I Kings 19:1-12
The Transfiguration of Christ
August 6, 2017
St. Paul’s Anglican Church
The Transfiguration is that most unique event in the Life of our Lord when His appearance became radiant (unbelievably bright) in the presence of Peter, James and John… when Moses and Elijah appeared in glory with Him… and when the commending Voice of the Almighty spoke from a cloud.
All three Scripture Lessons this morning speak of the Transfiguration – either directly or indirectly.
The Evangelist, St. Luke, informs us that Jesus took three of His Disciples with Him up into a mountain to pray. Many faithful scholars believe this is a reference to Mount Hermon, located just north of the region which today goes by the name Golan Heights – made famous (or infamous) through bitter fighting between modern-day Israel and Hezbollah forces.
The event is pinpointed as occurring eight days after Peter’s famous confession: Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. Not long thereafter, Jesus led the Twelve to Jerusalem where the events of Holy Week transpired.
While in prayer, we are told that Jesus was transfigured. Those distinguishing characteristics by which He was normally recognized were changed. As St. Luke describes, His appearance was altered. St. Matthew adds: His face shone like the sun. And borrowing the light from within, Jesus’ clothing became white as the light itself… glistening… dazzling white – to quote St. Mark: as no fuller on earth could bleach them!
In the glow of this transcendent glory, two men – Moses and Elijah, long departed and glorified – became plainly visible and were found talking with Jesus. We are told they were discussing His impending death in Jerusalem.
The weightiness of this glory and interface with “heaven” appealed to Peter. When he sought to seize it and to retain it, however, a bright cloud settled upon them all, obscuring the scene and probably dazing (bewildering) the disciples. From this cloud came the Voice of the Almighty: This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to Him.
When Jesus roused them, they looked about and saw only the Lord – for the remarkable display of glory had passed.
There are many observations and lessons for us this morning.
For example, we are told that Jesus was discussing his impending “decease” with Moses and Elijah. We think in terms of “death.” But the Greek word employed by St. Luke is exodus – which gives the conversation a whole different flavor and personality. Moses led a great multitude to freedom and the Promised Land at the exodus from Egypt! Jesus would do the same. In fact, the exodus from Egypt was a “type” pointing to the greater exodus which our Lord accomplished outside the walls of Jerusalem.
Then there is the interesting fact that the Almighty revealed Himself to Moses on a mountain (Mt. Sinai) when He gave the Decalogue… that He revealed Himself to Elijah on a mountain (also on Mt. Sinai) when he was running for his life from Queen Jezebel… and that He revealed Himself to three of the Apostles on a mountain as well!
To Moses, He entrusted the Ten Commandments – the thoughts of His Mind for our own benefit… and the benefit of mankind – that we not suffer not the sorrows that haunt the victims of lawless societies. The Church, I am sad to say, has set His Laws aside for more appealing and “marketable” replacements – such as the modern-day triplets self-help… self-realization… and self-actualization. This is pure Enlightenment thinking – following the famous dictum of its mouthpiece, Rene Descartes – cogito ergo sum… I think therefore I am. The seed of the Enlightenment began with man and ended with man… and was obsessed with man in between!
To Elijah, He entrusted the great truth read together this morning – that He is not found in the great storms of this world… nor in the earthquakes that shake His foundations… nor the fires that rage and destroy. But He may be found in reverent silence (or near silence)! When we listen for His still small voice and hear it… it makes everything else seem cheap and tawdry! Be still and know that I am God, wrote the psalmist of old. The Church, I am sad to say, has largely forgotten the holiness and the beauty of silence before Him… largely replacing it with man’s slick substitute – “enthusiasm” and its close cousin, noise (or as stated so beautifully in this morning’s collect: the disquietude of this world). And the LORD once again asks, “Who has required this of you? To trample my courts? Man likes glitz on the grandest of scales; the LORD does not!
And to the Apostles, the Eternal One entrusted His greatest self-revelation of all time! His Own Son – in His transfigured (glorified) state! God has revealed Himself, as the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews has stated, at many times and in many ways! But none matches what the Disciples saw and recorded for you and me in the lessons this morning! This is My Son… Hear Him were the unmistakable words of the Father.
I am sad to tell you what you already know. The Church which has received this incredible inheritance – the glory… and example… and the teachings of Jesus – has largely traded it for a mess of pottage! The focus is all too often on a diet of social gospel – how to make the world a “better place” (not a more Christian place, but just a nebulous “better” place). The focus is all too often on how to eliminate the very real problems of ignorance… poverty… and social injustice — quoting as authorities opinion polls… feelings… fire in the minds of men!
But not a word is found about the transfigured Christ and what should be our love and commitment to Him!
I am glad that we still celebrate Transfiguration here at St. Paul’s. Let us all keep at the core of our being such sacred things — the vision of the glorified Christ flanked by Moses and Elijah (representing the Law and the Prophets)… the voice of the Father inviting – commanding – us to hear (to obey) His Son!… and the reflex of St. Peter to build structures that it might be made permanent!
This vision carried Peter, James, and John across every hill and through every valley of life!
And it will carry us, too.
World without end. Amen.