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Aug 06, 2017

Transfiguration

Transfiguration

Passage: Luke 9:28-36

Preacher: The Rev. Dr. Kurt Gerhard

Series: Summer 2017

Category: Discipleship

Summary:

Sermon delivered on the Feast of the Transfiguration on Sunday, August 6, 2017

Detail:

The notes below are not a verbatim of the sermon delivered. Listening is always better. 

Today, we celebrate the story of Jesus we just heard read from the Gospel of Luke called the Transfiguration. It must be important because it causes something unusual in the liturgical calendar world. That is to say that it catches some people’s attention, although it does not appear in the Post or any other major newspaper. It might possibly be a note in a church newsletter someplace (although it escaped our own). See whenever August 6 falls on Sunday, the Feast of the Transfiguration is celebrated instead of the regular Sunday. Most feast day celebrations are transferred to a nearby weekday except for this feast and a few others (like Christmas, the Epiphany, and All Saints). Along with the Episcopal Church, the Roman Catholics and the Orthodox Christians do the same. So it is kind of special. So that points to this story of Jesus being an important one.

It is an interesting story and one that carries with it said and unsaid meaning. There are some obvious things:

1. Jesus and his disciples (the important ones) are on top of Mount Tabor to pray (shortly after Jesus announces that he will suffer, die and be resurrected). It demonstrates a practice that is expected of Jesus’ followers even to this day. Carving out time in life to pray and reflect.

  1. While there, Jesus is transfigured into dazzling white and the figures of Moses and Elijah appear with him. Why are Moses and Elijah significant? Moses is the preeminent figure of the Old Testament. As we heard in the Old Testament reading, his face was also transfigured. He represents the law. Elijah is the great prophet of the Hebrew scriptures. He disappeared in a cloud near Jericho and a place for him is held at tables because he is supposed to make a glorious return at the end of days.

In the midst of this amazing moment, clouds encircle the group and the voice of God calls out, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” Is this the only time in the Gospels that we hear this voice? When? 

On the surface, that is what is happening in the story of Transfiguration. There are some other things.

  1. The disciples, specifically Peter, want to build a space for Jesus, Moses and Elijah to hang out forever. This might appear to be another stupid disciple thing. But it really exhibits something profoundly important about human nature. Something that might just speak to our experience. We find ourselves in meaningful moments and we want to stay there. We want to build a shrine, so that we don’t have to return to reality, which can never live up to these high moments. There are many possibilities: a wedding, the birth of a child, graduation, Sunday morning at St. Patrick’s.

But as quickly as the scene on Mount Tabor plays out, the disciples return to the ground. And if we were to read a few verses further in Luke, we learn that a man seeks their help in healing his son.

The Transfiguration points to Jesus as special. God’s son who converses with important people. But Jesus points the disciples to something more important. They are to be transfigured (or transformed) by being engaged in reality. They will be transformed, not by hanging out on the top, but by suffering through the daily rigors of life. That is why our services end with a directive to do the work of God outside of these walls. It is often reinforced with the word, GO. Don’t stay here, as much as we would like that, but go into the world and make a difference.

That is the heart of Jesus’ transfiguration. He didn’t stay on the top of that mountain, he aimed himself to Jerusalem, to his crucifixion. Are you ready to take on the world?