Transfiguration—Year C—February 10, 2013
Preached at the Lutheran Church of Framingham
Let the words of my mouth and the mediations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, oh Lord, our strength and redeemer. Amen.
Yesterday morning, I stood atop a mountain of 3 feet of snow, and looked out around me, and all I saw was dazzling white. God’s glory shone all around me in the beauty of creation, in the silent, pristine blanket of white snow.
And I was confronted with the same dilemma as Peter, John, and James…they and I wanted to hold on to the mountain top experience even though something else called…for them sleep…for me the need to clear my driveway so that I would be able to get to church today. Both of these worldly tasks had sway over us, but not more pull than that of the mountain…the dazzling white…the glory of God.
Have you had a mountain top experience. Those moments when you encounter the glory of God and all you can say is wow. Our human instinct is to hold on to these mountain top experiences, not want to leave and return to the real world. We want to remain in those times and places that God’s presence is so easily recognized and felt.
But the rest of the story of Jesus’ transfiguration reminds us that God is not only present in those mountain top experiences. God might be easier to see on the mountaintop, when we are away from the hustle and bustle of life, or crowds clamoring after Jesus, but God is just as present in the valleys of life, when things are not so dazzling white, in the midst of departures, and death, and disease.
God is just as present, and at times even more understandable, relatable, applicable in the midst of the mess. The disciples “kept silent” because they did not yet fully understand what Jesus’ departure meant, the departure that Moses, Elijah, and Jesus were just talking about, the departure that Jesus just prior to today’s reading from Luke, Jesus explains to the disciples for the first time, the departure that will be followed by a resurrection that was just foreshadowed in his dazzling white transfiguration on the mountaintop. Jesus knows what the future holds, what the Son of Man must endure as part of God’s presence on earth, but the disciples do not yet understand or want to accept it.
And this adds to their desire to stay put, on top of the mountain, to build dwellings, to prolong this unique experience of God, to keep Jesus out of harm’s way.
Unlike the disciples, we know the rest of the story. We know that God has even more powerful displays of power and grace and love in store for humanity down this mountain in the valleys. In fact, we hear about one as soon as Jesus goes down into the valleys, but we also know what lies ahead, on the other side of Lent, in the Three Days, on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday—the Easter Vigil, and Easter morning. That knowledge of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for the sake of humanity, gives us an edge. Not an edge for getting into heaven or a corner on the market of God’s love, but an edge for being about to share the glory of God that we have seen with others, even with those who live in the darkest valleys.
Just as Jesus came down from the mountain, even knowing that sin and brokenness awaited him and would have a huge negative impact on his life. He came down to share God’s glory and to spread the good news to the world; he came down off the safe dazzling white mountain to die for our sins and rise again.
But we can also be the ones that bring forth God’s glory down from the mountains into the valleys to share with those who were not on the mountains. Because as Paul says to the Corinthians “we have such a hope, we act with great boldness” instead of keeping the glory of God to ourselves, under a veil, we share the freedom we have in Christ with the world. And “since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart”
Even when we come down from the mountain we can be “astounded at the greatness of God,” and show how Jesus transfigures and transforms us and the world around us. Just as Moses’ face glowed with the glory of God after their encounters, so can we reflect and share the glory of God that we encounter. It is not something that needs to be hoarded or stockpiled, there is plenty to go around. We have seen Jesus transfigured, we know that Jesus died and was raised for the sake of the world, we have experienced the ongoing dazzling glory of God in our lives, and so we go down the mountain to share that news with those who have not heard. This is how we can be Christ’s transfigured self in the world, among God’s beloved people—do not hide the glory of God in you, show it, so others might find the same in themselves. Amen.