Sermons That Work

The Transfiguration of Jesus…, Last Sunday in Epiphany (B) – 2009

February 22, 2009

The transfiguration of Jesus is perhaps the definitive mountaintop experience. Here on the top of a mountain, Peter, James, and John are left with no doubts as to Jesus’ credentials. In this account from the Gospel of Mark, Jesus is filled with the radiance of the presence of God with his “clothes becoming dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them.”

Then we read of the presence of Elijah and Moses, further confirmation that Jesus is indeed the long-awaited Messiah. And finally there is the voice of God booming through the clouds declaring, “This is my Son, the Beloved, listen to him!”

Who could argue with the voice of God coming through a cloud?

In response to Jesus’ transfiguration, Peter wanted to preserve this Kodak moment for eternity; he wanted to capture this event by building three houses: one for Jesus, one for Moses, and one for Elijah. Just as Mary Magdalene wanted to hold onto Jesus after his resurrection and never let him go, Peter wanted to keep hold of this moment and preserve it forever.

But this is not how God wanted the disciples to respond, God asked the disciples to “listen” to Jesus, not to preserve him like an archive in a museum.

Peter, James, and John were not just invited into the mystery of the person of Jesus; they were also called to listen. The voice of God from the clouds declared, “This is my Son, the beloved, with him I am well pleased, LISTEN TO HIM!”

At this point, it is important to note that at the end of the previous chapter in the Gospel of Mark, Jesus called to the crowd and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” Immediately following this invitation by Jesus to become active participants in his ministry, we have the account of the transfiguration, with God telling the disciples to “listen to him!”

These are the same words that we heard at Jesus’ baptism with the addition of the phrase, “listen to him.” The phrase “listen to him” in this case carries the Old Testament connotation of “obey” as well as to pay attention and to listen. Through our own Baptismal Covenant we not only accept Jesus Christ as our Savior, we also say that we will “listen to him.” We say that we will seek and serve Christ in all persons and strive for justice and peace amongst all people.

We are all called to seek out the transfigured Christ in the world, and as we do so, we are called not just to wonder and delight in that presence, but we are also called to “listen” and to respond with a servant’s heart and in humility. We are called to listen when our brothers and sisters are suffering, when they are in need, when they are disenfranchised and subject to injustices.

We are called to listen not only as individuals but also as a community, as part of the body of Christ. As a community, we raise up individuals on our behalf to be in relationship with and to listen alongside our sisters and brothers in other parts of the world. We lift up these people we call missionaries as our ambassadors, our representatives to be in an active relationship with those who experience the transfigured Christ through different lenses.

As we celebrate World Mission Sunday today, we especially remember the missionaries of the Episcopal Church; those individuals who are called by God and our communities to leave their homes and to encounter God in other parts of the world, to be in relationship with and to listen to people from a culture and a land that is different from their own.

For many years we have named these people “missionaries,” but perhaps they can be more accurately described as pilgrims, as people who travel outside of their own communities to encounter, to listen to, and to relate to the transfigured God present within our sisters and brothers throughout the world.

You can read about them on the many blogs and Web sites through which they record their journeys, their joys and sorrows, their successes, and their challenges. The Episcopal Church has over 70 missionaries working in 35 countries around the world. Our missionaries are young adults serving as part of the Young Adult Service Corps (YASC) program, they are young families serving together, and they are older adults who desire to share their faith and their skills and to listen to our partners around the world.

You are invited to support the ministry and work of our missionaries, to learn more about what they are doing on our behalf, and to learn about the culture and faith of the people they are traveling alongside. You can support these missionaries through your prayers, through corresponding with them, and through your financial support of these representatives of the Episcopal Church as they relate with other parts of the Body of Christ in the world.

The transfiguration reminds us that Jesus is the Son of God, but more importantly, the transfiguration reminds us to listen to Jesus. We listen as we seek out and relate to the transfigured Christ in the world, both as individuals and as a community through our relationships with other parts of the Body of Christ.

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Christopher Sikkema


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