Exodus 34:29-35; Psalm 99; 2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2; Luke 9:28-43a
Last week Dave Stevens & I went for a sail in his boat on Lake Washington. Unexpectedly, the stars were out & the lake was like glass. How often do you see Lake Washington without waves—or at least ripples? The most magical part of the evening was seeing in the water the perfect reflection of buildings & trees & lights from Renton, Seattle & Mercer Island.
Most of my winter evenings are pretty ordinary. It’s dark & cold & rainy; who wants to be outside? But that evening seemed extraordinary. On the other hand, what we experienced probably happens more often than we think. Dave & I just happened to be at in the right place at the right time.
At Jesus’ transfiguration, what those men experienced on that mountain also was a matter of being at the right place at the right time.
They almost missed it. Luke writes in v.32 that Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory.
We can sympathize with those men. They were in the presence of Christ every day. Even so, most of their days were pretty ordinary. We also are in the presence of Christ each day. Most of our days are pretty ordinary. We don’t have much reason to expect anything flashy or extraordinary.
The men experienced this vision on a mountaintop. We tend to think of a mountaintop experience as something exciting & joyful. Sometimes it is. But think about it. Climbing a mountain is hard work. No wonder these guys felt like sleeping!
Again, you know what that’s like. A lot of days can feel like climbing a mountain. Just the ordinary chores of keeping a house clean, buying groceries, paying bills, going to work. Then, on top of that, if you have health concerns, doctor visits, financial worries or strained relationships– that can be an extra burden. Then, turn on the news & there are the cares & burdens of the city, the nation & the world. Yes, some days can feel like climbing a mountain. Who could blame those men who had climbed the mountain with Jesus for wanting to sleep?
But they didn’t. And because they didn’t sleep they experienced something incredible.
It’s not that what they experienced was fun. Luke tells us in v.34 that the disciples were terrified. Actually, they were torn. On the one hand, they were terrified of what they couldn’t explain. On the other hand, Peter said, Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah” — not knowing what he said. In other words, scared as he was, Peter wanted to preserve the moment.
What a good idea! What Peter experienced on that mountaintop was brand new to him, & yet he embraced it! What those men on the mountain experienced was something brand new, & yet, with deep roots in the past.
Today’s first reading is the story of Moses & his mountaintop experience. At Jesus’ transfiguration, Moses himself, & the great prophet Elijah appear with Jesus, confirming who he is. And a voice from heaven commands them to listen to him.
Moses & Elijah represent the past. Jesus represents what is new in the present. And the voice from heaven represents God the Father, who is always out ahead of us, calling us into the future.
As long as we stay awake, like those who have gone before us, God’s beloved people today can experience Christ transfigured.
Where can we see the power of God coming together all at once— past, present & future? Where among us do we see Jesus transfigured?
Next month we will again welcome homeless men into our church home. That space where they eat & sleep in the past has served different purposes. During the rest of the year it serves a different purpose. For the month of March it is transfigured into something new.
But transfiguration at its best has some connection with the past. Many of you remember a time when there were many children in this church. You may grieve that we don’t have those kids today. And yet, with eyes open we see that we do! Last year, a piece of our land on the hill was converted to a play area. Our past ministry to children has been transfigured into something new.
Better yet, visit the library if you haven’t today. You’ll notice quite a difference. This space that was once our original worship area & that old, beautiful wood floor that we once again can enjoy, has been transfigured into something new. Our hope & prayer is that this wonderful old space where so much good ministry has happened will be a safe place for boys & girls ministry through the Boys & Girls Club. In that space, past & present will come together as we move into the future that God has called us to prepare for.
Most of our days are pretty ordinary. Some days we feel like we’re weighed down by the cares of our lives–like climbing a mountain. And yet, if we stay awake, we see that God continues to be present among us. God is powerfully at work. The Body of Christ is glorified. The past is honored, & blesses the present as we move into the future. We are in the right place… at the right time… to witness the glory of God!