THE TRANSFIGURATION OF OUR LORD, 1-21-2018
Luther Memorial Chapel, Shorewood, Wisconsin
Rev. Michael Larson
This morning we come to the climax of the Epiphany season in which we have the feast day of the Transfiguration. This morning we see Jesus take Peter, James, and John, his first three disciples up upon a mountain. At the top of this mountain they see Jesus. His clothing is white. His face is shining bright than the Son. Glorious light is pouring from his body.
At the top of this mountain Jesus is joined by the two VIP’s of God’s OT people. Moses, the supreme law-giver who represent the first five books of the Bible. And also Elijah, who is the prophet par-excellence, who represents all of the prophets who spoke of the Messiah – the Savior of the world who would save us. This morning we have the whole Bible represented in these three men. And these men are having a conversation and speaking of what is to come. Moses and Elijah are conversing with Jesus about the completion of God’s plan.
That Jesus will be handed over to be crucified, to die for the sins of the world, and to be raised on the third day – thus putting an end to death and delivering forgiveness of sins and everlasting life to all believers.
And up on this mountain the disciples are loving every moment. They are having a spiritual mountaintop experience – all is going right – they are with God – hanging out with Moses and Elijah and things are looking good. So good that Peter wants to have a camping party and make three tents – and stay there.
As Peter was still speaking, the Scriptures say “a bright cloud overshadowed them, and God the Father spoke from the cloud saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”
The disciples, terrified by the holy presence of God, hit the deck and throw themselves on their faces in fear.
They fell on their faces and were terrified. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only. No Moses, no Elijah. Jesus the face of Christ, stooping down to lift them up.
Jesus tells them not to tell anyone of the vision until after He is raised from the dead. They quietly descend down the mountain and the slow journey starts to another mountain – high up on the mount of Golgotha where all things will be made new.
Today we observe the feast day of the Transfiguration. But what does it all mean? The scriptures point out this morning that the Transfiguration is on the sixth day. If you remember from Genesis it was the day that God has made man. This was the first time God did not say it was good but said for the very first time “It is very good.” He created man to live forever in paradise, created man from the dust of the ground to live, worship, and have pure delight in the presence of God for eternity.
But paradise was short-lived. For God did not create man from the dust of the earth just to stick him right back in it. It was not long before we turned away from his life-giving Word and death entered in. Ever since, humanity has been languishing in the curse caused by our own sin. We are all growing old and weak from our sins. Marriages are fractured, our backs are sore, our eye sight is getting worse. Even in our relationships we so often grow cold and callous. There is death and funerals and tears everywhere.
The Transfiguration takes place on the sixth day to show up what our future looks like. Jesus is shining like the Sun to show us what God’s plan for us is. Because quite frankly, you don’t shine like the sun. You’ve rained on more than your fair share of parades. You can be dark, dim, and cold to those whom God has called you to love the very most. Your appearance isn’t dazzling like the transfiguration because sins sully our own appearances. We are not adorned in dazzling white but have been horribly damaged by the darkness of sin and the blackness of our own cold hearts.
That is why Moses and Elijah are encouraging Christ to press on – to fulfil the entire Scriptures by reversing the curse of sin which has marred man’s existence since that dreadful day. So this morning we see the dazzling presence of Christ – shining brighter than the sun – clothes white as light. All to show us what we too will look like when this valley of tears is ended and God ushers us into his presence when He comes again.
But before we can be transfigured like Christ, first he needs to be disfigured by sinful man. This transfigured sinless Son of God must be disfigured by our sins. He must carry our sorrows, bear our shame, and be beaten and marred beyond human semblance. Bearing the curse for rebellious and sinful man. He must take our cold callous hearts and in exchange give us his heart of gold. He must be disfigured at the cross – until as the scriptures say he appeared as a worm and not a man. With no semblance or beauty that we should desire him. A man to whom people would look away from.
He must be left in a tomb for our sake. To rob death of its power. To burst open the gates of hell and to disfigure Satan until he has lost all power over the sons and daughters of God. And he rises victoriously on the third day, destroying death, and showing us what our future will look like.
The transfiguration points to the cross and resurrection which is the fulfilment of everything that Moses and Elijah ever spoke of. From the Red Sea of his blood we are delivered. And death passes over. Jesus is our bread from heaven. He is our fiery chariot ride. Now that Christ has come nothing else matters – Moses and Elijah fade into the distance and all we see is Christ – our Joshua, Yahweh, the Lord God.
Just like, St. Peter who threw himself down in fear at the Transfiguration, Christ knows all the things that terrify you. He knows how afraid and faithless you can be. Like Peter, Jesus knows what a fair-weathered disciple you are. But He is still with you.
The risen Christ speaks the same words to you this morning that he spoke to Peter. He says to you “don’t be afraid.” Your future is good and it’s secure. Your sins are forgiven. You life has been redeemed. Trust in me…I will lift you up on the last day”
Even though you can’t see through the clouds of confusion caused by the troubles and changes of this dying world, you should nevertheless see Christ. Like Peter you may gaze at the loving face of your Savior. A Savior who goes to hell and back to claim you as his own. And this morning he reaches out to you to feed you gifts from heaven. To give you himself and all that he is – His righteousness – His innocence – His blessedness – His holy body and blood. Everything God could possibly give you He does. He calls you His own.
And the Father speaks the same words to you that he speaks to His Son. You are my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased.
And just like the disciples we can head down the mountain to our ordinary lives – knowing that someday – when our work is done. We too will shine like the sun in His glorious kingdom. In the name of Jesus. Amen.
Prayer of the Church
Let us pray for the whole Church of God in Christ Jesus and for all people according to their needs.
For the baptized, that we would heed our heavenly Father’s admonition to listen to His Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, as He speaks to us through His Holy Word and Sacraments; and that we would, by grace, through faith, behold Him in His glory as He continues to tabernacle among us, delivering forgiveness, life and salvation through the same, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
For those who are called and ordained to serve in Christ’s stead and by His command, that all their preaching and teaching would flow from the right understanding that all Holy Scripture testifies of Christ and all that He has done, and continues to do, for our eternal salvation, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
For all those who have been placed in authority over us, including Donald, our president; Scott, our governor; and all those who make, administer and judge our laws, that they would serve with integrity and honor, having the welfare of all in mind; and for our country, that division, conflict and strife would give way to unity, peace and quietness, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
For the Lord’s flock here at Luther Memorial Chapel, that we would be granted faithfulness, humility and patience in our various vocations, striving to love God and neighbor in all that we say and do, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
For those who mourn, especially the family of John Burfeind at the death of Robert, his father, that they would be comforted by the sure and certain hope of the resurrection, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
For all the schools of the Church, for all who teach and learn in them, and for all who support them during this National Lutheran Schools Week and always. Raise up faithful teachers and directors of Christian education who are equipped to assist parents in nourishing children in faith and preparing them for life in this world, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
For those who come to the holy altar this day to receive the Holy Eucharist of Christ’s very body and blood, that receiving the forgiveness of sins, they would be strengthened in faith toward You and in fervent love toward one another, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
For Moses, Elijah, Peter, James, John and all the saints who have fallen asleep trusting in our Savior’s promises, let us give thanks to the Lord; that we would be kept in this same faith and brought to behold with them the fullness of Christ’s glory in His Kingdom, which has no end, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
All this we pray in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Through Him, with Him and in Him, O God, almighty Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is Yours, forever and ever. Amen.