Sunday, Feb. 15, 2015
Christ Lutheran Church – Manchester, PA
God’s Glory Revealed
What happens when you pray, when you connect with God? Are you transformed? Do you visibly reflect God’s glory? Our gospel today says that is exactly what happened to Jesus. For quite some time, Jesus has been traveling with the disciples teaching, preaching, healing and praying. He does a lot of that. Mark tells us when Jesus was baptized that he heard God say, “You are my Son, the Beloved, with you I am well pleased.” But today the disciples hear this voice from God. “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!”
Listening is important. Jesus pointed out to the disciples the importance of listening and not simply hearing. He said, “Do you have ears, and fail to hear?” They didn’t understand what Jesus was telling them because they weren’t really listening. They had many conversations with Jesus, but their ears weren’t really open to the truth he was revealing to them. He was performing miracles, but they still didn’t see who Jesus was right before their eyes. That’s why prior to our reading today Jesus asked the disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” If their eyes and ears were truly open it would have been easy for them to answer this question. Peter said Jesus was the Messiah, but he didn’t really get what that meant. Because Peter didn’t understand the kind of Messiah that Jesus was. He wanted a powerful Messiah who would lead the people to victory not to the cross. The disciples didn’t understand who Jesus truly was and what his mission was all about.
So Jesus took Peter, James and John up with him to a high mountain. And what happens on that mountain is so unfathomable that the disciples are terrified. They can’t even speak. The power that Jesus has been revealing in casting out demons and healing the sick is now fully revealed. One minute Jesus is the teacher the disciples think they know and the next minute……Jesus is on fire with the glory of God. His face was changed and His clothes were dazzling white. It didn’t even look like Jesus anymore! This was no magic trick, no special effects, this was a real transformation – a transfiguration! Jesus was changed from one form to another right there in front of the three disciples! They got to see who Jesus truly was!
And it didn’t end there. Suddenly – Peter, James, and John see the prophets Moses and Elijah talking to this radiant Jesus! Glory surrounded all of them and Peter, James, and John are in awe. They don’t want this moment to ever end. Peter suggests to Jesus that they make three dwelling places or booths for each of them. One for Jesus, one for Moses, and one for Elijah. Now maybe Peter was thinking about the Festival of Booths when he spoke about building three separate booths. The festival that the Israelites erected every year in remembrance of the exodus.
But maybe it was because Jesus had recently talked about his own departure, about going to Jerusalem and suffering and dying and Peter didn’t want this to happen. So if Peter built a booth for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah maybe he could keep Jesus there. Maybe he could still prevent Jesus from going to Jerusalem where he would suffer and die. He still didn’t understand who Jesus was.
The disciples heard Jesus speak of who he was, but they didn’t listen. There is a difference between the two. Hearing is about the mechanics of one’s ear picking up the sound. Listening is to take the words to heart and try and understand them. This is why the voice of God spoke, “Listen to him!” Listening requires a lot more energy, a lot more devotion. But the disciples weren’t listening. They wanted that glorious moment, that mountaintop experience to last forever.
I can understand how Peter felt. Mountaintop experiences can be pretty amazing and you don’t want them to end. I’ve been to the top of a few mountains. The tallest was Pikes Peak in Colorado – 14, 110 feet up – and standing at the top what a view awaited me! Looking out over four states it felt like I was on the top of the world. And NH has almost 150 mountains. I’ve been to the top of one of them – Mount Washington twice so far– not quite as tall as Pike’s Peak, but the tallest mountain in the northeast. At 6288 feet up it may not be the tallest, but it does boast the world’s worst weather with the highest recorded wind speeds of over 231 miles per hour being recorded there. (Our winds today don’t seem quite so bad compared to that do they!) It’s covered in fog 60% of the time, but on a clear day your view stretches from the Atlantic Ocean in the east, across VT to the NY Adirondack Mountains in the west, to Canada in the north and MA to the south. It’s a glorious view. There’s something about being high up on the top of a mountain that changes your whole perspective on things. And standing there on the summit, you don’t want to leave.
