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February 11, 2024

Transfiguration Sunday

2 Kings 2:1-12

Psalm 50:1-6

2 Corinthians 4:3-6

Mark 9:2-9

Dear fellow ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ,

grace and peace to you from the one who reveals God. Amen


We have reached the Transfiguration,

the mountain top experience

 that is the tipping point in the story of Jesus’ life,

 after this it’s all downhill as it were

 to Jerusalem and the cross.


 Leading up to this point

 Jesus has been baptized by John,

 tempted by the devil,

 called disciples,

began his public ministry of healing

 and proclaiming the good news that the kingdom of God has come near.


 He’s sent his disciples to proclaim this good news too

and performed signs like feeding thousands

 with just a bit of bread

 and walking on water.


 News about Jesus has spread

attracting attention both positive and negative.


 So far only the unclean spirits

seem to know who Jesus is

 and he is constantly shushing them,

while other theories

 about how Jesus fits into the story of Israel are abundant.


 Finally, six days ago

 Jesus sat his disciples down

 and asked them straight out

“who do people say that I am? And they answered him, John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets. He asked them, But who do you say that I am?”

and Peter opens his big mouth

and gets the right answer for once saying

 “You are the Messiah”


and just like the unclean spirits

 Jesus shushes him,

and then goes on to teach them what it means that he is the messiah

- that he will undergo suffering, rejection, be killed,

 and after three days rise again.


 And this clashes so greatly with Peter’s concept

of what it means to be the Messiah

that he concludes that Jesus must be possessed

 and tries to perform an exorcism on him,

only to have Jesus turn and rebuke him

 “get behind me Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”


At this point the disciples know that Jesus is the Messiah,

 but they are less clear on what it means for Jesus to be the Messiah.

 How can Jesus be the Messiah

 and yet undergo what he says is going to happen?


And it is in this supremely confused mindset

that Jesus takes Peter, James, and John up the mountain

 and God affirms for them

that whatever else happens in the days to come

that Jesus does fit into the story of God and the people

 and that he is blessed by God.


Jesus takes Peter and James and John up on this high mountain

 and he is transfigured before them,

his clothes turn a dazzling white,

a sign that something extraordinary is happening.


And then the disciples see Jesus talking with Moses and Elijah.

 Moses, who God chose to lead the people from slavery to freedom,

Moses who on another mountain

received the law from God

 and who in turn taught the people the law,

 the way of life.


And then there’s Elijah,

 one of the great prophets,

 the prophets sent by God

to call the people back into relationship with God

when they strayed away from the covenant of Moses.


 Elijah who we heard in our first reading

how God took up to heaven

 even as he passed along the job to the next in line, Elisha.

The law and the prophets are the cornerstones of the faith,

and here the disciples see their representatives speaking with Jesus,

 as if to show that Jesus is the next in line to lead the people.


And Peter gets excited,

this is more like what he imagined

the experience of the messiah to be,

and he wants to stay on the mountain forever

 and as he suggests this

“a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, ‘this is my Son the beloved; listen to him.’” 


There can be no confusing things now,

whatever else they experience,

they have heard the voice of God

 claiming Jesus as beloved Son.


Jesus is more than just the next in line,

 he is the one.

They are to listen to him

but not only does he teach good news,

he is the good news.


 Jesus is the gospel.

 Jesus reveals God.

Jesus is God.


And then the clouds lift

and all they see is Jesus.

He’s all they need.


And Jesus leads them back down the mountain,

back down to Jerusalem and the utter foolishness of the cross

that will seem contrary to everything God stands for,

 and yet is how God chooses to act.


 But as confused and despairing the disciples may be,

they will always have their mountain top moment,

when they heard the voice of God

affirm the truth before them.


Jesus knows that in the coming days

Peter will deny him,

 and the rest of the disciples will abandon him


but he also knows

 that when they hear the women on Easter morning exclaim

 ‘we have seen the Lord’

they will remember this moment

and they will listen for what comes next.


Most of a life of faith

 is lived in the valleys rather than on the mountain tops.


 If we’re lucky we’ll maybe experience

one or two transfigurations in a lifetime,

 moments of such clarity and connection to God

 that it can be no one else.


And then we have to head back down the mountain

 to regular life and the utter foolishness

 of how God chooses to act in the world


 and sometimes it will be too much

and we will deny Jesus or abandon him,


and then in the depths of our despair

Jesus will send someone,

fresh from their own encounter with God

to proclaim to us

 “I have seen the Lord’


and we will remember our experience on the mountain top,

and we listen for what comes next.

New life. Amen


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