Transfiguration B: It Cannot Be Contained

Readings

  • 2 Kings 2:1-12
  • Psalm 50:1-6
  • 2 Corinthians 4:3-6
  • Mark 9:2-9
You can find the readings, in the CEB and NRSV translation, by clicking this link.

Sermon

The more we hear about the amazing things that Jesus did for the people around him, the more that Epiphany light is getting brighter and brighter.  We’ve skipped over eight chapters of Mark to get to today’s reading – and we will go back over them in the spring and summer.  For now, let me say that those ripples of light that I talked about last week are extending further and further from Jesus through all the people who begin to follow him from town to town, as he heals, preaches, and teaches about God’s love in those eight chapters.

Each story of Jesus interacting with people in every day circumstances is full of hope, love, and light.  In chapter 8 of the gospel of Mark we hear of how the Apostles and Jesus fed a massive crowd with seven loaves of bread and a few fish – a second time.

Later on, while the Apostles are in a boat trying to figure it all out, Jesus says to them:

Don’t you grasp what has happened? Don’t you understand? Are your hearts so resistant to what God is doing? 18  Don’t you have eyes? Why can’t you see? Don’t you have ears? Why can’t you hear? Don’t you remember? [Mark 8:17b-18; CEB]

I’m trying to figure out whether or not the Apostles get it.

A few verses later, after Jesus heals a blind man, he asks the Apostles, “Who do people say that I am?”  And, they answer John the Baptist, Elijah, or other prophets.  And then Jesus asks them, “And what about you? Who do you say that I am?” – Peter blurts out, the Christ.  No one argues with that.

The argument comes when Jesus explains plainly what that title actually means: suffering, rejection, murder, and then to rise three days later.

Immediately after that argument – well, six days later – Jesus takes James, John, and Peter up a mountain.

And Transfiguration.

I don’t think we fully understand what that means.  The scripture tells us that:

He was transformed in front of them, and his clothes were amazingly bright, brighter than if they had been bleached white. [Mark 9:2b-3; CEB]

Thanks to some very funny Tide commercials[1] during the Superbowl, I’m giggling a little bit as I ponder what these words mean.

I have spent the season of Epiphany thinking about what would happen if the Light of the world was suddenly revealed all at once, instead of in small moments of great hope, love, and grace as Jesus reaches out to the people around him.  The only thing I can think of is something my ophthalmologist explained to me about a test I’m having done at the end of this month – a flash of bright light, really bright light, blinding light that will make you think you’ve lost the ability to see.  An interesting juxtaposition of the sighted being blinded by this transfiguration moment on that high mountain top when some six days earlier, Jesus gave sight back to a blinded man.

Still, Jesus appears in full glory, as he really is, before these three apostles – and if that weren’t enough, Moses and Elijah suddenly appear and begin speaking with Jesus.

As Peter, James, and John are standing on holy ground, they experience their own transformation.  I’m certain that even though the Apostles had stated that Jesus was the Christ, and had experienced and witnessed to all the ways God’s hope, love, and light had been shared along the way to this mountain – they were still trying to figure it all out, as they were in the boat.  It’s not an unfamiliar experience for us – even though we think something is true, our whole world can still be turned upside down when it is proven in what we see and experience.

I don’t think Peter’s words – “Rabbi, it’s good that we’re here. Let’s make three shrines—one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” [Mark 9:5; CEB] are opportunistic or entrepreneurial.  I think that it truly felt good to be in the presence of God.  I think these apostles are experiencing the fullness of God’s love for them, for the world, for all of creation.  And, out of love, Peter wants to honour and respect this holy experience by building shrines – marking this place as special for all people.  Maybe, even, so that others can experience it too.

Before anyone can agree or disagree, God speaks from a cloud – “This is my Son, whom I dearly love. Listen to him!” In the blink of an eye, Jesus is standing before them just as they have always known him.  And yet, also more.  So, the rabbi and the three Apostles head down the mountain to do what the Christ has come to do: suffering, rejection, murder, and then to rise three days later.

The whole story makes me wonder about our own transformation.

Even though we are told repeatedly that we are so dearly loved, forgiven, and blessed, I think our whole world still gets turned upside down when we knowingly experience God’s grace, mercy, hope, love and light in our lives.  As we are called to then shine our light into the world, I wonder how many of us try, like Peter, to take our own moments of ‘how good it is to be here.’

There is an attraction to lingering in that moment of God revealed.  I think each time God is revealed to the world, it is a holy moment, and it feels amazing to know the presence of God that intimately.  I think it’s life-altering to really hear God say, ‘You are my child, whom I dearly love,’ and to be aware of the fullness of God’s love for the world.  And, perhaps, out of love, we want to honour these holy experiences by building our own shrines – making specific places and buildings where one can experience God.  But, I wonder if we aren’t blinded if we linger too long.

Truthfully, God’s revealing happens everywhere and all the time, not in specific moments or specific places.  Transfiguration on this mountaintop is this incredible revealing of who Jesus is, and who Jesus is brings them all back down the mountain.

 “Down to where the rest of the disciples are, down to where we are, down to the challenges of life ‘here below,’ down to the problems and discomforts and discouragements that are part and parcel of our life in this world.”[2]

And, so we are invited to follow.  We are gifted with so many glimpses of the fullness of God all around us.  Experiencing God’s grace, mercy, hope, and love – God’s incredible light, we come back down, and go out, reminded of what we bear and carry with us as we do.

As we walk into the season of Lent, and as we confront our brokenness, our humanness, and our need for God revealed in our lives – may we bring with us the promise and glory that comes from what Christ came to do.  May each glimpse of God’s glory shine through us as we are sent out to be church, the body of Christ, everywhere and all the time.

Let us pray,
Holy and gracious God, we give thanks for all the blessings of this life.  Help us to hear when you call, see where you lead; May we respond to your prophets when they appear.  Loving God, fill those who suffer, struggle, or live in fear with your peace.  Comfort those who weep the broken the shattered the lost with your hope.  God of our desire, bless us that we may be a blessing to all we meet.  Amen. [Sunday Prayer: Epiphany 4, Terri C Pilarski, REvGalBlogPals]


Sermon Inspirations

  1. Rachael Keefe. “RCL: T-fig – Terror, Tabernacle, & Travel On” RCL Commentary: February 8, 2018.  RevGalBlogPals
  2. Karoline Lewis. “It Is Good To Be Here” Dear Working Preacher: February 5, 2018.  org
  3. David Lose. “Transfiguration B: Back Down the Mountain” Dear Partner: February 8, 2018.  …in the Meantime
  4. Todd Weir. “When The Light Breaks Out” Sermons: February 6, 2018.  With All My Soul

This week’s image is entitled, “Transfiguration,” created by Carl Bloch, in the 1800s.
The image is public domain, and is presented solely for education and admiration.  Reproduction from this page is discouraged.  You can find out more about the painting here, and the artist here.  The image has been modified for the purposes of this blog.


[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6gGXnE1Dbh0
[2] David Lose.  .  “Transfiguration B: Back Down the Mountain.”  Dear Partner: February 8, 2018.  …in the Meantime

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