Category: Sunday Morning Sermon
Speaker: Rev. Wes Smith
Let's talk about unexplainable phenomena. It doesn't matter if you are scientifically minded. Doesn't matter if you're not. There are some things in this world that are unexplainable.
People report seeing ghosts, for one. I've never experienced this but who am I to judge? Even Martin Luther believed in spirits and ghosts, and who hasn't had their hair stand on end at some point? Bigfoot always tops the list! Are there any believers here? Who believes in the Lochness Monster - Nessie? Stonehenge is a headscratcher. Crop Circles are a popular topic - I've seen the movie Signs, but my expertise begins with the movie. Some find Deja vu intriguing. We all know what it's like to have the feeling like you've done something before. I've had that happen - yet it's impossible to comprehend. And to leave you with a big head scratcher, Google the Philadelphia Experiment. All these phenomena be it other-worldly apparitions, or Deja vu, are unexplainable. They are beyond our understanding. This morning's text is similar.
I'll be the first to admit that this passage from Luke is something of a head scratcher. What's obvious is that the Transfiguration is a momentous and pivotal event.
Today the hills are alive - but not with music. Once again Jesus and the disciples find themselves on a mountain, the place closest to God. True to form Jesus is praying. While this may seem like a small detail - it is significant. The account of the Transfiguration occurs in every gospel except John. Yet, Luke's account is the only one where Jesus prays.
In Luke's gospel - Jesus prays all the time. What's most important about those prayers is that they always signal a momentous event. Jesus' baptism - prayer. Before He chose the disciples - prayer. Feeding of the Thousands - prayer. Before healing people - prayer. And here we are this morning. Jesus is praying and some miraculous and unexplainable things occur.
Scripture tells us that Jesus' face changed. I've never known what to do with that. I don't know - did he get a haircut? A tan? Did he shave? We don't know. In some way His appearance changed, and His clothes became dazzling white.
And then, out of nowhere Moses and Elijah appear and begin speaking to Jesus. Why these two figures you might ask? Well, Moses represents the Law and Elijah the prophets. Not matter how you cut it; these two men were historical giants. That they were speaking with Jesus only further signaled Jesus' importance.
No, the hills are not alive with the sound of music, but rather mystery.
So why does this matter? Why does it matter that Jesus' appearance changed? Why does it matter that Elijah and Moses appeared and spoke with Jesus? And what points of contact and relevance are there for today's world and our lives. And the harder question, So what?
First - Jesus' appearance. I've already admitted my unknowing - but Luke gives us one big clue about why this change was significant. It is only in Luke's account where Jesus is said to have appeared in glory. This seeming innocuous phrase is anything but. You see, it draws an unmistakable line between Jesus and His passion predictions. In other words, the phrase appeared in glory signals to the reader that Jesus is in fact the Messiah, the one of whom Elijah spoke - the one coming in the clouds with great power and glory.
Let's shift to Moses and Elijah. They offer us a great point of connection.
Every week we pray for the saint - those of us who have died in the faith. You may not associate these two figures in that same light, but in many ways Moses and Elijah are exactly that - saints. They influenced multitudes and shared, as we do, in God's story of redemption and salvation. They were in a word - influential.
Take a moment and think of influential people from your lives? A life-long friend. A parent. Sunday School teacher. We can all point to figures, both past and present that have helped direct our lives and shape us.
Imagine that you were on the mount of Transfiguration. You climbed the mountain with Jesus, saw him change before your eyes, and then two influential figures from your past appear. How would you feel? Would you brush it off as an unexplainable event? Would you believe your eyes?
I'm going to generalize here: we long to see the saints. We long to see those who have gone before us in the faith and who had given their lives in service to others and God.
But there are also those saints we really long for - our loved ones.
Those for whom ailments wouldn't keep us from, those people anxiously waiting on Jordan's bank.
We long to see the saints - but until that time we follow their lead. We influence others - We pass along the faith - We live for others.
And while we can't experience God's Kingdom in a raw and unfiltered way the Mount of Transfiguration is a foretaste of the feast to come. Moses and Elijah remind us that we get to be a part of God's story, too!
That brings us to the most relatable section of this passage. Being weary! Y'all know anything about that? I've always been drawn to the weariness Peter, James, and John experienced.
To varying degrees, we all understand weariness. We know what it is to be tired. We understand the demands of life. Yet, here comes Jesus, demanding ever so lovingly that we offer our coats, food, and drink to the poor, and forgive those who hate us. Who has the energy?
I've told you this story before, but it is a good one. One of my favorites.
There was once a young teenaged German girl who attended dinner with her family at a friend's house. While dinner was being served the host rounded the table with a bottle of wine and poured it into each guest's glass. When the host arrived at the teenaged girl, she placed her hand above the glass to indicate that she couldn't drink.
(If you've ever been to a German dinner, you know that everyone has at least a little!)
The host was taken aback but continued on. A little later the host returned and offered wine again, but the young girl once again refused. Then after dinner, the host tried once more, to no avail.
The girl's hand once again hovered above the glass.
Here's the neat part. Each time the girl refused the wine, the host went into the wine cellar and dug out better and better wine.
The girl was trying to say that she wasn't allowed to drink wine, but the host took this mean that she would only drink the best he had to offer.
That's a good host. That's Jesus.
When Jesus calls us to follow Him and forgive those who sin against us, He is offering us a chance to have our glass filled with love and grace.
At the end of the day, Jesus is the one who gives us the Spirit and energy to live lives of love and service, because when we serve our hearts are filled. When we provide for the less fortunate, we are blessed.
And here is the unexplainable grace we receive even when we place our hands above the glass, even when we refuse God's love - He keeps coming back again, and again, and again - each time with more love and more grace!
So, who has the energy? Jesus. Who gives us the energy and drive? Jesus. As people of God we are called to proclaim the good news of salvation and we are called to serve the poor. The saints understood this and every day our Lord beckons us to follow and join in the work that has already begun with our Lord's death and resurrection. Ministry is not for the faint of heart. It takes you into unknown territories, it causes you to experience the unexplainable nature of God's grace. And it provides joy gives peace, and it transforms.
You know - It could be that I'm somewhat jealous of Peter, James, and John! They saw God's Kingdom in a way we can't. They saw Jesus in His glory. Saint Paul tells us that we see through a glass darkly - and that we know only in part. And that's the mystery we are steeped in today.
The Mount of Transfiguration will remain a mystery until we're face-to-face with God. Until then, I rest happy knowing that this passage calls me, calls us to live into our baptismal calling. We are to carry on the work of our forerunners, to proclaim Jesus through word and deed, gladly proclaim God's love. So, this day, sit in the mystery, it's okay to not have all the answers - what matters is that we are held in God's hands, and that's the only answer I need.