Transfiguration Day, (February 7, 2016)
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for today is the Gospel just read from St. Luke chapter nine.
I can remember as a kid watching spaghetti Westerns. Now for you younguns, there was no spaghetti involved. They were filmed in Italy. They had names like Hang em High or The Good, the Bad, and those Ugly.
Just passing through. That's what you want to be able to say when you are in one of THOSE parts of town. We're not staying. We're just passing through. If you know something is going to be temporary, you can put up with a lot. Why? Because it won't last. Things will be bad, and then it will be over.
In the Bible, there are a couple places we could describe as just passing through. The first is this earth. Because of our sin, this world is not what it should be. We have polluted it, sometimes almost beyond recognition. It is a far cry from the picture of the Garden in Genesis. Instead of love, we have sown hatred. Instead of peace, we have sown war. Rather than caring for one another, we do violence, even to the littlest and least among us.
It is no wonder, then, that all too often, people get tired of the journey through this land. We long for brighter shores, a place where there is no sin, either mine or anyone else's. I often see this longing in the elderly, but you don't have to have many years in order to be weary.
It should come as no wonder, then, that when Jesus is transfigured before Peter, James, and John, that they see this as their chance to pass through this life and to live a life far beyond their own. The text says that as Jesus was praying, his appearance was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white. Two men appeared to speak to Him, Moses and Elijah. Now for the Jew, this is something like a religious leader, a celebrity, and your great-grandfather all rolled up into one. They appeared in glory, that is, in the presence of God Himself.
And what did they talk about with Jesus? They spoke of His departure, literally His “ex-hodos,” or Exodus. Jesus, too, was on a journey, and they came to speak to Him of His passing through, and what it would mean.
But Jesus in this journey remains firmly here on earth. Eight days before Jesus’ Transfiguration, we hear Him saying to His disciples:
““The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”” (Luke 9:22 ESV)
One thing that Jesus knows, is that His life and work are centered around the salvation of the world, which meant His rejection and ultimately, His death on a lonely cross outside God’s city of Jerusalem. That is where He is going through. He is, as it were, leading the procession through death and the grave to a new life on the other side.
Now I, for one, rather like that picture, don’t you? Here in this life, in this journey, you have crosses to bear, suffering you undertake for the sake of love and for the sake of God’s kingdom. You don’t know how long the journey is. You can’t see the end. You may not be able to remember its beginning. But no matter what takes place along this path, it is an Exodus, a divine departure through sin and death and into communion with God through His Son, Jesus Christ. That is the path for you, laid out in your baptism and completed in the Lord’s Supper. Here, at that font and at this Table, we get a glimpse of the beginning and the end. Here we can see how God washed us and made us His own, and here we can also see our purpose of eternal life in Him.
But in the meantime, you are actually in the midst of the journey, right now. Sometimes this life is great and easy and full of joy,but at other times, it is sorrow and heartache, pain and suffering. They are all a part of the journey, this way of eternal life in Him.
But here’s the clincher. Whether you are at the beginning or at the end of the procession, Jesus is there. With Moses and Elijah. With angels and archangels. Through thick and thin, and even to death and the grave, Jesus is there. Well, maybe even better would be to say that He is here. I am reminded of the Psalm that many of us learned as children: ”Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for you are with me, your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23)
So this is the important part. Jesus goes to death and the grave on the cross, so that when you die, you will not be alone. He rises from the dead, so that when you rise, you will be with Him forever. Those aren’t just pious words. That is reality, as sure as the son rises in the morning.
Today we bury our Alleluias and get ready for the great forty days of Lent. Think of it as taking a deep breath before plunging in to a wonderful, beautiful stream. All through Lent you will hear of the mighty deeds of God, and that even though He was rejected and despised, His love for you knows no bounds. It’s worth the deep breath of Lent. It reminds you that you are dust and to dust you shall return, but that you will not remain dust. Your life is now bound up on the One whom heaven and earth adores, Jesus Christ the Righteous.
So come to the Feast with Moses and Elijah and all the company of heaven. Come, get a taste of the banquet feast, which has no end. His mercy and kindness are ever toward you, for He loves you, no matter where you are on this path.
In Jesus' name. Amen.
And now the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith to life everlasting. Amen.
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Rev. Todd A. Peperkorn