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Transfiguration Sunday (Transformer Sunday)
After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured (transformed) before them. His clothes became dazzling Bright, brighter than anyone in the world could bleach them. And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus.
Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.)
Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”
Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus.
As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.
CCI: Change comes in the middle of life, but we must embrace the change if we are to fulfill our mission.
Intro: Things were going well for Jesus and his followers. In Chapter 8 he fed a crowd of thousands, he then healed man who was blind, and then, in a pagan worship center, Peter declared that Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God! Things were looking up as far as the disciples were concerned. And then Jesus spoke of what he knew was coming. He told the disciples that the crowds and the leaders would turn on him. Tbey did not understand what Jesus was talking about, in fact, Peter thought Jesus had lost his mind and told him to shut-up. Jesus in turn called Peter a devil.
If you were a day trader in the stock market this week, then you would be able to understand the ups and downs, the emotional movement of Mark 8. The disciples went from the dizzying heights of feeding a multitude, to the depths of being told they must select their own electric chairs if they were to be Jesus disciples.
And then, he took three of his best friends and they took a hike by themselves bringing us to the story that was read for us this morning.
The transfiguration (or as one translator put it, the first story of the first transformer) is situated in the middle of the Gospel of Mark, to the verse. In fact the last verse of this passage falls at the ½ point. This event is the fulcrum in the life of Jesus. His ministry has led to this point and all that comes after it flows from the transformation on the mountain. If any reader had wondered about Jesus identity before this event, now their questions were answered. As Peter had declared that Jesus was the Christ in Chapter 8, the Father affirmed the Jesus was his Son in this story. The rest of the gospel will flow from this declaration.
When we hear the word Transfiguration, we think of a change of appearance, the text said, he looked different. But I like the idea of Jesus – the first Transformer. The secret of the story of the transformers is that their identity is hidden until the time is right and they choose to reveal it. And in this story, that is exactly what we see. At the right moment, Jesus reveals his glory to his closest disciples.
This was a mountaintop experience for the disciples and for Jesus. This story may even be the source of the expression. I imagine many of you have had mountaintop experiences in your life. Here is a picture of one of mine, and it happened on a mountaintop! It was the end of having a child in my house. Janet was 13, a teenager, and my daughter and I went on a Dad/Teen wilderness adventure. I was belayer, and I was amazed as I watched her lower herself over the edge of the cliff. What a moment! As I look at the pictures, I relive that moment.
Another mountaintop experience was almost 30 years ago. Our family vacation took us to Mammoth Cave National Park and there, in the bowels of the earth, the lights were extinguished and music filled the cavern. In that moment, I felt transported into God’s presence. And in both of these experiences, I wanted to stay and return and do it again and again.
Scouts, have any of you had a mountaintop experience?
Did you want to go home afterward?
So you have a tiny sense of the way Peter and John and Andrew must have felt when they were on the mountain with Jesus. After a long hike they reached the summit and suddenly Jesus was transformed. His clothes became bight, he face shone, he exuded the presence of God as never before. Suddenly, Elijah and Moses appeared with them. Why Moses and Elijah? Because these two represented God’s revelation to the People: Moses the giver of the Law and Elijah the greatest of the prophets. These men summed up the way God had been revealed to the Hebrew people, and there on the mountain they gathered with God’s new revelation of God’s own being, Jesus Christ. That was the mountaintop!
And Peter blurted out exactly what the rest of us would have said, “Let’s stay here!” I’ll set up some shelters and we can just camp out in this holy, wonderful place. Mark tells us he was terrified and did not know what else to say, but I bet Mark and I would have said just about the same thing.
That is the thing about mountaintop experiences, we don’t want them to end. When you go to camp and are captured by God’s presence and call in your life, it’s hard to go home. When I went to hear Amy Grant sing at WVU, I wanted to stay and bathe in the beauty of the worship in her music. When I heard Bishop Ken Ulmer preach a sermon that brought revival to my life, wanted to stay in the auditorium with Ken Medema and Curt Cloninger and bathe in God’s glorious grace and wondrous gift.
And that is why we need to remember that the story of the first Transformer is at the halfway point in Mark’s gospel. Because as Peter was babbling on, and Jesus was talking to Moses and Elijah, a cloud enshrouded them all and a voice said, “This is my beloved Son, listen to him.” At that moment, the cloud lifted and, as the Message translates it, they saw Jesus, only Jesus.
That is when they realized that though it was good to be on the mountain, there was more ahead. Though they had gone up the mountain, it was now time to go down the mountain. They had climbed the mountain, but even after seeing the glorified Jesus and hearing the voice of God, they had to come down from the mountain. Peter’s desire to mark the holy moment, is not bad, but Jesus said, this is not about a moment, it is about a movement. The holy moment sets the stage for the holy movement from the mountain into the messiness of ministry and life. It was the magnificence of the Mountaintop that provided sustenance and strength for the messiness of Ministry. Jesus was reminded of the messiness as soon as he left the mountain. When he rejoined the rest of the disciples, he found they had been unable to bring healing to a child whose mind was tormented by evil. Jesus with glorious patience brought wholeness and then turned the moment in to a time of teaching.
But it was the mountain that moved him forward.
And that is why we must leave those mountaintop experiences as well. Life is lived in the valleys. The messiness of ministry does not occur on the heights of hallelujahs, it comes as draw upon those moments to love those God brings into our lives.
If the messiness of ministry is starting to get to you, then it is time to climb the mountain with Jesus. Just as he called the disciples aside, so Jesus calls each of us aside. How do you spend time with Jesus? Some of you read devotions from the Daily Bread, some of you use music as you prepare to pray. Some read large portions of scripture. Some of you get away with God as you commute to work each day. Each of these are wonderful ways of spending time with Jesus. Do you have a way that transports you to the mountaintop? Jesus is waiting to show you his glory. And I believe he is waiting to make you a transformer as well. God longs for you to reflect the glory of God and when you do, you will be ready to face the messiness of ministry, no matter what it looks like.