Almighty God, May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your light, the one true light of the world. Amen
We are, give or take a few days, right in the middle of winter.
Between December 21st and March 20th there are approximately 13 weeks and we are right in the middle. Seven weeks in and six weeks to go!
So we are about as far away from warm summer evenings as we could possibly be
However, I want you to suspend our present wintry situation in your mind and imagine, for a moment - summertime.
One of the great traditions of celebrations in the summer is to be outside
With many, many people, seated on the grass, and look to up into the sky and watching a fireworks show.
Now that light show in the sky, can be a fearful event for some, especially the really young, and especially if the fireworks are the startlingly noisy variety
It most often is a cause for wonder and excitement
With the best of the light show causing the whole crowd to “ew and ah”…
You always the know that the fireworks are coming to an end when the intensity of the of the fireworks increases,
A good fireworks show almost always finishes with a the biggest and brightest and loudest pyrotechnics sent in quick succession – known as the Grand Finale
Now I don’t know about you, but when I am enjoying a really good show, especially the Grand Finale, I want to somehow freeze that moment in time and have it last
And so it is with St. Peter…
Today we are at the last Sunday in Epiphany and today we also have the story of an incredible light show, that Peter wanted to try to freeze in time and make it last
Today we had several readings that all speak about the light of God changing things and the most climatic of all, we have the Gospel of Luke giving an account of the transfiguration of Jesus
where Jesus is lifted up and His clothes become dazzling white, too bright for any person to make
This final Sunday in Epiphany is like a grand finale
Epiphany, a time that speaks of God’s one true light being revealed into the world and finishing with this incredible moment of light
Now I want to also suggest from both our Old Testament and Gospel reading – that we are given some really big clues to an important reoccurring theme found in the Bible
God speaks clearly at times and God uses consistent settings to make sure we understand some of those big messages
The biblical writers know the importance of the setting of mountains.
When big things happen in Scripture, they often happen on mountains.
- After the flood, Noah parks the ark on a mountain.
- Moses goes up a mountain to receive the Ten Commandments.
- And, then, at the end of his life, Moses scales Mt. Nebo to get a glimpse of the Promised Land.
- The Prophet Elijah hears the ‘still small voice of God’ on a mountain
- And of course Jesus is transfigured on a mountain
There are many more…
In the Bible, big things happen on mountains!
Today’s mountaintop moment marks the closing bracket to the season of Epiphany.
We started with Christmas and the incarnation – where God comes in the flesh
As a fragile little baby – God enters into human flesh and shares with us an earthly existence – Divine sharing with humanity
Then the star in the sky – the light that leads the wise men from far away to the baby Jesus – Epiphany – God’s revelation has begun and the net is cast wide to include not only the chosen people but the gentile ‘wise men’
Then several weeks of stories of God revealing to us in many ways His light – sharing with us and teaching us how we might, in turn, share God’s light
– remember “hide it under a bushel – no! I’m going to let it shine”
Then today – the transfiguration of Jesus – the grand finale of epiphany ‘light stories’
Where we, represented by Peter, James and John – have humanity sharing with the Divine
In this moment, I understand Peter a whole lot
This is not a moment for the WWJD idea – What Would Jesus Do
We are not transfigured – only Jesus is
I could never imagine, and I think, nor should I - of God transfiguring me into a divine image – that… is reserved only for Jesus
No, at this moment, like so many other moments, Peter speaks for the group and speaks for us
“Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah”
Luke records this that Peter “not knowing what he said”
Which I am certain is true – but might I suggest that Peter was in this awkward moment trying to hold onto the moment
Peter, by suggesting that they make dwelling places, is suggesting that they stay there for a while.
I can understand that!
I think, if I was there, I would want to make the moment last as long as I could too
But of course we, the reader, know that is not the purpose of the moment
And God the Father make the purpose known as clearly as possible
A cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. 35Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” 36When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone.
God has revealed His Glory – God has made it clear to the three disciples – the three witnesses – just exactly ‘who’ Jesus is and what they / and therefore we are to do – “listen to him”
At Jesus’ baptism – which marks the beginning of His adult ministry – Luke records the ‘words of God’ as “You are my beloved Son” and here the words of God are “This is my beloved Son”
One might interpret that the first was God the Father revealing to Jesus and the second was God the Father revealing to us
It is truly the Grand Finale moment of Epiphany
And like Peter says “master it is good for us to be here”
Let no one be fooled by those that might say that Jesus was just a great prophet or some really wise and good teacher
God did not leave the option open to us!
The transfiguration is all about God making point, in no uncertain terms
That Jesus is Divine
“This is my beloved Son”
So with that point established – what’s next?
What do we do with the certainty that Jesus IS divine?
Firstly, we are to “listen to him”
Listen to him – this is an active statement
We are not to compartmentalize Jesus and consider that we know all we need to know about Him,
That perhaps from our youth, like at our confirmation, we marked the end of our learning and listening
We are to listen and learn from & about Jesus in an active, ongoing way
And Like Jesus with Peter, James and John
Like Moses after speaking with God and receiving the Ten Commandments
We need to come down from the mountain and serve
Jesus after coming down immediately healed a man
Moses brought the nomadic Israelites the Ten Commandments and taught and shared with them God’s will for them
Some scholars have suggested that Jesus was close to Jerusalem and Jesus might have been able to see, from the vantage point of the top of the mountain, to the city of Jerusalem
Jesus, having told the disciples (yet they didn’t understand) what was to happen to Him
[Jesus said]“The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” 23Then he said to them all, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.
Jesus came down from the mountain and began the greatest of all service
As recorded only a few verses later
“51When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.”
Today we mark the last Sunday in Epiphany and next week is the first Sunday of Lent
We, like Jesus, are at a cross-road
We are marking the transition time which speaks with heavenly Divine clarity exactly who Jesus is - to lead us down the journey of what Jesus will do for us
Like before one votes for any likely political leader, they and the voter spend time trying to provide / get some sense of identity and then an understanding of purpose
So too, it is for us and our wisdom of Jesus
Who… then, what for…
It is a journey to cross
To the greatest of all possible sacrifices
It is also a journey to Easter
To greatest of all victories
Jesus is transfigured – so that we might believe and be transformed…
Listen & learn and then serve…
I would like to close with an excerpt from the speech that The Reverend Martin Luther King Jr made on the day before he was shot – it is referred to by many as his “Mountain Top Speech”
"Well, I don't know what will happen now.
We've got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn't matter with me now.
Because I've been to the mountain top.
And I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life.
Longevity has its place.
But I'm not concerned about that now.
I just want to do God's will.
And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain.
And I've looked over.
And I've seen the promised land.
I may not get there with you.
But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people will get to the promised land.
And I'm happy, tonight.
I'm not worried about anything.
I'm not fearing any man.
Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord."
My sermon today is shorter than usual and I don’t want you to feel shortchanged – and quoting another Martin Luther – when you sing – you pray twice – let us replace the concluding prayer and together sing Hymn # “Glory, Glory Halleluiah”