Scriptures: 2 Kings 2:1-12 Mark 9:2-9
Let us pray: Holy God ~ You have called us to experience Your presence here ~ in this time and place. Having been bathed in Your light, help us to share that same light with everyone we meet. Amen.
Have you ever had one of those dramatic moments of truth? You know … those experiences that take your breath away … that leave you speechless … and that truly change you and the way you look at things for the rest of your life?
Of course, you have. We ALL have had those moments of unexpected revelation … when all you can do is smack yourself on the forehead and say: “Of course! NOW I get it!!” In the church, we call thee moments Epiphanies ~ that is: moments when we catch a glimpse of God revealed in the midst of the ordinariness of everyday life!
I think it is entirely appropriate that our Gospel reading is such a dramatic one … especially on this last Sunday of the Epiphany season. Think back with me to the beginning of this light-filled season.
• On Christmas Eve, we rejoiced with the shepherds who were bathed in a brilliant light and heard the angels’ message of God revealed in the world: “Unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Anointed One, the Lord.”
• Shortly after that, we traveled with the 3 Wise Men … who weren’t afraid to travel long distances and many, MANY, MANY days … following the light of a star that shone brightly in the distance … searching and ultimately finding God revealed in the form of a tiny human child.
• Not too long ago, we stood with the crowd at the edge of the Jordan River … watching as a man of the wilderness baptized Jesus with water … and as Jesus experienced the Father’s affirmation: “You are my Son, revealed for all the world to see.”
And so, we come to today’s reading from Mark. Jesus takes 3 of His disciples with Him … and they climb to the top of a high mountain. Which means that the view must have been spectacular! And, while they are there … Jesus is transfigured! That is, He is NOT changed in essence but was revealed in all of His glory. We hear that a brilliant light surrounded Him … so brilliant that EVEN His clothes were blindingly white. And, we hear that Peter and the other disciples were terrified. Well, wouldn’t you have been left speechless if not a bit terrified, too!?
I remember going to a Mountain Man Rendezvous many years ago. Kevin was only 6 months old and we were camping out with friends who wore buckskin and cooked over open fires and slept in tents. That night, as we crawled into our own tent, we were treated to a display of the Northern Lights. It wasn’t huge … but it was so amazingly colorful and brilliant that it literally left us speechless … EVEN ME! It was an experience that truly defined the presence of the sacred in the midst of our ordinary campsite.
Well, it must have been something like that for the disciples. Even before they can say anything, Moses and Elijah appear and stand next to Jesus ~ visibly tying Jesus to the Law and the Prophets. And Peter ~ terrified yet trying desperately to preserve this moment ~ blurts out: “OK Lord! We can make 3 dwelling places ~ one for each of you!” Sort of the equivalent of OUR trying to contain the Northern Lights in a glass box … to be preserved for eternity!
BUT , it is God’s voice, speaking from the cloud, that proclaims God revealed to the disciples: “This is MY Son … pay attention to everything that He says and does!”
TODAY is our last Sunday before we enter into the season of Lent. You know, just prior to their ascent up that mountain, Jesus had begun to prepare His disciples for His eventual suffering and death on a cross. In just a few days ~ specifically, on Ash Wednesday ~ we will begin our journey with Jesus … a journey that will take us:
• TO Jerusalem and the last week of His life.
• To the Upper Room and His Passover celebration with the disciples
• To Gethsemane, Golgotha, and to the tomb.
And, it is kind of cool for us … being in the “know” … and knowing that the disciples didn’t have a clue about the extent of what was to come. After all, their ministry with Jesus was fairly new … and rather exciting. With Jesus, they:
• Challenged the leading authorities and the status quo
• Performed miracles
• Changed lives and welcomed more disciples
In a very short time ~ with Jesus:
• They have witnessed change beginning to happen in a positive way
• They are exhilarated about what is happening and realizing that, with Jesus, this is only the beginning of something new and exciting in their lives and life in the world.
And, because they haven’t yet fully connected these events with “God revealed in their midst” … they cannot even begin to fathom that all of this might come to a crashing and abrupt end … OR what will happen to them when it does.
On this last Sunday of the Epiphany season, I invite you to stop and think about the things that have happened in our own lives … those blinding light moments when we have experienced God revealed in our midst and have been forever changed in the way that we see life and our world.
On the one hand, isn’t experiencing “God revealed” the essence of our worship. Think about it:
• In our hymns of praise and calls to worship, we acknowledge the life-changing presence of God revealed and our need for God among us.
• In our scriptures, we recall the faith or our ancestors and imagine our future.
• In Holy Communion, we remember the self-giving love of God.
• In our prayers, we give thanks for God’s blessings and cry out our needs.
• In our commission and blessing, we are charged to go forth and share our experience of God ‘revealed with others.
OK! That’s the ‘pastor-preachy’ part. But, in reality, if we are keeping our eyes wide open, we are constantly involved in the breath-taking experience of God revealed every single day. What are YOUR own personal Epiphany moments? For me, this happens when I:
• See the beauty of nature (daffodils popping out), including 2 beautiful photos Rev. Steve Hamilton sent me in a Get Well card.
• Cry of a newborn baby OR the raucous laughter of our youngsters
• Heard a church member say: I needed to be filled; so: I came to church!
• I held little Jaxon next door … whose brilliant smile over-shadowed the NG feeding tube taped to his cheek.
And when we have experienced these moments … like the disciples, we, too, want to revel and stay in that moment, don’t we? We want to stay and gaze on the glory of God revealed and hear the voice at the mountain-top.
But, what about when we descend from those mountain-top experiences … back into the ordinary routine of our everyday lives of work and school, home and schedules … of caring for loved ones and worrying about today and the future?
And, on top of it all ~ today is the last Sunday before we journey into Lent. And we resist that, don’t we? We much prefer the light and the up-beat music to the more somber reflections and darkness of this coming season.
Jesus knew that His passion and death would shake His disciples to their core. He wanted them to know that as dreadful as Good Friday would be, it was not the whole story. Because, beyond the cross lay the empty tomb and the glory of God revealed would be shared with all people of faith.
As He did for His disciples, Jesus draws back the curtain for us, too … and gives us a sneak peek at what God has in store for us in the future. Easter came just as Jesus said it would. New life sprang up. The powers of death could not hold back the power of resurrected life.
There are times in every human life when the days seems more like Good Friday than Easter. I don’t need to tell you that. You can fill in the blanks. We find ourselves asking with Jesus on the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” But in the face of all that, you and I have the promise that the resurrected One lives, and that we, too, live in Him and with Him and for Him in the beauty of His empty tomb.
Jesus was transfigured for us so that we might behold His glory, that we might see how ~ in God’s own good time ~ Jesus will rule all the nations of the world with truth and glory. We have God’s own word on it. God clearly said from the cloud that Jesus was trustworthy: He will not mislead you. He will go to the cross for you. Listen to Him; heed Him; follow Him ~ because He WILL lead us from the light of Transfiguration to the light of Easter … and beyond! Amen.