Sermon – February 15

Mark 9:2-13 Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And [Jesus] was transfigured before them,. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus. As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead could mean. Then they asked [Jesus], “Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” [Jesus] said to them, “Elijah is indeed coming first to restore all things. How then is it written about the Son of Man, that he is to go through many sufferings and be treated with contempt? But I tell you that Elijah has come, and they did to him whatever they pleased, as it is written about him.” The scriptures tell us six days later Jesus took Peter, James and John and led them up a high mountain, apart, by themselves. Six days earlier Peter gave his great confession, telling Jesus, “You are the Messiah.” Six days earlier Jesus began to show his disciples that he must undergo great suffering and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and after three days rise again. Six days earlier Peter pulled Jesus aside and rebuked him for saying such things. Six days earlier Jesus reprimanded Peter with some of the sternest words written in the Gospels: “Get behind me Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.” For six days the disciples had a lot to think about – a lot to process. I, for one, would like to know what they were thinking about all these things Jesus said to them. My problem is, I can only read these stories with post-resurrection eyes. I cannot begin to fathom how perplexing this all must have been for the disciples. For six days the disciples continue to travel with Jesus all the while wondering what Jesus had actually said to them. And then six days later, Jesus took Peter, James and John up a high mountain, apart, by themselves. And there – up on that high mountain – their lives would be changed forever – only they did not know it at the time. I’ve always loved the Transfiguration story. It is easy to remember; and, when we read it from our post-resurrection vantage point, OF COURSE Jesus’ clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. He positively glowed. It is a wonder to me it didn’t happen earlier in his ministry. Whenever angels deliver messages from God on television or in the movies, a mysterious glow appears behind them. It seems to me that at the very least a little light would have seeped out of Jesus when he healed the sick of forgave someone’s sins. But then, of course, unlike Jesus’ traveling companions and disciples, we already know Jesus is the Messiah. We already know Jesus was crucified, dead and buried. We already know on the third day God raised Jesus from the dead. We already know these things, so we might EXPECT to see some light coming from Jesus at odd moments. The disciples didn’t yet have the benefit of the resurrection. They didn’t yet fully know who Jesus was; and it wasn’t until he was up on that high mountain with Peter, James and John that the full glory of God was revealed in Jesus. Matthew, Mark and Luke include the transfiguration story in their Gospels. Each serves to clarify Jesus’ identity as God’s Son. In each one of the synoptic Gospels the Transfiguration story serves to clarify that in Jesus we see and experience the Glory of God. The Glory of God that settles and dwells with us. For, in Jesus, the fullness of God was PLEASED to dwell. The author of Mark wants us to know that Jesus is God’s only Son; that Jesus IS the revelation of God’s glory to us – and it is that glory which continues to bless us and encourage us and call us even to this day. We don’t hear anything from James and John in this story. They most likely were rendered speechless by the sight of Elijah and Moses and with Jesus’ glowing body. Peter, on the other hand, went searching in his bag for his camera. If only Polaroid had been invented! If only he had thought to bring his smart phone! Peter wanted to capture the moment. He proposed building three dwellings – one each of Jesus, Moses and Elijah. Actually, Peter was scared out of his mind and didn’t have the slightest idea what he was saying. No sooner had the words popped out of his mouth than a cloud overshadowed them and from the cloud came a voice saying: “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” The next thing you know, Moses and Elijah had vanished, and Jesus, James and John started back down the mountain. Jesus ordered them to say nothing until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So, they kept the matter to themselves wondering what on earth Jesus was talking about. Now, in the disciples’ defense, if I did not know about the resurrection, I am certain I would not have understood the transfiguration event either. It is one of those mysteries that defies immediate understanding but transforms our ability to comprehend future truth. Years after the transfiguration event Peter wrote: “We were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For [Jesus] received honor and glory from God the Father when that voice was conveyed to him by the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, my Beloved.” We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven while we were with him on the holy mountain.” So, even though Peter did not know it at the time, that day on the high mountain he received grace to help him understand the events that would unfold in the days ahead. Years after the passion and crucifixion – years after the resurrection, Peter was able to look back on his mountaintop experience and understand, “we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.” And he might have added: “But we sure didn’t know it at the time.” We rarely know in the moment the effect God’s glory has on us. We rarely know in the moment what the outcome might be. We rarely know in the moment when and how God is working in and through us. After the civil war the faithful disciples of Western Presbyterian Church on H & 19th Streets established a “mission” at 24th Street and Virginia Avenue. Did they have any idea they were planting a seed that would give birth to anything remotely like the Miriam’s Kitchen that exists today? A place where chronic homeless are fed and given social services. A place where they have advocates helping them get into housing with support service first? I am pretty sure the 19th Century congregation had any idea what they were planting. But we can look at what is happening today and say, they had seen God’s glory and responded to it in service that would make this corner of the world a better place – in ways they could scarcely imagine. The grace in this story is that God is at work in our lives, even when we do not realize it. Just as Peter took many years to understand the significance of the transfiguration experience, it may take us many years to realize the significance of what we do or experience today. And the truth is, some things we may never completely know or understand. But, we continue to follow Jesus knowing that in him we have seen God’s glory. It is not “blind faith.” This is trusting what we already know to be true about Jesus. He is the Son of God. This is trusting what we know to be true about God – God is Faithful. It is trusting that when we know Jesus, we have seen God’s Glory. Amen.