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Transformation and Transfiguration - Sermon on Luke 9:28-36

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Jesus appears to go through this amazing transfiguration, but really who is it that is being transformed? 

Please listen to the sermon rather than read it.  The delivered sermon is often considerably different than the sermon notes which are included for convenience below.  

Sermon delivered at Lutheran Church of the Cross in Berkeley. 

February 7, 2016 - Transfiguration of our Lord

"Privilege".  Text is from Luke 9:28-36

Good morning to you my sisters and brothers, saints and sinners, disciples of Christ and children of God. 

When talking about the transfiguration of Jesus, I find myself cautious not to substitute it with the term transformation, which means a thorough or dramatic essential change in one's self.  While one may, upon looking into this account, conclude that a transformation is taking place, it is not Jesus himself being transformed, but more three disciples, Peter, John and James.

However, the word transfiguration itself implies a dramatic change in appearance into a more beautiful or spiritual state, which I find also front loads us into a sort of trouble spot when speaking directly of Jesus Christ, because is what the disciples see not Christ as he truly is? 

If you have never encountered the transfiguration account in any of the Gospels, Luke presents it with glorious details to draw us in and share in the mystery that is presented within. We go up to a mountaintop, which Luke implies takes place "after the eighth day" often used at that time to denote the Sabbath, lent more weight by the fact that Jesus went up there to pray, is itself a signal to us that this is a particularly auspicious and holy event. Wonderful things happen on the Sabbath in the Gospels.  

And for no apparent reason other than the fact that he was in prayer, his face suddenly changed, and his clothes turned a white so bright that one is forced to look away.  And who but Moses and Elijah are there hanging out with Jesus. Talk about prayers getting immediate answers! 

We also get the message that the three disciples were groggy eyed but intentionally stayed awake and were rewarded by this wondrous vision, which prompts Peter to make an odd and misguided suggestion as to making a kind of memorial to their vision. 

Then comes the climax of the event, the cloud drops down and the disembodied voice of the creator instructs all within hearing that Jesus is the Son, the Chosen one and should be heeded.  And then everything is seemingly back to normal, except the three disciples who, in a kind of Las Vegas trip style decide to agree on silence about what took place. 

Now getting back to the importance of the nature of the transfiguration and its meaning here in the narrative about Jesus, we may wish to think about several facts surrounding it and why this account is much more about Peter, James and John than Jesus. 

We find no reaction from Jesus himself, never seems to acknowledge anything is afoot. He's casually talking to Moses and Elijah as if nothing unusual is taking place. 

It's entirely written from the perspective of the three disciples, who are shocked and amazed to see this wondrous apparent transfiguration, but, again, is Jesus actually changing or is this finally that the disciples are able to get just a little glimpse of who Jesus is. 

We cannot understate the importance of who Jesus's companions are in this connection to heaven. It is not just that Jesus is the fulfillment of Law and Prophecy, as Moses and Elijah are the respective representatives, but another connection that could not have been lost on the disciples. Moses, as we read in the lesson today, after coming down from discourse with God had a face that was so bright that he was forced to wear a veil around the children of Israel lest he blind them with his radiance.  And Elijah was the one prophet who, rather than dying was taken directly up into heaven at the end of his career as a prophet.

The connections were unmistakable and the disciples could not have been granted a more valid reward for their dedication to Jesus. Peter has only just previously admitted that Jesus is the Messiah and now they are witnesses to a small bit of who Jesus truly is.  

This transfiguration is such a gift to us. Because we realize that in our faith we are truly liberated to a new understanding of the depths of what Christ eventually shared for us. 

As human beings, filled with the spirit but often living mundane and ordinary lives, we crave for some kind of knowledge of the beyond, evidence that there is more to this life than being born, existing and then vanishing. And when we listen to tragedies in the world, from the crisis in Syria to our own shootings that never seem to end, we desire undeniable certainty that there must be a meaning. How would it feel to be witness to a supernatural transfiguration that we can ourselves memorialize, without a doubt as central evidence for our faith and trust in God. 

And it becomes easy for people to put their faith in physical or local answers. We might see an advertisement offering a quick solution to lingering problems in the form of a self-help guide, an herbal miracle supplement, a newly discovered therapy from the Orient, a new way to bend our bodies combining meditation and yoga that has changed people's lives, just look at the testimonies! And all it takes is your credit card and you'll be charged $19.99, refundable within thirty days if you're not completely satisfied. After which point you'll be charged in 30 monthly installments of $39.99 each.

So we give in to deceivers and false prophets, letting ourselves be carried along until the rug gets torn away beneath us. And some people can be trapped into letting go of their faith in God while the church suffers and the body of Christ mourns. 

But the place that God calls us into is a place that we do not have to journey far to find, because it is already a place that comes from deep below, a part of our collective consciousness. And while we journey down this path of Epiphany, Christ becomes revealed to us slowly, moment by moment, and sometimes it seems as if our faith is at a plateau, when, all at once we might have a new revelation that helps us understand the often far too unexplainable. That God is in us; that God is in each and every one of us, and the capacity to see God there, to witness the transfiguration of the other, our fellow human is right there. 

And this knowledge, this awareness that each of us are claimed as children of God, that through God's holy Spirit God works through us: this is indeed the good news that we can carry with us into our lives in the coming season of wilderness, to the cross, to the glorious resurrection of God's Chosen one, and the salvation that the miracle has claimed for God's beloved children that we, brightened in the reflection of his dazzling splendor will behold in times to come.


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This page contains a single entry by Cary Bass-Deschenes published on February 7, 2016 2:14 PM.

Privilege - Sermon on Luke 4:21-30 was the previous entry in this blog.

Ash Wednesday - Homily on Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21 is the next entry in this blog.

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