Sunday, February 14th, 2021 (Epiphany 6)
(Rev Jeanette Hamer - Minister)
The Transfiguration of Christ
(Related Bible readings can be found here)
May I speak in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen
It was quite a long walk, going up the mountain. We struggled at times, keeping up with the Master. He led us up with a very purposeful step,a man on a mission you could say,
determined to reach the top.
He hadn’t told us why we were going up here, or even why he had chosen only the three of us from the twelve; just me, Peter and the other two, James and John.
There was no-one else going that way either, we were the only ones when we reached the top.
It was good to stop the climb and take a breather. The view was stunning and we turned around looking at how far we could see.
That’s when we noticed the difference in Jesus, it was as if he was changing in front of us.
His appearance was altering; don’t get me wrong, it was still Jesus but in some ways it wasn’t.
As we watched, dumbfounded into silence, he seemed to begin to glow, as if a radiance shone from him, through him out towards us. His clothes looked so white, it was painful to look at the dazzling brightness.
Suddenly, we realised we were no longer alone, for two others had joined us. It was so strange, we had never met them before but we knew exactly who they were. Deep inside we knew
we were looking at Moses and Elijah.
Moses, who brought God’s Law to his people, his chosen ones and
Elijah, the Prophet, who brought them God’s word.
And they were talking to Jesus, as if they were old friends! They recognised each other and were in deep, serious conversation. I don’t know what they were saying to him, but he was listening intently and replying. Why were they here? What did they want? What were we supposed to be doing? Should we be joining in with them? Somehow, though, we felt we were not part of this.
I stepped forward, I felt we should do something, and almost stuttering told the three how wonderful it was that we were part of this experience. I mean, I didn’t really know what to say and then rather stupidly I said, ‘shall I build you all tents to sit in?’ Sometimes, I say things before I really think it through. We didn’t even have the resources with us to build anyway!
Before anyone could reply, I realised that the sky was clouding over, just where we were standing. It was if the cloud was hovering above us, stopping above our heads.
There was something about that cloud, as if it had to be there, for that very moment.
That was when we heard the voice, a voice that almost demanded we pay attention to it.
It was not a voice of anger, but it held authority. It was not a harsh voice and within its tones there was love and gentleness, but it spoke with purpose.
‘This is my own dear Son, listen to him.’
And then the cloud was gone! The sun was shining bright again in the sky, as if the cloud had never been there. The cloud was not the only thing that had gone, for when I looked to see if others had heard the voice too, I realised that Moses and Elijah had gone. There was only the three of us and Jesus left.
The radiance had left him, his clothes were no longer dazzling bright but there was a serenity about him, as if the incident had deeply affected him and given him a peace,
a kind of strength to carry on.
We turned from the top of the mountain, to start the long walk down. We didn’t talk about what we had seen, what we had heard and how we had felt but Jesus only said this.
“Don't tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has risen from death.”
Strange words, we thought, but we did as we were asked, not wanting to talk about him dying, although it seemed to be on his mind a bit lately. It was only after his trial, crucifixion and resurrection did the pieces of the jigsaw finally slot into place. We could see why this mountain top experience had happened and knew what it had taught us.
Up on the heights, we had seen a glimpse of the deity of Christ.
We experienced his glory, shining from him, diminishing even Moses and Elijah;
he was more than these, he was and is the Son of God.
They were signs of the old covenant; Moses the great lawgiver and Elijah the great prophet, standing there together with Jesus, supporting him as he moved forward to create a new and better covenant with God for us all.
Looking back, this event deeply affected those of us that were there with him;
something became etched clearly in our minds and we changed our perception of Jesus;
it was then we realised, he was Christ the Messiah.
And those words from on high,
‘This is my son, my beloved with whom I am well pleased.’
These words were also heard at his Baptism in the River Jordan, but this time there are the added words,
‘Listen to him.’
It was a really important instruction for us.
Jesus words, his teachings, were important, we should listen and learn from him.
This was especially important for me, Peter, as I always struggled to listen and learn!
Jesus would go on to say to me, when he called me Peter or Cephas, his Rock and not Simon,
that he would build his Church on me. Peter the Fisherman, the uneducated man of the sea,
used by God and through the power of his Spirit, spread his light in the darkness of our world.
The transfiguration is a source of our Christian confidence now, in our day, in 2021;
the glory witnessed there promises to us the glory of all God’s creation in the great day to come.
Our experience with Christ is more than a personal one.
Jesus led his disciples down from the top and straight into the work of ministry, the work of the new covenant. We, who recognise the divinity of Christ, are also called to follow and obey.
To be witnesses with the disciples and to minister with authority, faith and zeal,
we need to see and worship him in the glory of his divinity.
We need to see Jesus as he is now, today; sitting on the throne of heaven,
otherwise it is the Jesus of yesterday we are following, disguised as an itinerant teacher.
Is it the true King we worship, or his shadow from the past?
The Suffering servant from the prophecies is now the ruler of creation.
We are called to gaze deeply into the face that shines like a sun and to know the ascended Christ in all his heavenly glory. Do you know and love the Master?
This experience on the mountain top is for all of us, to acknowledge him in his rightful place and as his followers carry the message of his kingdom forward, strengthened by the Holy Spirit.
In a way, Paul experienced a mountain top experience, when he came face to face with the overwhelming divinity of Christ, in the light on the Damascus road.
In that moment, he recognised that the Jesus whose followers he was persecuting
was indeed the Son of God, the promised Messiah.
In his second letter to the Corinthians, read to us earlier, he refers to the
‘light that comes from the Good News about the glory of Christ, the exact likeness of God.’
We are called to share this light, to share how we have seen it, how it has changed us,
how it has strengthened us through the Holy Spirit.
Paul reminds us that it is not us, but Christ himself that spreads his light in the world through us. There is so much evil in the world around us, it is such a place of darkness, and Satan likes to keep people from seeing the healing light that God offers them,
‘the good news of the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God.’
Do you remember the words of the Great Commission?
The instructions that Jesus gave his Disciples when he left them to ascend back to his Father in heaven? These words, taken from Matthew 28,
“ Jesus drew near and said to them,
“I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth.
Go, then, to all people everywhere and make them my disciples:
baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you.
And I will be with you always, to the end of the age.”
In a few moments, we shall gather around the table of the Lord, we shall have the opportunity to meet with him. To look at his face of love, shining with God’s glory. A light that can pierce the darkness of our world, a light that can pierce any darkness in our soul.
Hear his voice, saying to you,
‘This is my body, broken for you, this is my blood, shed for you.’
And having met with him, let us turn and re-face the world, coming down from the mountain top, asking God to give us grace to follow him forward in extending his kingdom here on earth.