Transfigurations – March 3, 2019
A Sermon by Rev. Karen A. Mendes
March 3, 2019
Main Idea: Jesus reveals our true selves.
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable in thy sight O Lord, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
The story of Jesus’ Transfiguration is a familiar one to us. It is a strange story but one which we ponder once a year around this time. The Transfiguration is a glimpse into the true nature of Jesus. It is a preview of Jesus’ post resurrection glory. It dazzles us with light too bright to see, visions too grand to understand, and sounds too profound to take in. The Transfiguration is literally a mountain top experience that defies all attempts to explain or categorize.
So today we will explore the other Transfiguration found in today’s text. “What transfiguration is that?” you might ask. Well, today’s text has two stories about two parents and two sons. The first is, of course, the voice from heaven speaking about Jesus, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” God claims Jesus as God’s Son and gives instructions to Peter, John, and James to pay attention and listen to what Jesus has to say.
The second story is about a father pleading for the life of his child. This is the other Transfiguration story for Jesus transfigures and transforms the lives of this child and his family. This other Transfiguration story reveals to us that Jesus sees our true selves and empowers us to see others as they truly are.
So Jesus goes up the mountain to pray with Peter, John, and James. While up there, while praying, the disciples see Jesus metamorphose; his face changes and his clothes become dazzling white. They see Moses and Elijah appear with Jesus and they can hear them talking about the future. The disciples want to stay up on the mountain. They want to build shrines so that they can always be connected with this experience. But their plans are overshadowed, literally, by a cloud and a voice which tells them to let go of their plans and listen to Jesus. They are so overwhelmed by the experience that they fall silent and they don’t tell anyone about what they had seen or heard.
The next day, their experience is quite different. They come down from the mountain to find a large crowd had gathered there. Everyone is jostling and trying to get Jesus’ attention. From the crowd a voice is heard “Teacher, help me! I beg you to look at my son, my only child!”
On the mountain the disciples hear, “This is my Son, listen to him.” Here, among the people, they hear, “This is my son, help him!”
The father continues, “My child shrieks and has convulsions until he foams at the mouth. His body is thrown around and he has no rest. No one will help us. Your disciples say they cannot.”
The disciples in the crowd around him look guilty and all look uncomfortable for they had spoken disapprovingly among themselves about this family. “Why can’t they keep that child in line? He is out of control.”
Jesus sees their shifty looks and speaks out angrily; “ You faithless and perverse generation! You hypocrites are looking for healing for yourselves without sharing mercy with others! How much longer do you expect me to put up with this? Bring that child to me!”
As the father walks with the child toward Jesus, the boy is thrown to the ground by convulsions. All eyes in the crowd are fixed on him. Jesus approaches the child who is kicking and screaming, flailing his arms around. Jesus kneels down on the ground. He smiles and holds the boy in his arms. He sees the child through all the noise and chaos. He speaks gentle words of power and the boy is healed. His body relaxes, his shrieking ends, and he is able to look around with bright eyes and a smile. His breathing becomes peaceful and he give Jesus a hug. The boy is able to get up and walk back to his family who catch him up in a joyful embrace. The crowd smiles and rejoices at the restoration of the boy to his family and the family to the community. “And all were astounded at the greatness of God.” (9:43a)
This is a Transfiguration story because Jesus transfigures the lives of this boy and his family. The child had been possessed by forces which prevented him from living a full and healthy life. The family had been ostracized by their community and dominated by the power of their son’s condition. Jesus removes these burdens. Jesus sees the boy as beloved by God. Jesus sees him, not his shrieking or flailing about. Jesus knows the boy is much more than what disables him. Jesus sees the true identities of the boy and his family as beloved children of God, and Jesus declares that all of the drama and all of the challenges are nothing compared to the love and power of God. Jesus frees them to rejoin the community and to be as God intends them to be.
Just as the first Transfiguration story is a window into Jesus’ true nature as God’s beloved and chosen child, so the second Transfiguration story is a window into Jesus’ true purpose. Jesus sees each one of us as God’s beloved child, our true self, and he calls us to let go of everything else which separates us from God and from others. When we can be our true selves, we can help others also be free from the burdens which mask their true identities.
On this Transfiguration Sunday, I invite you to ponder your own Transfiguration. What are the circumstances, the habits, the assumptions that you carry with you, that block your true self as a child of God from shining forth? What are the barriers that block you from seeing others as beloved children of God? Right now, before we move into our Time of Prayer, I encourage you to envision yourself as Jesus sees you; a person made in the image of God, precious and beloved.
As children of God we are empowered to share this good news with the whole world. Together let us sing our call to prayer #489 Lord, Listen to your Children Praying.