TRANSFIGURATION OF OUR LORD 14.2.21 St. Aidan’s
2 Kings 2:1-12. Ps. 50:1-6. 2 Cor. 4:3-12. Mark 9:2-9
May I speak in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Going back into lockdown has made me think about what it was like during the long lockdown last year. It reminded me that my husband and I watched far more films on the television than we normally do and we noticed how many films have amazing special effects. We only have to think of films like Jurassic Park, Lord of the Rings and Star Wars, just to name a few.
The film industry goes to great lengths to capture our imagination and on film – anything is possible. Every film director knows how the power of special effects can convince us that what is not true – is completely believable. But as we heard in two of our readings this morning, God is actually the master of special effects.
In the Second Book of Kings, we hear how Elijah strikes the waters of the river Jordan and it parts, so that Elijah and Elisha can cross the river on dry ground. And then they see a chariot and horses of fire as Elijah is taken in a whirlwind into heaven.
This story reminds us of Moses, as he struck the water and parted Red Sea in order for the Israelites to escape the Egyptians. And in today’s gospel we have another amazing story – the Transfiguration of Jesus.
Up to this point, Jesus has had quite a successful ministry in Galilee – he has become popular and well-known. But now he is about to begin the last part of his journey – a journey that will ultimately end in his arrest and his death. But before that, Jesus and his close friends experience this vital turning point in their lives.
We don’t know for sure exactly what happened on that day, but we do know that something extraordinary took place. The Gospel writers had the task of writing down the thoughts and memories of the first disciples and early eye witnesses of Jesus’ life and ministry. And they had the difficult job of weaving together the believable and the unbelievable – of taking what was true and writing about it in a way that made it believable, however amazing it was.
But we do know that Jesus takes his closest disciples to the top of a mountain and they see some amazing special effects. They have a ‘mountain top experience.’
Somehow Jesus changes – Matthews account is a little more detailed and tells us that Jesus’ face shines like the sun. His clothes become a bright dazzling white and Jesus is transformed before their very eyes as God shines through him!
Most of the time, Jesus looks just like any other man but on this occasion, Jesus is shown for who he really is – God’s Son – just as much divine as he is human.
And then, the two great men from the Old Testament appear – Moses who was the greatest law-giver, and Elijah who was the greatest prophet and who had died long, long before. And it’s as if their presence confirms that Jesus is God incarnate.
Through this experience, Jesus becomes so close to God that he is strengthened and prepared for what lies ahead, however, the disciples are completely overwhelmed and they don’t want this wonderful experience to end! They want to build 3 dwellings so they can hold onto Moses, Elijah and Jesus.
But God speaks to them and tells them just to listen to Jesus. Jesus knows that they have to ‘come back down to earth,’ and get on with the work they have to do while there is still time. He knows that he will have to go back down the mountain and face reality – he still has to face the times of darkness – and face his death.
The word ‘Transfiguration’ means ‘to be changed’ – but I don’t think Jesus was the only one to be changed on that day. Peter, James and John were given this experience to help them understand and fully believe that Christ is God’s son and they now have no doubts because they have had this ‘close encounter with God!’
The amazing things they see must strengthened their faith – it’s something they will look back on later and gain courage from, when things seem really hopeless.
They will face all sorts of fears, doubts and danger, but what they see that day on the mountain, will help to reassure them and support them, as they remember that wonderful day when God’s glory was revealed, shining through Jesus.
Then they will be able to use the experience to give them all confidence, hope and strength in order to share the story and the truth of who Christ is.
The most wonderful news for us is that as Christians, God’s power transforms us too as we also carry the Grace of God and the Light of Christ within us. We have this treasure in clay jars as Paul writes about in his letter to the Corinthians. It is this Grace and power which supports us and helps us to be disciples for Christ in a world that is often struggling.
We can have a relationship with God through our prayers and sometimes we can experience such a wonderful ‘close encounter’ with God that we don’t want it to end. But those times are a gift from God for that particular moment and we have to come ‘back down to earth’ and continue our everyday lives.
But we will always be able to draw on God’s Grace and power to help us and to guide us through all the challenging times we have to face in our lives – when things aren’t going as well as we would like.
We will soon be in the season of Lent, which takes us on a journey towards the Crucifixion and we will be confronted with some of the most faith-stretching parts of the Christian story.
We will stand at the foot of the cross … and then in front of an empty tomb… But then we will stand in front of the risen Jesus! As Christians, we are asked to believe in the unbelievable and we are then challenged to take that certainty out into the world so that other people will know that the unbelievable is the truth.
It is not easy being a Christian and sometimes we need a bit of imagination; but not the kind of imagination which makes what is ‘untrue …believable’ like in the films – but that which makes the ‘unbelievable … true!’
So, let us take this eye-witness account of Peter’s and, just as the disciples did, we can gain trust and reassurance that Jesus is indeed the Son of God – we can declare our faith in this amazing story.
God opens our hearts to receive his grace and fills us with the light of Christ. All we have to do is respond in faith and trust, and we pray that God may give us the desire to accept his love and reflect that love in the world.
So as we remember these wonderful special effects, let us also remember that in our weakness we are transformed by God’s perfect power and love, and there is nothing more precious than that.
Revd. Christine Silvester