter blurts out, “You are the Messiah of God.”
Jesus then tells them for the first time, that he must suffer and die. He foretells the Passion. Luke then goes on for a paragraph teaching about discipleship.
Then Luke tells the story of the Transfiguration followed by the healing. And again, Jesus foretells the Passion.
So, the Transfiguration is sandwiched between two prophesies of the Passion.
There’s a pattern in Luke. Go up a mountain to pray, then come back down and encounter the greatness of God, the healing of God, the liberating freedom of God – in the crowd, in the messiness of daily life.
What grabs you about the story of the Transfiguration? Do you wish you were there? Or thankful you’re not?
What details stand out? In Luke’s telling, we hear what Elijah and Moses are talking about with Jesus: his “departure” that he is about to accomplish in Jerusalem. Now, departure is not used here as a euphemism for death. No, the word in the Greek is Exodus which evokes all kinds of meanings and images in our minds; well at least in mine.
It makes me think of release and liberation; of a journey to freedom not just for one, but for many, for a whole people.
Jesus is going to Jerusalem to fulfill the purpose of his entire life; to release the captives and draw them to liberation in their true and only home. Their home in God. Not only by his passion and death, but by the whole package – death, resurrection, ascension to God, and the pouring out of the Holy Spirit on all humanity. That’s what they are talking about. Wow.
Then what do they do? They go back down the mountain, back to daily life, to a crowd of people. And then Jesus literally releases a boy, captive to demons. The boy is liberated and restored, healthy and whole, to his family.
And all are amazed at the greatness of God.
This is what Jesus does. He reveals the greatness of God in daily life.
What about you? Do you long for that mountaintop experience of God? Or maybe you’ve already had one or more. Do you ever get a glimpse of the greatness and glory of God in your daily life?
Lent begins on Wednesday. As we move forward, we will be experiencing a number of changes and challenges as a parish as well as in our daily lives – especially as we move more fully into transition and welcoming a new priest. Maybe we could pay particular attention, watching for a glimpse of the glory of God all around us.