Matthew 17:1-9 • March 2, 2014
You can view a video of this sermon on Pastor Craig’s YouTube channel. Click here.
Brothers and sisters in Christ grace and peace to you from God our Father and Lord and Savior Jesus. Amen.
There once lived a brilliant magician who held one of the most famous magic shows to ever take place on a cruise ship. Without a doubt, he was known around the world as one of the best magicians to ever live. But on one ship that he was performing, he always had a heckler in the crowd – the captain of the ship’s pet parrot. After every magic trick, the parrot would yell out, “It’s a trick. He’s a phony. That’s not magic.” One evening, there was a great storm at sea while the magician was performing. The ship sank. Believe it or not, the parrot and the magician ended up in the same lifeboat. For several days they floated together at sea, glaring at each other and not saying a word. Finally the parrot broke the silence and said, “OK, I give up. What did you do with the ship?”
The parrot couldn’t explain that last trick! It was too much to comprehend, even for a parrot as smart as he was. In our gospel reading today from Saint Matthew, Peter says to Jesus on a holy mountain following an event that we know and celebrate today as the transfiguration, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here.” For centuries, theologians and scholars have tried to explain what Peter may have meant by this comment. I’m not so sure that our efforts to find meaning in Peter’s words in some sort of scientific or philosophical or even theological way are all that necessary. After all, these are the first words out of his mouth following an experience that has literally dropped him to his knees. I am beginning to believe more and more that the writer of Matthew is simply trying to show us how overwhelming this experience of God’s glory was for those on the mountain that day.
That in this moment, Peter is so overwhelmed in every way possible that he is simply blurting out the first thing that came into his head. He was so overcome and couldn’t possibly comprehend what was happening, and in spite of that undeniable fact, he still thought that he needed to say something in response to what he had just seen and heard.
In our life in Christ, we all have those kind of moments, don’t we? Moments that we experience and no matter how hard we try, we can’t explain them. We often try to, but end up blurting something out of our mouth that really doesn’t make much sense. Instead, in those moments, we need to remember that all we really need to do is be present and not worry about having to say something.
The birth of a child is one of those moments. The death of someone you love dearly is one of those moments. A global tragedy like a terrorist bombing or an earthquake may be one of those moments. Moments, when you and I are not ready. Never really ready.
They arrive unannounced and reshape us in irreversible ways. There is one thing that I believe they all have in common though. They demand that we be silent and listen. These moments have something to say to us, to teach us, to change us.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, as followers of Jesus, when these moments happen, all we really need to do is receive the gift of Jesus’ gentle touch, just like Peter, James, and John received on a mountaintop so long ago. All we really need to do is receive the gift of Jesus’ voice saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.” Just like he said to Peter, James, and John, and is still saying to you and me today.
In an article with the title “See and Listen”, author Laurel Dykstra wonders something that I found very interesting this week.
She wonders, “In Matthew’s story of the mountain, was it Jesus who changed or was it that John, James, and Peter could now see the face of God shining in the man they knew? Did the thin air and the elevated perspective contribute to their clarity of vision? When they came down from the mountaintop, did they take their new capacity to see into the low places and crowded city streets? Can we?” Dykstra asks, “And when we see the face of God shining through those who are familiar to us, do we truly, deeply listen to them?”
In our first reading from Scripture today, the author of second Peter describes followers of Jesus in light of the mountaintop transfiguration as “men and women moved by the Holy Spirit.”
Today, as you and I celebrate the transfiguration, a day that leads us each year into the season of Lent, I wonder how you and I are men and women moved by the Holy Spirit. Moved by the Holy Spirit to Jesus’ death on a cross. Moved by the Holy Spirit that didn’t stay on the cross. Moved by the Holy Spirit that destroys all death and all that death will ever entail. Moved by the Holy Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead. Moved by the Holy Spirit that gathers us together in communion with all the saints as the body of Christ still active and alive in this world.
Pastor Tim is going to walk us through a sermon series called “What if?” during our Wednesday worship gatherings in Lent. As we look forward to these times together in worship, I want to invite us to begin thinking about some “what ifs” on this day of transfiguration.
I mean, what if the people of Good Shepherd lived their lives as followers of Jesus in such a way that people who aren’t from our congregation can’t help but see Jesus through you and me?
What if people pointed fingers at us, and said “Look, at those crazy people from Good Shepherd! Can you believe what they’re doing now??!!”
What if you and I so fully lived out of the love, grace, peace, and hope of God, given to us as a gift in and through our savior Jesus? That we lived in such a way that we seem out of place if we continue to live as the world thinks we should live?
What if Jesus’ healing touch causes us to touch others differently?
What if Jesus’ words actually cause our words to be shaped differently?
What if you and I finally walked down from the mountains that we tirelessly try to build mansions on?
What if you and I walked out of the darkness of every valley that we travel through and into the light of Christ Jesus our savior and Lord?
What if, we let others see the light of Jesus that shines through us?
What if, the glimpses of God that you and I see every day really do change us?
I don’t know…what if?