Transfiguration Sunday Mark 9:2-9 February 11, 2018
The truth of the matter is; we don’t use the word Transfiguration very often. I can’t remember the last time I used it at the grocery store or the gas station. It is however a word we tend to use here at church as it refers to the changing of an outward appearance, a transformation of sorts.
In the original text which was written in Greek they use the word “metamorphothe” (meh-tah-mor-pho-theh), it’s where we get the English word, metamorphosis. That would be another word we don’t use very often outside of the occasional science classroom and even there it usually has something to do with a caterpillar turning into a butterfly.
In short, metamorphosis has to do with a dramatic change in form and appearance. And that is what happened to Jesus—no, he did not change from a caterpillar into a butterfly—but his mortal body was transformed – back if you will—to hos divine presence.
Suffice to say the disciples were terrified and Peter who has a tendency to speak before thinking begins talking about putting up some tents to capture the moment and to allow them to linger in this mystical moment. But he is interrupted—by God no less. And it is in this interruption that we get the gist of this story. And they are words spoken to the disciples and hence to us as well and they are: “Listen to him.” Or, the longer version: “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!”
Listen to him. These are the three words we are to take home with us today. What does this mean?
How many of you own one of those RED LETTER Bibles? They are Bibles that have all the words of Jesus highlighted in RED. In other words, these are the words of Jesus that we are meant to carry additional weight and are worthy of our attention.
When I consider the things Jesus has said I must admit that while there are some words that bring me comfort and fill me with hope—there are other words that challenge me and convict me of my failure to listen and act in the manner that my Lord would expect and appreciate. And as a result they cause me discomfort and I am compelled to confess and repent, which is something I would prefer not to do but I know it is good from my soul.
Do you know what I am talking about? I am talking about those words of Jesus where he says things like:
“But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire”. Matthew 5:22
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” Matthew 5:43
“Do not judge, so that you may not be judged.” Matthew 7:1
The sad truth is we have hard time listening to some of these things and a harder time acting on them. The sad truth is we all deal with anger toward others; we would rather seek revenge toward our enemies rather than even consider loving them; and we can be terribly judgmental of others.
It is sadly apparent that we have failed to listen to Jesus.
Elsewhere in scripture Jesus speaks words that are meant to lift up the life of discipleship, words that are intended to define us to the world around us. Words like:
· Blessed are the poor…
· Blessed are those who mourn…
· Blessed are the meek…
· Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness…
· Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
If you ever take time to read the morning paper or watch the evening news it is sadly apparent that we as a society have not done a very good job of listening to Jesus as these are not qualities that our society lifts up or honors. More often than not we celebrate just the opposite, the powerful, the bold and the beautiful, those who are not afraid of stepping on toes to get what they want. Whenever I encounter such words of Jesus I am reminded of my own failure when it comes to truly listening to my Lord and Savior. And this gives me reason to confess and repent.
On the flip side we do have those things that Jesus said that assure me that God is gracious and these are words we all can find comfort.
· Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.
· I go to prepare a place for you so that where I am you may be also.”
· And we have heard time and time again the voices that speak for God, “Fear not” or “Have no fear.”
· And those haunting words from the cross, “Father forgive them, they know not what they do.”
I truly believe that these words are not intended to fall on deaf ears, but rather they are given to us in order that our lives might also be transformed, that we might experience a transfiguration, a metamorphosis, that our lives might be changed in order to greater reflect both the One who created us, but also the One who Redeems us. Both the challenging and the comforting words are given to us that we might take them to heart and then reflect their sentiments in our daily lives.
In the spirit of listening I would like to offer up another angle or perspective and that deals with the act of listening to one another. Sadly, we live in a divided and ever increasing polarized nation. Each side of the divide not bothering to listen to the other, only shouting louder and creating further confusion or distraction. None of which benefits anyone. And I wonder, what would happen if we took more time to actually listen to one another for a change? What if we stopped blowing smoke and started being quite for a bit, respectfully listening to one another?
Years ago I was involved with a social ministry program that invited people to sit down and listen to one another. It worked this way, Person A would have 20-30 minutes to tell his or her story. Person B would simply listen and only occasionally ask a question for clarification. Then they would switch, person A would listen and Person B would share his or her story. There would be no interrupting, no butting in and no vying to interject his or her point of view or disagreement. When the time was up those involved might still look at a situation from differing points of view, but there was a greater possibility that each understood and maybe even respected the other and why they held a particular point of view. Honestly, it was pretty amazing.
Imagine for aa moment if Republicans and Democrats, Liberal and Conservatives could sit down and listen to one another. Imagine what might happen if Christians and Muslims and Jews and Atheists would sit down and listen to one another. [On a side note, I recently read that as Christians, in the name of evangelism, we might do better to spend more time listening to others and spend less time pontificating and telling folks how to live their lives.] I can only imagine that such a conversation would be simply amazing and maybe even life changing in a metamorphosis sort of thing, in a transfiguration sort of way. And I can’t help but think that would be a good thing, a grace thing.
Our gospel reading today tells that the voice of God proclaimed, “This is my Son the beloved, listen to him”. It has been suggested that in the Old Testament God gave Ten Commandments and in the New Testament God gives one that supersedes all the rest: Listen to him.
In a few days we will enter into the season of Lent and we will hear the words, “From dust you came and to dust you will return” and we will be reminded of both our mortality and perishability and we will be reminded as well of our Lord’s promise of forgiveness and resurrection. And each time we gather at the Table, we will hear those wonderful words, “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins.” As we leave here this morning, may the words of our Father in heaven be imprinted in our hearts and heads: “This is my Son, the beloved; with him I am well please; listen to him.” And may we invite the Holy Spirit to open our ears, transform our lives so that we too might greater reflect the glorious light of Christ in our daily lives. Amen
Pastor Stephen Blenkush
Zion Lutheran Church
Milaca MN 56353
Love like Jesus!