February 7, 2016
Transfigured to be transforming
Call to Worship
We have come at Jesus’ bidding, to witness and to understand.
We have been called by the transfiguring God to lives of love and service.
We see. We listen. We understand
Let our worship reflect the glow we witness, that God’s light, shining within us, might be a beacon to a world lost in darkness.
Let our light shine so that all can see and be led to the God of love and grace.
God of transfiguration, glow in our hearts this day. Teach us what the coming of your chosen one really means for our lives and for our world. Help us overcome our fear of what people will think if we truly lived and professed our faith. Call us from our mountain top experience into the world that so desperately needs us and our message of radical love, grace, and hope. Empower us to truly listen to your chosen, to live his words, and to imitate his life, that we too may be transfigured this day. Amen.
Exodus 34: 29-35
Luke 9: 28-43
UMH # 185 – When Morning Gilds the Skies
UMH # 395 – Take Time to be Holy
UMH # 431 – Be Thou My Vision
Today Luke tells us about Jesus’ mountaintop experience. It is the story of Jesus’ transfiguration. We celebrate this event every year and the story is told in all of the Gospels. However Luke includes the most details. Why would this be such an important event that the lectionary includes like it like it does with the story of Christmas, Easter, Pentecost and the Baptism of Jesus? It might be because it is about a transforming experience with God.
Jesus went up on the mountaintop; he took Peter, John and James with him. As he prayed his appearance changed and his clothes became dazzling and white. Two men appeared, Moses and Elijah and they began to talk to Jesus. They were talking about when Jesus would depart which would happen in Jerusalem. Jesus transfigured into the eternal form that he would take at his resurrection. He changed identities from being Jesus the man to the risen Christ. This transfiguration of Jesus offers glimpse of what is possible, not only for Jesus but for all humanity. As he talks with Moses he connects with the past, the Exodus event and the laws that were given to Moses at Mt. Sinai. Speaking to Elijah he connects to the prophet that turned people’s hearts back to the covenant. Elijah is also associated with the end of time. So in speaking to both Moses and Elijah Jesus makes it clear that his mission continues the redemptive work of God from the Exodus through the end times.
Now the disciples awake and see all three men, in their glory. Peter thinks this would be a great place to stay, so he suggests that he build three structures one for each of them. But God has other ideas, a cloud overshadows them and a voice that says; “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him.” Sort of a slap down on Peter, which literally quieted the disciples for as the scripture said, they kept silent and didn’t tell anyone what they had heard. The moment was over, back to reality.
The word transfigured did not have any meaning for me other that this event with Jesus so I assumed that it meant changed or altered. However when I looked up transfigured it means to transform into something more beautiful or elevated, filled with light. So it is not just changed it is glowing and filled with glory. It is the reaction of being in the true presence of God.
In our scripture from Exodus Moses was also transfigured by his encounter with God. His face also glowed and to keep from frightening the people he wore a veil. Both Moses and Jesus were physically as well as emotional changed by their contact with God. Peter, John and James didn’t get to personally experience this transfiguration, as they were first sleepy, then frightened and then shushed by God in a cloud. It is a shame that the three disciples witnessed this incredible encounter and I am sure that they were changed as well.
We all need such mountain top experiences. Times when we are changed from our normal existence into one that have new possibilities and hope. What would those experiences be like? Do they happen when we pray or meditate? When we are in the mountains or at the beach. Are we transfigured when we are on vacation and leave our work behind? What would quality as a mountaintop experience for us?
I believe that a part of such an experience is when we are able to let go of the things what worry or concern us. When we can let go of the daily jobs, or duties, when we can actively engage with God we transcend the normalness of our day.
Transfiguration beautifies or elevates us. When we talk to God does our skin glow? Probably not physically but I do think or hope that we could feel a glowing presence. Our time focused on God and hearing God’s voice should change us. Does it quiet us, enliven us, or give us purpose. All of these. Mountaintop experiences or just quiet contemplation with God is meant to alter us, remold us, and give us a feeling of the vastness of God’s love. This love isn’t just present when we finally take the time to spend time with God but always, everyday, every moment. Yet like Moses, like Jesus we have to be intentional in visiting God. Committing minutes or hours in our days enables us to feel the changing energy, the transforming power of God’s love. This time with God should also serve to give us purpose.
This week we enter into our Lenten Season. Lent is a time of preparation for Easter, for the Resurrection. In the next 40 days we will follow Jesus’ path of ministry right into Jerusalem where he will be crucified. It is a time of fulfillment of what Jesus came to teach. Traditionally it is a time to prepare for greater commitment to our faith, people are often baptized or confirmed on Easter. Michael and Holly have been participating in a confirmation study and will join the church on Easter Sunday.
Lent can also be about giving up things or taking on more things. Some people give up a favorite food or activity, some take on a new ministry. Both are great practices because they help remind us of our need for contact with our God. It is not that giving up chocolate is such a sacrifice, but that each time we automatically reach for a piece we are reminded of the season of Lent and our desire to grow closer to God.
Jesus’ transfiguration certainly deepened his relationship with God, and with his disciples. That type of experience is probably not in any of our futures but smaller encounters with our God certainly are. Going deeper this season might happen when we focus on what God is offering to us. This could happen in worship, in fellowship, and in our own personal prayer, meditation and in service.
How might God be offering encounters with us that would deepen that sacred relationship?Jesus went up and spent time with God; he was transfigured into a presence of dazzling light. This transformation was the proof that he was much more than just a normal man, yet the message is that we are all much more than mere flesh and blood. Our transfiguration like Jesus is only possible when we connect with the source. The transfiguration of Jesus offers a glimpse of what is possible not only for Jesus but for all humanity. Jesus climbs the mountain to where God is, Jesus reaches out to God. God responds by really being present. Then Jesus walks back down the mountain into the world with all its brokenness. He immediately encounters this brokenness and is asked to help, to heal to restore. Peter and others came down from the mountain they find a father and a child gasping for life. Jesus rebukes the unclean spirit, heals the boy and gives him back to his father. The transfigured Jesus is changed and then changes others.
Our Lenten journey might look a little like this story in Luke. We purposely engage with God. Pray, meditate, read scripture, sing. We deepen our relationship by looking for what God is trying to offer us, love, peace, guidance, purpose. Then we look at our broken world and taking our deepened attachment with God we act. Jesus came to be our example of the way we too might be transfigured so that we can then transform. Amen.