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Feb 19, 2023 — Transfiguration Sunday (White or Gold)
Exodus 24:12-18; Psalm 99 (UMH 819); 2 Peter 1:16-21; Matthew 17:1-19
By Rev. Charles J. Downing
First, “transfiguration”? What does it mean? Most of us have not used that word since the last time we read the scriptures for the Sunday before Ash Wednesday and asked, “Is there another text I can use? We know it is what happened to Jesus as he was changed before the witnesses on the mountain as they gathered and heard God speak. He was a shining example of what happens when we encounter the Holy...as He shone like the sun. To be transfigured means to be changed or to be transformed. It is to shine in the dark like the light of Christ that has come into the world. Transfiguration or transformation or change that is deep and lasting makes us into someone different than we were before an encounter with the Holy.
Matthew, Mark and Luke all tell this story of Jesus on the Mountain top. 2 peter 1:16-21 also makes a reference to the event. The Old Testament passage from Exodus 24 invites us to go with Moses to the mountain top to meet God and receive the 10 commandments. Psalm 99 also makes a reference to mountain tops and encounters with God.
If there is a theme from the scriptures for this Sunday it could be: God speaks to those called for High and Holy encounters.
When God does speak in these passages it is in the context of meeting God in a high and holy place. God has chosen who will come to hear and see the Holy. God has also revealed in these epiphanies that those called are not alone as they are given the holy voice of direction and guidance.
I am recalling the baptism of one of my sons. I do not remember my baptism, I was a baby like most of us, but I can still recall being in my home church and making a promise to raise my son in the way of Christ. I remember that moment as a time when God spoke, no not on a mountain top, nor in a loud voice, but it was a high and holy encounter, my own private epiphany. In that moment of promises made I knew the task of raising this child was not just mine, but it was for all gathered and most importantly I knew my son was in God’s hands. It was a mountain top experience and one that I wanted to repeat. It is human nature when we are privileged with any kind of holy encounter to repeat it. Peter is expressive and makes this point clear as he says in Matthew 17:4 “ Lord, it is well that we are here; if you wish, I will make three booths here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Eli'jah.”
Peter is taken up in the moment and does not want the encounter to end. Like us, Peter wants to stay on the top of the mountain. We want to hold onto those encounters we are blessed to know and like Peter we want to make it a permanent place to stay.
What is forgotten in the Gospel is Jesus came down from the mountain top. The experience of the Holy for those who were witnesses is for a purpose. They have seen God and God’s light and now know they are not alone for the ministry that they are called to do in the days to come.
We stand on the mountain this Sunday looking down at what is to come. We look down on 40 days before the crucifixion of Jesus. We are invited to spend time in the desert with Him for prayer and scripture study and maybe fasting or some other form of discipline that will make us open to God’s voice and maybe experience a Holy encounter during Lent. We are to remember that every encounter with the Holy can be a means of grace for us as we open ourselves to growing in Grace. Yes, we want to go back to the mountain and spend time alone with Jesus, but the truth is there is work to do on the ground.
Time on the mountain listening for God’s voice is only a prelude to all that is to come as we seek to follow Jesus.
Ask: When have you encountered the Holy? Was it a mountain top experience? Did you want to repeat it? Were you changed in such a way that the light of Christ could be seen shining through you?
Rev. Charles J. Downing is a retired elder living in Alabama and still serving a church that he has been at for more that 10 years.
19 febrero, 2023 — Domingo de la Transfiguración
Éxodo 24:12-18; Salmos 99; 2 Pedro 1:16-21; Mateo 17:1-9
Por el Rvdo. Charles J. Downing