Sermons That Work

Today We Reflect On the Story…, The Transfiguration – 2010

August 06, 2010

“Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, ‘Master, it is good for us to be here.’”

In the name of God the adventurer, Christ the radical lover, and the empowering Holy Spirit. Amen.

Today we reflect on the story of Jesus’ transfiguration on the mountain top. In the story, not only do we hear God’s voice saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen, listen to him,” but we, like Jesus, are at a turning point. Up to this point in the gospel of Luke, Jesus has been ministering in Galilee: teaching, preaching, healing, and gathering a community. Soon after this story, Luke writes that Jesus steadfastly points his face toward Jerusalem.

Jesus is at a pivotal moment. Every day Jesus had the choice of being the Messiah or walking away from it all. This story is a heightened moment of that ongoing decision. When he points his face toward Jerusalem, he is pointing himself toward all that is intended for him there: betrayal, arrest, torture, and crucifixion. Yet Jesus heeds God’s call and continues the journey. Today, as we are gathered in worship and prepared to celebrate the Eucharist, we are asked if we will continue the journey. We’ll walk with Jesus to the mountain top. Will we walk with him to the cross and beyond?

Our liturgical calendar is part of how we walk with Christ. By re-telling these sacred stories – the expectation of Advent, the celebration of light in the darkness with the incarnation at Christmas, the stories of realizing Jesus as the Messiah during Epiphany, the journey to the cross during Lent, the glory of the resurrection at Easter, and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, plus the growth of faith and life during the season after Pentecost – we are drawn into the events themselves, made a part of the action. We act out the stories, and the stories act upon us. Through telling and re-telling this salvation history we are present with Christ on the journey. We journey with Christ to the cross, but the journey does not end with death. No! Mere death, simply dying, cannot contain the love of God, the holiness, the otherness of the Gracious Creating God. We journey with Jesus to and through the cross to stand in the presence of the risen Lord. Indeed, we are perpetually an Easter people, steeped in the resurrected life of Jesus. In the resurrection we find true joy, happiness, and peace. It is a glorious moment that lasts an eternity.

Now when we are caught up in this glorious moment, this mountain-top experience, we can be tempted like Peter, to set up camp. We can want to take up residence on the mountain top. We can’t blame Peter for wanting to stay up there in the glorious presence of the transfigured Jesus, Elijah, and Moses. We can’t blame him because at the bottom of the mountain is the chaos and the mess of normal life. Just after the story for today, we hear of a boy that needs healing and an expectant crowd waiting for Jesus to descend from the mountain top. The boy and the crowd represent the mess of life, the reality into which the Good News needs to be proclaimed.

Peter, James, and John do descend the mountain. They do follow Jesus to Jerusalem. They experience the original Holy Week, the resurrection, and receive the power of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. They ascend the mountain as disciples. After the resurrection, they are sent out as apostles emboldened by the Holy Spirit to found the church, to heal, and proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

On Easter Sunday, and indeed, on every Sunday, and anytime we gather around God’s table for communion, when we come into this house of God, we journey to the mountain top with Jesus. The altar we gather around is our liturgical Holy of Holies, our mountain top, our Jerusalem. We gather around this table and in the simple elements of bread and wine we consume the presence of Christ. We ingest the grace of God, not for solace only, not for our own providence or satisfaction, not even for our personal salvation. We wallow in the presence of the almighty so that we might go back down the mountain into the world, into the mess of life as the body of Christ. We come to the altar as disciples, then we are sent out as apostles, bearers of the Good News of Jesus, and emboldened by the Holy Spirit to proclaim that good news.

After the Eucharist we will say the prayer of thanksgiving from the Book of Common Prayer:

Eternal God, heavenly Father, you have graciously accepted us as living members of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ, and you have fed us with spiritual food in the Sacrament of his Body and Blood. Send us now into the world in peace, and grant us strength and courage to love and serve you with gladness and singleness of heart; through Christ our Lord. Amen.

That sums up the pattern we are called to. God has graciously accepted us as living members of Jesus Christ. Graciously accepted us, not just me, or him, or her, or any one person in particular. Accepted “us” – plural. Together we are the body of Christ, and we must bring that body together in worship to live into it. God feeds us with the spiritual food of the body and blood of Christ so that we can go out into the world and serve God.

Brothers and sisters, we are invited on that journey to the mountain top today, and throughout the year. We are invited to bask in the presence of God so that we can then go out into the world a healed and renewed people, a strengthened and embolden people to heal the sick, feed the hungry, proclaim release to the captives, and proclaim the year of our Lord’s favor. Disciples of our Lord Jesus, come to the altar for the feast and receive the body and blood of Jesus Christ. Then, as apostles of the good news, go out into the world and be the body and blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

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Christopher Sikkema