This was my sermon for Transfiguration, preached at St. Timothy Lutheran Church
You’re likely familiar with the expression, “Seeing is believing.” As Jesus is transfigured, Peter, James and John get a double dose of seeing.
Are you ready? Lights, camera, action! First there is the fantastic light show, with special guests Moses and Elijah. Concerning audio, Peter, James and John heard the voice of God from the cloud that enveloped them. The voice told them Jesus was God’s Son, the beloved and they were to listen to him. This was enough to knock them off their feet!
What a lot to see and hear!
But it wasn’t the seeing of all these things that produced faith and believing in the disciples. Seeing was not believing until…well, we’ll get to that.
Peter was babbling on and on, wanting to engage in a building project; three hut-like “memorials.” The only one impressed with the idea was Peter. Neither Moses, Elijah nor Jesus encouraged Peter in this endeavor. In fact, the notion was set aside as a voice from the cloud that enveloped Jesus and the disciples. It was the voice of God speaking in the language used at Jesus’ baptism. God actually interrupts Peter! Jesus is the beloved Son that the disciples are to listen to.
“Listen” is a present imperative verb, implying continual or repeated actions. “Keep on listening to him” or “Continue to listen to him.” Not only listening, but hearing and obeying come into play here.
How many of us as parents have asked our children to do some chore? They may hear us, but then we find they did not do as we asked. Our words didn’t really sink in. Our child was distracted.
As children of God, we sometimes need to see and hear God’s requests more than once. In our gospel, Jesus takes time with the three disciples, and they have a second special visual encounter. “…they experience the personal attention of the Son of God. They still have their faces to the ground from terror over the encounter with the divine when someone touches them, lifts them up, and takes away their fear” (Ulrich Luz).
The disciples opened their eyes and “all they saw was Jesus, Jesus only” (v. 8). No distractions. Just Jesus.
What about us? Beside the normal distractions of life, what causes us to look away from Jesus? Are we depressed by all we hear about the war between Russia and Ukraine? Are we concerned about the many homeless, who especially have trouble in the cold weather? Do you ever feel like you are in the center with everything whirling around you and you have no control over any of it?
I’ve been there and I felt like I had no choice in any of the decisions I made at the time. It was after my divorce and before I met Ray. My life seemed out of control to me. My finances, health, children, work were spinning around me. It wasn’t until seminary that I learned that there is always a choice.
To see Jesus is such an important part of our faith. Have you ever seen Jesus in the face of family or friends? What about those people that naturally irritate you? I have to confess, when I’m at the pool, I am annoyed by people that don’t pay attention to where they are. I’m working away at my pool exercises and then these people are in my way. They may have developmental disabilities, but I am still irritated, even wishing they had come to the pool at a different time. My challenge is to see the face of Jesus in them. I pray and pray, but initially, my attitude is nothing I can boast about.
Where do you struggle to see Jesus? Is it in the homeless, the immigrant, those very different from yourself? Maybe you don’t have a problem with this, but even if your attitude is good, can you let Jesus’ love flow through you? The disciples couldn’t stay on that mountain with the great light and sound effects. They later come down to the reality of the needs all about them.
There’s a song by Matt Redman, “Heart of Worship.” I’d like to share a few of its lines, adapted to Jesus’ transfiguration.
When the music [and lights and sounds] fade
All is stripped away,
And I simply come
Longin' just to bring
Something that's of worth
That will bless Your heart
I'll bring You more than a song
For a song in itself
Is not what You have required
You search much deeper within
Through the ways things appear
You're looking into my heart
I'm comin' back to the heart of worship
And it's all about You
It's all about You, Jesus
D. Mark Davis, leftbehindandlovingit.blogspot.com
Ulrich Luz, Matthew 8-20: A Commentary on Matthew 8-20