“Eyewitnesses” Transfiguration A (March 2, 2014)
2 Peter 1:16-21
For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Saviour Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. He received honor and glory from God the Creator when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Child, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain. We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.
Peter said to Jesus, “Teacher, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”
While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Child, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”
When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.
As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, until the Human One has been raised from the dead.”
Will you pray with and for me? Loving God, be present with us now as you were present on the mountaintop; give us grace to recognise your presence and your power with us today and every day. May all we do be reflections of your love for us and for all your children. In all your names, amen.
Transfiguration Sunday, which we observe today, is not one of the big church holidays. But it is the turning point, in a sense, of the season. It is the last Sunday before Lent begins--our journey with Jesus pivots towards Lent and Easter, the movement towards Jerusalem, Palm Sunday, Jesus' death and resurrection. It is the time when his followers begin to realise this is not just a wise man they are following, that this is more than a diversion, that this is, in fact, deadly serious. There may be doubt about whether anyone but Jesus heard the voice of God at his baptism--it's not clear from the Gospel accounts--but there is no doubt here--Peter, James and John heard the voice of God, saw Moses and Elijah with Jesus, and Jesus all radiant with glory. This is the real thing! And so no wonder Peter babbles nonsense and James and John can't find anything to say at all...Moses, the leader of the Hebrew people out of exile, the great law giver, the foundation stone of the Jewish faith--gave them the commandments of God, one who spoke directly to God and lived! And then Elijah, greatest of the prophets! Prophets in those days were not seers, or people who foresaw the future. The real meaning of the word is one who speaks truth to power, who calls for justice and righteousness. Martin Luther was a prophet--so was Gandhi and Nelson Mandela and Harvey Milk and Troy Perry and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
So Jesus is revealed as a true child of God in the presence of the Law and the Prophets--that's what that radiance is--Jesus in all his glory, Jesus most truly himself. Remember Jesus says he has not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it; remember too, that he says that the greatest commandment is to love God and your neighbour as yourself --on this, he says, hang all the laws and the prophets. For what is it to love your neighbour but to cry out for justice for them? And to live your live in ways that harm no one and ensure that God is honoured? That is what it means to be a child of God.
And so Peter is quite right in one sense, to want to stay there on the mountain with Jesus and Elijah and Moses--but quite wrong in another sense. Ideally, we can all be like Jesus--so full of that love for God and sense of service and justice for others that we glow. Who would not want to be like that? And yet, we cannot live on the mountain--we have to go down and be among people--other people, people we like and people we don't, people who are righteous and people who are not, people who Re good to each other and their pets and children, who do their best to support their friends and neighbours and family--and people who don't seem to care two figs for anyone else as long as they have what they want. Yeah, it's messy sometimes. Yeah, it's hard most of the time. But Jesus leads them down from the mountain to begin the real work of ministry, among God's people, not remote and separated, down in the dirty, mucky, messy midst of God's people. He leads them down to begin that work, because soon he will be leaving them, and they will have to do his work without him. But he has shown them what it can be like--to be fully alive to the law of honouring and worshiping God and to caring for your neighbour, to crying out for justice.
As we prepare for this Lenten journey with Jesus, we can also prepare to serve God's people. What is it we lack, what talent or grace or wisdom or skill do we need? That should be our guide to a good Lent, a holy Lent--learning how to serve God's people--each other--more fully and completely, so that we too, can shine like the sun, fully ourselves as we honour and love God and work for God's justice and peace here on earth.
In all God's names, amen.