Sermon: Transfigurations

Sunday, 26 February 2017 03:00
Hits: 129 Written by Mark Giroux

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Her face lit up. His face lit up.

If you've ever seen it, you know. When a face lights up, it's beautiful. And it's often because of love.

When you see someone you love, or a thing you love, or get the chance to do something you love, your face lights up. It's great to see.

I remember the days we lived in Chicago. One visit we made back to New York State was a surprise to my dad. My mom knew about it, but we kept it from him. He was still teaching high school music at the time.

My wife and I went up to school and stood outside the door. Dad was teaching a trombone lesson. He looked at us through the window, and then looked down. He could not make it compute. We were not supposed to be there. And then he realized we actually were there. And his face just lit up. It was beautiful.

Then there was the surprise I pulled on my wife for our 25th anniversary. I secretly bought her something she'd always wanted, but we did not think we could afford. It was a baby grand piano. I had it delivered while she was at work. She walked in and saw it. Her face just lit up. It was beautiful.

Every Friday we pick our daughter up from her group home. She has an overnight with us every week like clockwork. Even though it's a set thing, she's delighted every time. We walk up the steps to her house, and she's at the door. Her face just lights up. It's beautiful.

If you've ever seen it, you know. When a face lights up, it's beautiful. And it's often because of love.

So today we have this story from Matthew's Gospel about how Jesus lit up. He was up on the holy mountain with Peter, James and John. And the face of Jesus lit up. In fact, all of Jesus just lit up. It was beautiful. And it was about love.

The voice of God says, "This is my Son, the Beloved. With him I am well pleased." When God says that about you, you just light up.

We call this event in the Gospels "the Transfiguration." It's one of what theologians call "The Great Mysteries." The Great Mysteries are the Annunciation to Mary, the Incarnation at Christmas, the Transfiguration, the Resurrection on Easter Day, and the Ascension forty days later. The Great Mysteries.

And what Jesus experiences, we are to experience. Maybe not on the same level...

you could say that Jesus experiences the Mysteries with capital letters. We experience the mysteries in lower-case letters. We have little transfigurations, transfiguration with a little "t." The face of Jesus shines "like the sun," according to Matthew. Earlier in the same Gospel, Jesus said "the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father."

And it's all about love.

Love transfigures us as it transfigured Jesus. Love makes you shine.

We all have little transfigurations. There comes a moment when, to our total surprise, we discover that we are loved, we are treasured, we are cherished. That gives us the strength to get through the challenges we face.

Maybe that's why the story of the Transfiguration is put here on the Last Sunday after Epiphany. Lent starts Wednesday, and this story of love and being lit up can give us strength for the long journey through the desert toward Easter.

We all have seasons of Lent in our lives...times of suffering, sorrow, or struggle. Our little transfigurations, our experiences of being lit up by love, keep us going on the tough days. Like the Resurrection, the Transfiguration is a promise of a happy ending.

I like how the Gospel of Matthew gives a happy ending to Moses, of all people. You might know that in the Hebrew Bible, what Christians call the Old Testament, Moses does not get a happy ending. He led the Hebrews out of slavery in Egypt. And then all those years of leading them in the wilderness. Dealing with keeping them fed, keeping them safe, listening to their non-stop complaining.

And then, the Book of Deuteronomy says, God won't let him go all the way with them into the promised land because of a very small mistake Moses once made. Deuteronomy says Moses died on a mountain outside the promised land and that God buried him secretly there.

But the Gospel of Matthew has Moses raised to life on another mountain, the holy mountain of Transfiguration. Now he's alive, and he gets to see this new, greater prophet of Israel, Jesus, the Son of God. I like that ending for Moses a lot better.

The Transfiguration is a promise of a happy ending...for Jesus, for Moses, and for us. We all have seasons of Lent in our lives...times of suffering, sorrow, or struggle.

Our little transfigurations...our experiences of being lit up by love...keep us going on the tough days.

Love transfigures us as it transfigured Jesus.

Love lights up your face.

Love makes you shine like the sun.

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