The Feast of the Transfiguration (transferred) August 5, 2018

The Rev. Janet Campbell

THE FEAST OF THE TRANFIGURATION (transferred)  Year B

Exodus 34:29-35; Psalm 99; 2 Peter 1:13-21; Luke 9:28-36

 

Christ Episcopal Church

Tacoma, Washington

Sunday August 5, 2018

The Rev. Canon Janet Campbell

 

 

 

The Transfiguration of Jesus

is one of the Church’s major feast days

that falls on a particular calendar date:

August 6.

 

Because it is

(as they are called)

a feast of Our Lord,

it may be transferred

to the nearest Sunday,

the Lord’s Day,

so the whole assembly

can celebrate it together.

 

The gathering prayer and readings

for the Sunday

are replaced with

the assigned prayer and readings

for the Feast.

 

And so it is today.

 

We actually encounter the

story of the transfiguration

on another Sunday every year,

for it always concludes the

season of Epiphany . . .

 

the season that focuses on

events revealing

the divinity of Jesus

hidden within his humanity:

the visit of the Magi,

the baptism of Jesus,

the changing of water to wine . . .

 

culminating

with the transfiguration.

 

On that Last Sunday of Epiphany

we hear the version

according to the gospel

we are reading that year:

 

Matthew, Mark or Luke . . .

the story

appears in all three.

 

Jesus,

revealed on the mountain

as

God’s beloved Son,

and

the culmination of Israel’s history

summed up in the presence of Moses and Elijah . . .

 

Moses, the giver of the Law,

Elijah, the greatest of the prophets.

 

Encouraged

by those ancestors in his faith,

Jesus turns

toward Jerusalem

and his inevitable death,

 

and the Church

begins our walk through Lent.

 

It is a transitional event

for Jesus –

a turning from his wandering ministry

of preaching, teaching and healing

 

to his provocative arrival in Jerusalem,

bearding

the enemies of his gospel

in their own den . . .

 

And it is a transitional Sunday

for the church

a turning from the season of epiphanies

 

to the season in which we

come to understand more deeply

the meaning of the cross,

the self-offering of Jesus,

the sacrifices required of his followers,

(the cost of discipleship

as Dietrich Bonhoeffer called it . . .)

 

the season that anticipates

its own transfiguration

into the glorious season of resurrection,

death transfigured

by the radiance of risen life

in the risen Christ.

 

 

But on the feast

that celebrates the Transfiguration,

tomorrow

(but transferred to today)

 

we might attend more

to the effect of the experience

on the disciples who participated in it . . .

Peter and John and James

 

and Jesus’ purpose in taking them

with him

when he went up the mountain to pray.

 

Up the mountain,

out of the “disquietude of this world”

as the opening prayer for the feast

somewhat quaintly puts it.

 

They did live in a world of disquietude . . .

 

a time of uncertainty, anxiety and fear:

 

their country suffering under crushing Roman rule;

their own morally bankrupt leaders

collaborating with Rome;

underground splinter groups

stirring up rebellion and insurrection . . .

 

while so many of the people of the land

were powerless, poor, lost . . .

 

in the words of Jesus in the gospel of two weeks ago,

“like sheep without a shepherd.”

[Mark 6.34]

 

And Peter, John and James

also carried with them

a growing anxiety about their strange

teacher and friend

whom they had followed for three years,

and

whose talk about himself and his mission,

and their own participation in it,

had grown increasingly darker and more puzzling . . .

 

 

 

Only eight days earlier,

speaking of himself,

he had said to his disciples,

 

“the Son of Man

must undergo great suffering,

and be rejected by the elders,

chief priests and scribes;

and be killed,

and on the third day be raised.”

[Luke 9:22]

 

What could that mean?

 

And he had added,

“If any want to become my followers,

let them deny themselves

and take up their cross daily

and follow me.

For those who want to save their life will lose it,

and those who lose their life for my sake will save it.”

[Luke 9:23-24]

 

What could that mean?

 

So Jesus took the three,

leaders in the company of his disciples,

up the mountain with him,

 

to prepare them

for the work that would become theirs

 

after his “departure

which he was about to accomplish in Jerusalem.”

 

The immediate effect of the experience,

the dazzling brilliance of Jesus’ face

and clothing,

the vision of Moses and Elijah,

the weight

of the divine glory

pressing upon them,

the overshadowing cloud . . .

was overwhelming.