But we weren’t meant to stay on the top of the mountains forever. Not even Jesus stayed on the mountaintop. He had to go down. He had to go down where the real ministry awaited Him. Down from the mountain people were awaiting Jesus’ healing. Down from the mountain people were waiting to be delivered. Down from the mountain people were in need of transformation, in need of a transfiguration just like Jesus. And Jesus heard the cries of the people in need of transformation and that is why he came down. He heard their pain. He heard their suffering. He heard their prayers. Jesus came into this world because God heard the cries of people in need of transformation. Jesus’ mission on earth is a response from a God who listens.
We as disciples are to continue Jesus’ mission here on earth. And we begin this mission by listening. We listen first to God through prayer. It is prayer that changes our whole perspective on things because we can see the view through God’s eyes. When Moses spoke with God on Mount Sinai his face was visibly changed. It was shining from the reflection of the glory of God, just like Jesus at His transfiguration. Moses was changed – changed to bring the message of God to God’s people.
Can we not expect the same transformation through our encounters with God in prayer? We don’t have to go to a mountaintop to pray, but prayer can lead us to a mountaintop experience. We do not have to hide or veil ourselves from God. We can pour out our deepest longings, our deepest desires before God. But most importantly, we can listen. Prayer is more than just speaking to God, it is being still and listening for the voice of God. It takes time. Like any deep and meaningful relationship it requires spending time with that person. And one person can’t do all the talking. Each person needs to share the communication. So often in our communication with God we tend to do all the talking and rarely listen. God is speaking. God is speaking to us and through us. God wants us to see people as God sees them. God wants to love others through us. God wants to heal people through us. God wants to transform people through us. Authentic, honest, heart-felt prayer bridges the gap between God and humanity. It transforms us to visibly reflect God’s glory and transform others.
Like the disciples, there are times when we are given that rare moment to see God’s glory revealed like Jesus at the transfiguration. Moments when God is so visibly evident that it brings tears to our eyes and we can hardly bear such grace. I’ve witnessed it …..at the birth of a child when at that moment time stands still and the glory of God is revealed in that small face, a reflection of God’s face.
I’ve witnessed it when people who have been holding on to hurt and grief for years somehow through the grace of God find it in their hearts to let it go and move forward. They put aside their past hurts, and see their life as a gift from God, too precious to waste another minute worrying or blaming others or feeling hopeless. They begin anew – reborn. It’s an overpowering moment of God’s glory.
And I witnessed it last night as I walked into the fire hall to a room of hundreds of people all there for one purpose, to reveal God’s glory. Yes, you all listened to the cries of the hungry in this community and so for 15 years you have been the answer to their prayers through the Valentine’s Day Dinner/Auction to raise money for the Northeastern Food Pantry. You have worked tirelessly for something beyond yourselves. You have given of your time and energy and money to help those in need. I know many of you have been dealing with illness, and surgeries, and grief, and yet that hasn’t stopped you because the Holy Spirit gave you the strength and will to do this. God’s glory was revealed last night in that fire hall and it moved me.
It moved me because through the clouds, and the darkness you heard God speaking; you listened and you responded. It was a mountaintop experience where God’s glory was revealed. Yet….we cannot stay there. Like Jesus and the disciples must go down from the mountain and continue the work of discipleship. And we listen. We listen for the voice of the Holy Spirit to guide us forward. We listen for the words of the Holy Spirit to tell us what needs to be done next. We listen for the breath of the Holy Spirit to blow through us and among us as we get ready to leave our mountaintop experiences and prepare for the season of Lent.
God said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, listen to him!” Listen to him when he says he is going to the cross. Lent takes us to journey to the cross, not as a time to suffer, but as a time to experience what it was that Jesus went through so that we would live an abundant life. God’s glory was revealed on that mountaintop at the transfiguration. God’s glory was revealed through Jesus on the cross. And God’s glory is revealed through the darkness and clouds in our lives. God’s glory was revealed through the humanness of Jesus and God’s glory can be revealed through our humanness. The glory of God that shone unexpectedly on the mountaintop that day will shine unexpectedly in the least likely of places. Be ready. Be prepared. For that same glorified Jesus came down from that mountain and is with us in the valleys. Amen!