Skip to main content

God's Sound and Light Show

This is the sermon I preached on Sunday, Feb. 7 at St. Timothy and St. Mark Lutheran Churches. The text is Luke 9:28-36. 

Some of you may be familiar with the Sound and Light Theater in Lancaster, PA. Through sound and light, biblical stories are dramatized bringing them to life. More of you are likely familiar with the Grain Elevator Light Display which can be seen from the inner and outer harbors in Buffalo. The grain elevators are ugly structures, that are transformed into something  beautiful by the dazzling, colorful light shows. As amazing and inspiring as these two examples are, God puts on the greatest sound and light show imaginable in today's gospel reading.

The transfiguration occurs immediately after Peter confesses that Jesus is the Messiah and the the passion is introduced into Jesus’ teaching (vv. 18-27).

Luke is the only gospel that names prayer as the reason for going to the mountain. Once on the mountaintop, Jesus seems to be the one doing all the praying. Jesus is then joined by Moses and Elijah.

In the Transfiguration God affirms Jesus’ identity. The Transfiguration provides another way of answering the question “Who is Jesus?

Conversation among Jesus, Moses and Elijah concerned Jesus’ death on the cross and his resurrection and ascension. The three discuss the nature of Jesus’ journey through rejection and death to his exaltation. Jerusalem is where Jesus’ opposition will put him to death. It is also the place where he will be vindicated through his resurrection (v. 22).

Moses represents the law and Elijah represents the prophets. Elijah was looked on as a forerunner to the Messiah.

The disciples get to see and hear what’s going on. As much as the disciples were “weighed down with sleep,” they managed to stay awake and boy was it worth it. Jesus now shines with the light of heaven itself. He is joined by Moses and Elijah. The entire scene is cast as a moment of revelation.

Peter suggests they build dwellings, so they can stay on the mountain. However, as he is prone to do, Peter gets things both exactly right and exactly wrong. He understands that he has seen a manifestation of God to people, but Peter didn’t know how to respond. Luke presents his suggestion of building shelters as a faux pas. In fact, God interrupts the chatter, cutting Peter’s transcendental moment short and points to Jesus in the flesh. God says, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”

The disciples entered the cloud. Here Jesus is the shelter and the disciples can enter the cloud with him and learn of God’s pleasure in a way that is indescribable. As Jesus promised earlier in the gospel, these apostles have now seen, if only for a moment, the consummation of the kingdom, for they have seen the Son in his glory.

The mountain, the light, the cloud, and the voice denote God’s presence, as it was on Mt. Sinai for Moses. God’s naming Jesus as his beloved Son, was spoken in the first chapter of Luke by the angel to Mary and then at Jesus’ baptism. This time, God’s words were directed to the disciples, not to Jesus.

After Moses and Elijah disappeared, Jesus was all alone as the beloved. Jesus’ glory is revealed and then, just as suddenly, a cloud descends and the vision fades.

The disciples were so overwhelmed after their experience in the cloud, that they were in awe and silent! Their silence acknowledges the mystery of this event and the magnitude of its implications. Their silence also signals their obedience to Jesus’ warning not to tell anyone (v. 21) about what they had seen.

The disciples were nowhere near ready to witness to what they had experienced. It was not yet their time to speak. That would occur after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension.

The story of the transfiguration can seem quite foreign to us. We struggle to imagine details like Jesus’ transfiguration, the appearance of Moses and Elijah and a mysterious cloud. However, there are elements common to Christian witness through the centuries. At times, we may have  a “mountaintop experience” of God’s presence, with a sense of being enveloped and surrounded by mystery.

If it took the dazzling transfiguration of Jesus before the very eyes of Peter, James and John, to wake them up, what will it take for us to see God’s presence in our lives?

God's radiance can indeed be seen on earth when we gather to hear the word.

Where else do we see God’s glory on earth? For some of us it may be in nature. For the elderly or homebound, it is the kindness and love extended to them. Someone may bring them communion, sit and visit with them, share with them the cookies the children have made. For the homeless, it may be receiving a jacket to wear, obtaining a meal, or finding a warm place to stay on a cold, snowy night. For the young, it may be having a mentor or a tutor. It could be helping a single mom, by watching her children so she can do errands or, by a talented person fixing her car. We can assist one another in seeing God’s glory in many places and in many ways.

As we awake to God’s presence, let us not lock it away in booths of our own security and salvation. Let us open our hearts to God’s presence, a source of courage, power and might that will motivate us to go out into the world and tell of our mountain top experience so we can point others to the beloved and convey God’s message to “listen to him!”

Verity Jones,
Sundays and Seasons,
Google Image


Popular posts from this blog

Come To The Light To Become The Light

This is the sermon I preached on Sunday, Jan. 6, Epiphany at St. Timothy Lutheran Church. The gospel text is Matthew 2:1-12
Now, this is a story we know. We’ve seen the scene of the wise men bringing gifts to Jesus so many times in so many pageants. Epiphany is a time when we celebrate the in-breaking of God’s light in God’s way. The Magi are drawn from the east to come and pay homage to the Christ child. There are many theories as to who the magi were: from Zoroastrian priests to astrologers to magicians to kings, while some believe that the Magi were simply a literary device utilized by Matthew. They may have been any or all of the above, but the point is that they were foreigners and gentile outsiders and yet, God spoke to them through a star, through the light and they followed that light. 
Unusual astral phenomena were associated with the birth of a new ruler according to pagans of the time. There were Jewish traditions as well connecting the hoped-for Messiah to the “star out of…

Go Big or Go Home

This is the homily I shared with the people of St. Timothy Lutheran Church for Ash Wednesday. The gospel text was Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21
The first time I heard the expression, “Go big or go home,” was my senior year of seminary. A dear friend mentioned how during a children’s sermon at her internship site, when she was talking with the kids about how God wants all of us, this young man explained it as “Go big or go home!” It really struck all of us who heard my classmate relate this story.

Today’s gospel lesson is like two bookends with a bunch of information between them. The first verse is the first bookend. Then Jesus talks specifically about different faith practices and how they should and should not be practiced. Finally, the second bookend surround the words in between with the final verse regarding the treasure of our hearts.
Before Jesus gets into the nuts and bolts of various aspects of piety, in the first verse he spells out the gist of the entire teaching, “Beware of practici…

Centered in the Spirit

This is the sermon I preached last Sunday, 12/27/19 at St. Timothy Lutheran Church. The gospel was Luke 4:14-21.
In the time after Epiphany, we see more revelations of Jesus in the gospel. Today’s is Jesus’ controversial proclamations in his home town. We see the centrality of the life of the Spirit in Jesus’ life of ministry.

The Holy Spirit descends on Jesus after his baptism (3:22), then fills Jesus before he was sent out into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil and in this passage of Luke the Spirit fills Jesus with power.
The role of the Holy Spirit is central in Luke’s Gospel. Jesus’ first public words were “The Spirit of the Lord.” The first three phrases in Jesus’ reading tie his ministry to the work of the Spirit: “The Spirit…is upon me…because [the Spirit] has anointed me…[The Spirit] has sent me.” In Jesus’ repetition of “me,” we hear his claiming of Isaiah’s words for himself.
Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit. Anointed is the English word that means the same as…