You know on Facebook how there are these videos that get shared. They headlines that grab your attention with phrases like “When You See What He Does With 2 Binders Clips, You’ll Rethink Their Entire Purpose” or “This Groom Kissed a Woman in Front of The Bride. Seconds Later The Bride Was in Tears.” I’m sure that there is a great name for this type of headline. It got me thinking about what the headline would be for our gospel reading this morning. “Jesus and the 12 Disciples Climb a Mountain. You Won’t Believe What Happened When They Got to the Top” or maybe its “Jesus Climbs to the Top of the Mount. Guess Who He Meets There?”
It is the kind headline worthy of our gospel reading. It is a strange, maybe weird, miraculous, and hard to explain story. It’s difficult to know what to say about the transfiguration – which I say every year on this particular Sunday. And yet every year I stand in church and tell you about this amazing thing that happened to Jesus, Peter, John and James. The heart of the story is God, that holy divine presence touching their lives in a moment of splendour. An encounter with God. Such moments always leave a mark on our lives. When Moses came down from Mount Sianai with the tablets containing the 10 Commandments his face glowed with the light of God’s presence and people were afraid. No one wanted to come near to him. So Moses had cover his face with a veil and only removed it when he stood before God. God came near and Moses was never the same again.
Perhaps you’ve had one of those moments when you know that God is near, when God touches your life. These are not the everyday experiences. They are brief moments of wonder that always seem to come at exactly the right time. And it is hard to find the words to describe that moment. Sometimes it is a dream that brings peace. Sometimes it is the feeling of not being alone. Sometimes it being surround by a warm light. Whatever and however it happens there’s a sense that God has come close and life is changed.
One ordinary day, Jesus invited his friends to come away to a quiet place to pray. This was nothing new. Jesus often took time away from the crowds to pray and to recharge his batteries. Sometimes he took the disciples and sometimes they go alone. Together, they made the journey to the top of the mountain and then Jesus goes a little farther off, to take so much needed time for prayer. As he prays, the most amazing things happen. Jesus’ clothes become dazzling white and the appearance of his face changes. In that moment, Jesus comes face to face with the eternal and living God. Jesus is transformed right before the disciples’ eyes. It says in our scripture reading that Jesus’ clothing not only became dazzling white but Moses and Elijah appeared.
Then, Luke says that as Jesus was talking with Moses and Elijah and they “were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.” (Luke 9:31) In the midst of all this, the disciples nearly miss it all! They nearly feel asleep. They managed to keep their eyes open, they see Moses and Elijah and catch a glimpse of what lies ahead for Jesus. It is not the road they expected for Jesus. They thought he was here to change the political landscape not the landscape of their lives. Then, a voice from the clouds comes saying “This is my son, my chosen. Listen to him.” (Luke 9:36) Echoing the words spoken at Jesus baptism, “You are my beloved son. With you I am well pleased.” (Luke 3:22)
The transfiguration, that holy shinning moment with prophets long dead and that voice from the heavens, mark Jesus, reminding him of who he is and to whom he belongs. It is also the moment that Jesus’ ministry changes focus. Now he begins the long journey to Jerusalem, to cross, crucifixion and new life. As he heads to Jerusalem, Jesus carries with him the wisdom of the prophets and God’s deep and abiding love. It is the road we are all heading on as we prepare for Lent. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of our journey deeper into faith – a journey deeper into that which is holy. Nadia Bolz-Webber writes this about Lent, “Lent isn’t about punishing ourselves for being human – the practice of Lent is about peeling away layers of insulation and anesthesia which keep us from the truth of God’s promises. Lent is about looking at our lives in as bright a light as possible, the light of Christ.”
In the same way that Jesus was claimed as God’s beloved so are we in our baptism and in our daily walk of faith. On Wednesday we begin our Lenten journey. We are marked with the ashes that remind us that we are mortal formed of the earth and return to the earth. As we make the journey through all stages of life, we are invited into deeper relationship with the ever-living, ever-loving God who through Jesus brings new life.
This is no easy journey but one we take with our brothers and sisters in Christ. In Paul’s words, “Therefore, since it is by Gods’ mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart.” (2 Corinthians 4:1) As we head into this Lenten season, we are offered gifts of bread and wine to strengthen us for the road ahead. Perhaps our headline could be, “They Took a Chance on God. And Amazing things happened.” Amen.