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Transfiguration Sunday B Sermon
Mark 9:2-9
14, 2021

Sermon Archives


Mark 9:2-9

Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus, ‘Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.’ He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!’ Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.
As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.

May the grace, mercy and peace of God be with us in the name of our risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ; Amen.

First of all - greetings to the fine folks at Advent Lutheran Church from your sisters and brothers in Christ at Clinton Heights Lutheran … and congratulations on your admirable donation to the LSS Food Pantry of $4,475.90. I am very grateful to have been part of an effort that resulted in our two congregations raising over $7,200 for such a faithful outreach of Christ’s church. Someone once said that evangelism is one beggar telling another beggar where to find food - and I would add that often that involves blessed people providing real daily bread in Christ’s name to the hungry! God bless our donations and the work that is done by our partners at Lutheran Social Services!

As I launch into this message remember, you may hear some strange or different expressions - as the pastor of the congregation with the lesser donation I am compelled to use fifteen words and phrases submitted by you and chosen by the magical “wheel of misfortune.” It is a challenge that I gladly accept and anticipate as part of the process of sharing the good news of Jesus expressed to us in the story of his transfiguration recounted in Mark 9. Here we go …

Today the world is celebrating love on February 14 - St. Valentine’s Day. Couples are giving each other gifts of chocolate and flowers - maybe even a rubber duckie or two, wrapped beautifully in ribbons, saying prayers that God would bless this nest. In the same way that Minnie Mouse pines over Mickey, so lovers will take this one day to dote on each other … hopeful that it will kindle the flames to continue to burn long after this day is over. Meanwhile we still want to lift up the blessing of being single in ways that encourage those folks to give thanks to God for their friends, family members, and other relationships that bring love and joy into their lives.

While Valentine’s Day may be as big as Earth Day to most people, in the church, it pales in comparison to the experience that Peter, James and John had when they witnessed Jesus transfigured on top of a peak that reached higher than 100 giraffes - a true mountaintop experience that cannot be explained, but only experienced and marveled at for its splendor and glory.
First some context: this happens six days after Jesus’ conversation at Caesarea Philippi when he asked the disciples who people say that he is and who they say that he is. It culminates with Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, and Jesus’ warning that he is to be betrayed, tried, beaten, killed on a cross and raised three days later. This obviously troubled the disciples, since this is the first time they have heard anything pointing to Jesus’ mortality or vulnerability to the religious leaders and their schemes.

And now, they are on this mountain, 1,800 feet in the air, overlooking the plains of Galilee. Suddenly and mysteriously Jesus’ clothes are dazzling white. Our translation uses the word, “bleach” - they are whiter than anyone on earth could bleach them. This is a bit of an anachronism - like saying that Jesus’ disciples used Windex to clean the windows of their homes! It literally says, “whiten.” I like that turn of a phrase better - they were dazzling white, such as no one on earth could whiten them. He must have look slick and clean, like a Gucci model on the catwalk! On top of that, the two biggest heroes of the Jewish scriptures, Moses and Elijah, are standing with him in this shining scene. These disciples are dumbfounded - we are told that Peter does not know what to say!

But that doesn’t keep him from opening his mouth, and immediately things go awkwardly quiet. It is as if someone stood at 410 Woody Hayes Drive and yelled, “I love Michigan - Go Blue!” The looks that he must have gotten from Moses, Elijah and Jesus when he proposed a plan to build dwelling places - some kinds of tents or booths - so that they could remain in this fantastic moment together, they must have marveled at his audacity! But I imagine I might have wanted the moment to last forever too, especially if “Blinded by the Light,” “Light my Fire,” “Limelight” or some other 80s music was playing in the background - that’s my musical wheelhouse after all. I would have wanted to stay there forever yelling out song titles and the names of the artists in my own “Name that Tune” contest to impress these 3 important people.

This awkward silence is broken when suddenly a cloud rolls in and a voice booms from within it. In a scene reminiscent of Darth Vader telling Luke Skywalker, “I am your father,” God’s voice proclaims, “This is my son, the Beloved; listen to him!” This scene has already played out at Jesus’ baptism when the Holy Spirit descended on him like a dove, the clouds parted, and the voice told Jesus that he is God’s beloved Son. A similar scene will play out at Jesus’ crucifixion when he breathes his last, his spirit leaves him and the temple curtain which separates the Holy of holies from the common people, painted to resemble the heavens is torn in two. Ironically it will be a centurion standing next to the cross who proclaims him the Son of God. These similarities are no accident, and the Gospel writer, Mark, is telling us something about who Jesus is, and what he means to us and to the whole world.

From Jesus’ baptism to his death, God has accompanied this beloved child shining light into the dark world through his preaching, his healing, his miracles - his very presence to love all people with a perfect sacrificial love demonstrated most vividly on the cross. Here, that presence was experienced for a brief moment as unveiled glory - it is an abnormal and unnatural epiphany to common human beings like Peter, James, John and us, but it is a necessary epiphany nonetheless. This is the mountaintop experience that these gentlemen need, even though they do not realize it quite yet. They are going to come down off of this mountain. They are about to travel from the flat, easy farmlands of Galilee up the rocky, mountainous terrain to Jerusalem. It is there that Jesus will meet his terrible end as the powers of the world that oppose God’s love have him killed on a cross. God will remain with him the entire way, even though we may wonder if it is true. This gift of God on the mountaintop serves to remind them of God’s presence with them always, and Jesus’ place as the beloved son of God who will be raised to new and glorious life when the journey through the valley is done.

We all have mountaintop experiences. They don’t always happen on mountains. Inspirational worship services, time at church camps or youth gatherings are often mountaintop experiences for people of faith. They don’t even have to be religious in nature - I have had my spirits raised by joining with 100,000 of my closest friends yelling, “Go Bucks,” in the Horseshoe on a Saturday afternoon. All of these shining mountaintop experiences are gifts to us, for we know there will be valleys. There will be times when death seems to be the winning power in the world. There will be times when, as Paul says, “the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers…” and thus no one will have any hope in God’s glory. When we are in the depths of these valleys, we have the memories of the mountains and the unexplainable joy that we have experienced there to encourage us - encourage us to trust that our physical and spiritual hunger will be fed by God so that we can feed all those who hunger, no exceptions. In this way, we reflect the bright and glorious light of Christ into the valleys through which all of us must travel.

Well, I have come to the end of my message. If you are following at home you will see that I have used all but one of the 15 words or phrases assigned to me. So, I close with that final phrase that I have never uttered before in my life, but with which I wholeheartedly agree: Jesus is my homeboy, Yo! Amen.