Exodus 34:29-35 2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2 Psalm 99 Luke 9:28-43a
The first Sunday of Epiphany is the Sunday we celebrate the Baptism of our Lord, and this last Sunday is the Sunday we celebrate his Transfiguration on the mountaintop in front of Peter, James, and John. This is also the first Sunday our Bible Study is being offered between services in which we are using the Sunday Lectionary for our text. However, this is also one of the Sundays when our Lectionary includes the options to read additional verses, which I elected to include and which were not included the source material for our Bible Study.
In the Bible Study, the reading ended with the disciples keeping silent. In the lesson you just heard me read, it tells of the day after the disciples witnessed Jesus being transformed, when a man from the crowd seeks the help of Jesus for his son. He tells Jesus that his disciples had been unable to cure his son, to which Jesus says, “You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here.”
I decided to include this portion of the gospel because of how Jesus responds. Just the day before Jesus is glorified, transformed and Peter, James, and John see him speaking with Moses and Elijah, then this. Many of us have had what we refer to as “mountain top experiences,” only to return to the chaos of our daily lives. Mountain top experiences open our hearts and minds to the joy of Christ’s love for us, revealing the beauty of creation – then we return to life in the “real world” where the demands and chaos in our lives constantly assault and disappoint us.
Live is full of disappointments and Jesus’ response is evidence of his humanity. It is also evidence of his love, that after a brief display of his frustration, he heals the boy. We often speak of the divinity of Jesus and give lip service to his humanity – but this passage shows both. Not only was Jesus frustrated by his disciples’ lack of faith, that they could not heal the child, Jesus heals the boy as he is headed for the cross.
Jesus has come down from the mountain to head to Jerusalem, and he knows his presence there will not be well received. This is what Jesus discusses with Moses and Elijah- what will take place in Jerusalem. How much longer will he have to be with his disciples? Not long. Although Jesus chose to walk this path, I am sure he was not looking forward to facing the authorities in Jerusalem.
With this in mind, we are ending the season of Epiphany, this season of light in which the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ is reveal on the mountain top, by looking ahead to the cross. Mountaintop experiences may reveal the truth of God’s love, but we are not to stay on the mountain as Peter suggests. Peter offers to put dwellings for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah to remain there – at least for a while. This is not to be, for Jesus leads them down the mountain, back into the world that is in desperate need of his love.
We are all in desperate need of his love. In my article for the St. Paul’s Epistle, our newsletter I challenged you to ask yourselves, “who in our community is lonely?” There are lots and lots of reasons we might be lonely. Poverty, illnesses, mobility issues, and deaths in our family are isolating and can lead to loneliness, but so hurtful experiences in our lives that leave us reluctant to take risks for fear of being hurt again. Many people who are lonely are simply waiting to be invited out. They don’t feel anyone wants to be with them, that anyone cares about them.
The good news is that Christ cares, and we, as members of this church, as members of Christ’s church, need to let them know that they beloved – just as we are beloved by God.
In the material for today’s Bible Study, I read something new to me. The Greek word used in Luke for “transfigured” is the same word Paul uses in his letter to the church in Rome for “transformed.” Paul writes, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God – what is good and acceptable and perfect. (12:2).” We are transformed, we ourselves are transfigured, when we allow the love of Christ to fill our hearts and flow through us into the lives of others – especially those who are lonely and who need a place to come and experience Christ’s love and acceptance.
Again, I challenge you to consider who in our community is lonely so that we, as a church, can find ways to reach out to them. And, I challenge you to consider who you personally know who might be waiting to be invited to be a part of something bigger than themselves. Invite them to come to church with you, to attend Mardi Gras (we still have tickets available), or Pub Theology, or any other events and activities that we offer here. Come on Wednesday nights to the meals, to help, or simply to eat with our guests – either way, sit and eat at a table with our guests.
One evening I sat at a table and ate with some of our regulars. Those at the table were quiet and did not engage in much conversation past a few words about the weather. When I finished and got up, one of the ladies thanked me for eating with them.
I have had several experiences in which I have realized that because I wear a collar, I represent the church to people – so it is especially important that I treat others with respect. It is one thing to be jerk, and something quite a bit more serious to represent the church as impatient and uncaring. Having said that, if you, members of St. Paul’s eat with our guests, it says to them that they are worthy of our attention.
When Jesus was transfigured, “the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white.” The difference is his appearance was remarkable, and I believe the difference in our appearance is noticeable to others when we are transformed by the love of God. Being transformed, we offer the light of Christ to others, bringing joy is a what was once a lonely world.
Let us pray.
Lord Christ, fill our hearts with your love that we might dispel the darkness of loneliness in our community. Help us to see the needs of others and find a way to reach out to them that they might understand they are wanted, they are loved, they are your beloved. We offer our prayers in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.