Transfiguration Sunday is not necessarily the most commonly known celebration in the Christian tradition. Many churches don’t celebrate the transfiguration of Jesus, or if they do, not annually or according to the liturgical calendar. To be fair, we in this congregation don’t always honor Transfiguration Sunday every year.
I am careful not to use “insider” language during our worship gatherings so that persons new to a faith community don’t get lost in unfamiliar words and phrases. “Transfiguration” can feel like a mysterious religious word with little relevance today. But perhaps the story told here continues to have meaning. Perhaps the idea of transformation is exactly what we’ve been searching for.
Matthew 17:1-9 (CEB)
1Six days later Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and brought them to the top of a very high mountain. 2He was transformed in front of them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as light.
3Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Jesus. 4Peter reacted to all of this by saying to Jesus, “Lord, it’s good that we’re here. If you want, I’ll make three shrines: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
5While he was still speaking, look, a bright cloud overshadowed them. A voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son whom I dearly love. I am very pleased with him. Listen to him!” 6Hearing this, the disciples fell on their faces, filled with awe.
7But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” 8When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.
9As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Don’t tell anybody about the vision until the Human One is raised from the dead.”
Consider these questions:
- Have you ever had a mountain top experience? What was it like? How did it improve your relationship with God? With others?
- What does it mean that Jesus was “transfigured”? How might that have changed how the disciples viewed Jesus?
- Why might Peter’s reaction to Jesus’ transfiguration and the appearance of Elijah and Moses have been to make three dwellings?
Post-Worship Update on 2/25
Audio from the sermon can be heard below, and video can be found at this link (will open in a new tab).
Sunday’s message on the Transfiguration (or “transformation” depending on the translation being read) invited us to consider our reaction to the most outlandish of circumstances. How would we respond to a vision of something unexpected to the point of supernatural?
Like the disciples who were present, it feels natural to respond out of (perhaps misguided) instinct as Peter did. It may feel natural in such a circumstance to be filled with wonder and awe and even fear, to feel unstable or weak in the knees.
For me, it is far less natural to pay attention to the touch of God when I am most afraid. It is far less natural to remember the gentleness of God’s voice. It is far less natural to remember that Jesus is what I need. Instead, my tendency is to withdraw and to rely only what I think I can control.
But if we are going to be humble, we must recognize that it is Christ to whom we must look; it is Christ on whom we must rely. This is God’s son, the beloved! Listen to him!
Consider these questions:
- The voice from heaven says something similar to what is said at Jesus’ baptism, except that, “Listen to him!” is added. Why do you think this is added? What do you think it means for the disciples? For us?
- Verse 8 notes that when the disciples looked up, there was no one except Jesus. How is that all they needed? How is that all we need?