2/11/2018 Transfiguration Sunday The text is Mark 9:2-9.
Grace and peace to you from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Today is the day of Transfiguration and it’s a day which usually slides by without any fanfare. But the day used to be a “big deal” in many churches. The services on this Sunday were filled with extra music, sung by the choirs. Guest preachers often were brought in to provide a “special emphasis” for the morning. And members of the parishes provided fancy cookies and other refreshments for the worshippers at the reception that followed All this was done on the day in which we get a glimpse of the glory which is to come through Jesus Christ.
But that was then. And this is now. Today, the day of the Transfiguration of out Lord seems like any other Sunday. It seems to have run out of steam, and lost its peculiar character and significance. And the glimpse of the glory which is to come that is meant to sustain us through the trials of life, seems to be a distant and forgotten memory.
But ah, those were the days – those special moments in life which lift the spirit and give hope, that is what the disciples were hoping to capture on the Mount of Transfiguration. On that day, many years ago, Jesus invited Peter and James and John to go with him as he went up the mountain to pray. On that day, the disciples needed some good news for following Peter’s confession of Jesus as the Christ of God, Jesus reveals to them the unspeakable truth – that he must suffer and die, and that they who follow him will share in this bitter cup. So the disciples, not quite sure what to believe, follow Jesus up the mountain. It is there, on the mountain, that the unspeakable news is overshadowed by the radiance of God, and Peter and James and John see Jesus in all his glory, standing in the brightness of his power with Elijah, the great prophet who had been taken up to heaven in a chariot of fire; and with Moses, the giver of the law. It is there, on the mountain, that the unmistakable identity of Jesus is affirmed as the one who came in the line of the covenant which God made with all people, the fulfiller of the promise, the prophecy and the law, proclaimed by God to be the beloved son. Oh, the wonder and awe of that experience. This is a vision to be frozen in time and etched in memory forever. But yet, time marches on and this day cannot be contained for it is only a foretaste of what is to come, a moment to bring hope in the hard times and to remember along life’s journey.
Ah, those glory days. Those moments frozen in time and etched in our memories. These are days full of energy and excitement, and yet they don’t compare to the glory that is to come through Christ our Lord. For my mother, the glory days of her youth would bring back the music of the Big Band era, the time of Glenn Miller, the jitterbug and purple shoes. She was young and full of vitality. And in her waning years, she spent hours and hours telling me the stories. And when she had finished them, she retold them over and over again. After all, these were days to be remembered fondly, even though they remained in the past.
For my sister, those glory days were the time of Elvis Presley (she had all his records), Little Richard, sock hops and the original American Bandstand. It was the time of James Dean, the bob and poodle skirts, complete with bobby socks, hoops and initial sweaters (sort of like Laverne and Shirley). And whenever she listens to music of that time, it brings back fond memories of when she was young and innocent, and she remembers Glenn and Kitchy and the others from the past whose paths now seldom intersect. But my sister is still young enough that these memories are not the primary source of conversation. She is still making new memories and what will become the glory days of old are not yet etched in stone. There is still room for those unexpected surprises and joys which are yet to come.
And for me, the glory days of my life are still in the making. They may have begun at the time of the Beach Boys, the Beatles; the time of Simon & Garfunkle, Barry Manilow and Mr. Mister, but age has not cut off the anticipation of something more, something new, some spectacular and awe-filled event which would make the past pale in comparison. For I know, in my heart of hearts, that what is past is only a snippet of all that is to come.
Peter and James and John experienced the spectacular, an unanticipated event that made even the miracles of Jesus pale in comparison. What they didn’t understand is that what they were experiencing on that day on the mountain was a snippet in time, a glimpse of the future for those who put their trust in the Christ and who hope to find everlasting glory, not in the passage of time and the human experience, but in he who came to save. The disciples may have wanted to hold onto the glory of the moment forever, but for Jesus, there was still a life to live, a life to give. Jerusalem still laid ahead. If Jesus did not move down the Mount of Transfiguration and up Calvary’s mountainside, the glory would belong only to Christ, and we would not have a share in it. But Christ’s life did not end there, on the mountain, as a divine side show for skeptics. Peter and James and John could not box him in, but the Son of God moved beyond that glory day to complete his life, his mission and ministry in this world. And the same was also to be true for the disciples as they came down the mountain with him.
We cannot hold onto the past, no matter how wonderful the experience. We, as individuals and as the church, must move beyond what we envision as the glory days of old, confident that God has something more in store for us for the future. All the trials and temptations of life, all the pain and suffering, all the victories and defeats of this life in which we live are but a prelude to the glory that is to come for those who put their faith and trust in the Lord who moved down the mountain to save us. Through Christ’s suffering and death on the cross for us and his victory over death and grave, we all have a glorious future.
All that we have experienced, all the memories of the passing years, pale in comparison to the glory that is to come. May the hope and the vision of the glory days ahead sustain you as we move ahead, as we must, into the unchartered waters of the days and years ahead. Amen.
And may the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.