 

And it would later became

a touchstone of their faith . . .

 

But when they went back down

the mountain,

the disquietude of the world

met them at its foot,

in the great crowd awaiting them

and a beseeching father

whose son was possessed by a demon.

 

Jesus healed the boy,

and while all were amazed and astounded,

took his disciples aside

and spoke again

of betrayal

and his impending death.

 

And even the three

who had been with him

on the mountain

could not take it in.

 

They simply could not reconcile

the glory they had seen in Jesus

with a destiny of betrayal and death.

 

Yet after his resurrection

and ascension,

 

when the disciples,

(the “followers”),

now the apostles,

(the “sent ones”)

 

when they were spreading

far and wide

the message

of Jesus

and of his resurrection . . .

 

Peter claimed

what he had seen and heard

on the mountain

as his authority

to teach and inspire

 

as is evident

in the passage from his Second Letter

that we heard today.

 

In the introduction to the letter,

Peter writes that

“[God’s] divine power has given us everything needed

for life and godliness,

through the knowledge of [Jesus]

who called us by his own glory and goodness.”

[2 Peter 1.3]

 

He urges his readers

to “support” their faith

with goodness,

and knowledge,

and self-control,

and endurance,

and godliness,

and mutual affection,

and love

 

that they may be

be effective and fruitful

disciples of Jesus Christ.

 

What he has told them,

and is telling them now,

is true . . .

 

“For we did not follow cleverly devised myths

when we made known to you

the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ,

but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty . . .

we were with him on the holy mountain.”

 

He writes

“to refresh [their] memory”

of these things,

 

so they will remember,

long past his own memory,

past his own death,

what was revealed

on the Holy Mountain . . .

 

the power and glory of God

afire in Jesus . . .

 

so that they

“ may be able at any time to recall these things.”

 

at any time of

uncertainty,

challenge,

difficulty,

hardship,

persecution.

 

“You will do well to be attentive to this,”

he tells them,

“as to a lamp shining in a dark place,

until the day dawns

and the morning star rises in your hearts. “

 

 

Few of Jesus’ followers down the centuries

have had the kind of definitive experience,

the kind of epiphany,

Peter had on that mountain.

 

A touchstone

which, when recalled,

renews and strengthens

a wavering faith.

 

 

Yet there is available to all

a participation

in the power and glory

revealed on the mountaintop

 

and present among us

on the mountaintop

of Sunday,

the Lord’s Day,

 

a participation

in the very life of Jesus,

present and revealed

in this assembly

in Word and Sacrament.

 

We come to this mountaintop

in this present time

of ever-increasing disquietude . . .

 

betrayed by a government

that fails to govern . . .

 

beset by the nastiness

emerging from the shadows

of our national life . . .

 

the very foundational principles

and institutions

of our country

under threat . . .

 

each day

bringing yet more

consternation and sadness . . .

 

and a creeping sense of futility.

 

 

We come apart from that disquietude

at the invitation of Jesus,

 

to pray, to lament, to worship,

to remember the gospel,

to see,

by the light of the gospel,

the hope that is ours

in Jesus . . .

 

to be strengthened to persevere  . . .

 

This is our touchstone,

this steady, determined participation

in that which gives us life . . .

 

this experience that sustains us

until the day dawns

and the morning star rises in [our] hearts. “

 

We may not feel it

fall into ecstasy as Peter, John and James did . . .

 

but feeling is not believing . . .

 

 

 

This experience

our ordinary,

yet extraordinary,

gathering for worship

is our touchstone . . .

 

this is Jesus’ purpose

in leading us here

and meeting us here . . .

 

That we may see revealed

who he is

and

who and whose we are:

 

recipients through

“[God’s] divine power [of ]everything needed

for life and godliness,

through the knowledge of [Jesus]

who called us by his own glory and goodness.”

 

By that epiphany

we are strengthened for

for the mission,

the work of the gospel,

that is ours . . .

 

to be in the disquietude

of this world

as signs

of

goodness,

and self-control,

and endurance,

and godliness,

and mutual affection,

and love . . .

 

to be signs

and doers

of these things.

 

 

 

 

 

 

website by Branded Look LLC   |   photos by Winfield Giddings