Pastor Michael Frye:
A little boy was out in his front yard throwing a ball up in the air.
A passerby asked the boy what he was doing.
“I’m playing catch with God,” he said.
“I throw the ball up in the air and God throws it back.”
Of course, you and I know that it is the law of gravity that is throwing the ball back; but the little boy’s understanding that God has that kind of relationship with him could teach us something about the significance of Transfiguration Sunday.
Jesus took the three disciples up the mountain for a mysterious encounter with his Father in heaven.
Of course, the disciples had no clue what was taking place, but it was becoming clear to them that God was in this place and that Jesus was clearly more than they had thought him to be.
Peter’s reaction to this event to build three dwellings or booths certainly was in keeping with his understanding that this mystery had to be memorialized.
But it was countered by God’s voice coming from the cloud: “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!”
Peter’s desire to stay on that mountain was circumvented by Jesus’ command to go to the valley below where he must fulfill his mission to give his life for the sake of humanity.
Peter and the others would not understand Jesus’ drive toward Jerusalem until after his resurrection, but they were beginning to understand that following Jesus would require great sacrifices on their part, as well.
David Leininger contrasts being on the mountain with that of going into the valley:
“On the mountain, we encounter almighty God; in the valley, there is an encounter with the demonic.
“On the mountain we encounter our faith’s heritage; in the valley we encounter those who consider questions of faith as occasions for battle.
“On the mountain, God’s calming voice is heard; in the valley, human argument is heard….
“On the mountain, the glory of God is revealed; in the valley, the power of sin and unbelief is revealed.
“O lord, carry me away to the mountain,’ might be our prayer.
But then we remember the place of our ministry is with those who need our help down in the valley.”
Jesus’ journey to the cross is ours, as well.
His mission among the poor, the needy, and those on the edge of society is also our mission.
We are not promised that our journey with Jesus will be a comfortable one; we expect that there will be challenges and hardships along the way.
Rodney Hunter surmises that:
“The Transfiguration story is a call to affirm the ultimate truth that there is no place in God’s kingdom for domination, exploitation, greed, and deception.
“It is a call to affirm God’s way of salvation, and to begin living God’s way with all our heart, soul, and strength in the confidence that Jesus’ nonviolent way is truly the way of salvation, healing, and eternal life.”
Like Peter, we may have a tendency toward building monuments and bask in the glory of Jesus.
Jesus’ mission was not to put the spotlight on himself or his disciples, but to glorify his Father in heaven and point to God’s coming reign on earth.
Therefore, Christians are not called to exhibit a passive love that simply tries to be good and avoid evil.
Our love must be active and vibrant in a way that reflects the love and compassion of our Lord.
Milton Jones says that Church is a bit like being a member of a gym. Some people like the idea of going but don’t; others go, but aren’t really training for anything; and some actually use it to help them with the race they are running.
In his second letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul says:
“For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as slaves for Jesus’ sake.
“For it is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
The Transfiguration of Jesus is celebrated just a few short days prior to the beginning of Lent as a reminder that Jesus was on a mission to suffer and die for the salvation of the world.
Lent is more somber in nature as Christians contemplate our own sinfulness and failure to be obedient to the will of God.
However, today is quite different in its contrast between the two religious events.
On this day we celebrate Christ’s divinity as revealed by God on that mountain; we celebrate that although the disciples still hadn’t quite figured out who Jesus is, they trusted Jesus enough to follow him down that mountain path into an uncertain future, not yet fully realizing that Jesus would keep his promise to rise from the dead.
It is significant that today will be the last day that we use the word “Alleluia” in worship until Easter Sunday.
It is ceremoniously buried to symbolize the sacrificial side of Jesus’ mission on earth.
That doesn’t mean that there can be no joy in our lives during this coming season of fasting, self-examination, and contemplation.
But it does mean that our joy is in serving and honoring our Lord, even gladly making sacrifices on his behalf, knowing that those sacrifices glorify his name.
The rather long first reading today was the story of Elijah’s being taken up into heaven by God as his successor, Elisha, served as a witness.
You will remember that as they journeyed toward their destination, Elijah removed his mantle, rolled it up, and struck the waters of the Jordan River so that the waters parted and he and Elisha walked on dry land to the other side.
Of course, this is reminiscent of Moses’ holding his staff over the Red Sea and parting the waters during the Exodus from Egypt.
The fact that these two great prophets were standing on the Mount of Transfiguration with Jesus serves as a reminder that God has a plan for each of us that may be years (and for these two prophets even centuries) in the making.
But God’s plan will be fulfilled.
Moses and Elijah’s presence with the Lord that day is a sign that God keeps his promises, and God promises you and me that there is a future for us in his kingdom.
But until that time comes, we continue to follow the path he has set for us on this earth – to follow Jesus wherever his path leads us.
There is much to do in this place we call home;
there are people who need to hear God’s word and learn that God has a place for them;
there are people who need to know that God loves them and considers them worthwhile, and our display of love and concern for them helps to deliver that message;
there are people whose grief over loved ones they have lost has brought them great pain and despair, and they need to know through our kindnesses that there is hope and peace for them in this fellowship of faith;
and there are people who feel cut off from society, whose lives do not seem worthwhile or validated – people who need to know that there is a place for them where they are loved and valued.
Jesus invites you and me to provide that place of comfort and assurance as ones who have hope and faith in Christ and who value all people as children of God.
Sisters and brothers in Christ, while we wait for the final glory of God’s kingdom, let us glorify God’s name by unveiling the mystery that surrounds our Lord Jesus and revealing him to be the King of Kings and Lord of all.