The Transfiguration of Our Lord
August 6, 2006
The Gospel: Luke 9:28-36
Sermon: "The Transfiguration"
The Rev. William D. Oldland
Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, "Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah" - not knowing what he said. While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, "This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!" When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.
The Transfiguration - August 6, 2006
The man had lost everything. He had a drug and alcohol problem. At one time he had a great job. He had a wife and family. He owned a nice house in a great neighborhood. His friends loved him and his co-workers thought he was great. When his problems first started everyone thought it was going to be alright. It was just a phase and he would pull out of it.
However, little by little his life changed. As time went by he became belligerent. His attitude toward everything changed. His job, his marriage, his children, his friends all took a back seat to the euphoria. The only important thing in his life was his next opportunity to escape reality. He felt he couldn't function without the booze or the drugs. Truth be known, he couldn't function at all under the influence of the booze and the drugs. Furthermore, he wasn't much better off when he wasn't on them.
He lost everything. One day, in the shower at a friend's house he realized what had happened to him. He realized what state he was in. He admitted he needed help. He got that help from people and from his faith in God. His life slowly became transformed. He became everything God had ever wanted him to be.
Transformation is a change in us, in our direction, in our attitudes. They can be positive or negative. The disciples of Jesus after the resurrection are transformed, but it was not instantaneous. Their transformation was part of a journey. One of the first parts of the journey was three years long. It was the time they were with Jesus. They walked the long dusty roads with him. They saw him heal. They heard his teaching. They ate with him and watched him feed others. They finally saw him die though he broke no law. They saw the empty tomb on that third day. The three years then made sense and their understanding helped move them into more transformation of themselves. What became important was sharing this story of God's revelation to the world.
Now transformation is not what we are celebrating today. We are celebrating the Transfiguration. Transfiguration has a different meaning than transformation. Transfiguration is the revealing of God's nature present in the Son, Jesus Christ. The divinity of Jesus is revealed to a small group of the disciples. They become witnesses of Jesus' complete identity as fully divine and fully human. Jesus is not transformed into something else. There is no change in his direction or status. Jesus is revealed for who he is.
This event is very important in both the life of the disciples and in our own lives as well. For the three disciples, Peter, James and John, this event will help them understand later what Jesus has been saying to them now. See, eight days before this event Jesus had told the disciples about his death and resurrection. This event is an exclamation point on his teaching about his mission and ministry. It is to prepare them for what is to come. From this event one would hope that they would be strengthened and less anxious about his future death and resurrection. They should be able to see a little clearer that God's plan for the Messiah is not what they have understood from other teachings. And yet, they don't get it.
In one respect it is kind of funny. From another aspect is incredibly human. Think about it. They go with Jesus up the mountain. His appearance changes before them. He literally begins to glow. They see Moses and Elijah with him. Moses is the one who received and interpreted the Law for God's people. Elijah is the greatest prophet who shares with the people God's plan for salvation. From the cloud they hear a voice identify Jesus as God's Son and commands them to listen to him. Yet, they still don't get it. Peter wants to build booths for them to stay on the mountain. Jesus has told them he has to go to Jerusalem. Before them has stood Moses and Elijah speaking to Jesus and they don't see that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law and the prophets. They don't understand it now on the mountain and they won't understand it in Jerusalem after the crucifixion. They will only begin to see the picture more clearly after the resurrection. When the resurrection occurs, the pieces start to fall into place for them. Jesus' birth, life, Transfiguration, death and resurrection become one full picture of God's love, compassion and will for us. God's salvation is freely offered to all people.
Which brings us to why this event is important to us. We are the recipients of the Gospel story as it has been told and read through the ages. The Transfiguration is an event that can not be separated from the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus. It is a part of the whole picture. What is interesting for us today is that there are two groups of people who call themselves Christians. I suppose these two groups have been around forever. There are those people who believe that Jesus is the Son of God. They might not believe in every aspect of the scriptures. They do believe in Jesus' birth, life, death and resurrection. They believe in the full divinity of Jesus Christ, as well as, his full humanity.
The other group believes in Jesus as something other than the Son of God. Perhaps he was great moral teacher. Maybe he was a prophet of Israel who overstepped his bounds and was put to death for it. There are even those who believe it is just a story. Jesus really did not exist, but the teachings are great and something by which we can live. This group also calls themselves Christians. After all, some dictionaries define a Christian as someone who believes in the teachings of Jesus. While they might be right by a dictionary definition, this definition falls short of what the Christian church has taught and what the disciples believed.
The question before us then is, what do we believe? The Transfiguration is an important event in that decision. Do we believe that Jesus' identity was revealed as the Son of God or do we not? Since we can't separate this event from the rest of the story, if we believe Jesus is the Son of God then we will behave one way. If we believe that Jesus is a moral teacher, prophet, or simply a good story we will behave another. Our lives are formed and transformed by what we believe about God and what we understand and believe about Jesus Christ. The reason is simple. If we believe that Jesus is the Son of God then we might see ourselves as children of a loving God who cares for all people. Jesus died and rose for all people. Therefore, we should treat all people with respect and dignity. The focus of our lives would then be on telling the story and sharing with everyone the love of God. However, if we believe Jesus was just a man who was great teacher or prophet, then the outcome might be different. After all great moral teachers do not hold any hope of eternal significance. Their focus is only on the here and now.
What do we believe about the Transfiguration of Jesus Christ? The answer we give might hold the key to transforming our lives. Amen.