Transfiguration Sunday – March 3, 2019
Exodus 34:29-35, Psalm 99, Luke 9:28-36
We love using some words with a little bit more regularity than is needed. “Super”, you might agree, is one of them. Just think of it! “I wish you a super fabulous birthday”, “I’m super excited about our vacation.” “Have a super day!” And then there are the super descriptors we use for emphasis…., Superheros, Super-bugs, Super-novas, Super-moms, Super-markets and the list will never be complete. There’s one more that some of you may be familiar with if you’re an NFL fan — Super-bowl.
If you’ve enjoyed this big football competition on Sunday about a month ago, you were among about 98 million other fans. You can’t ignore that there is something thrilling in being tuned into something big and exciting.
Why do we yearn for something big and super? We long for those brief, fleeting moments when we are raised above the realm of the ordinary into the realm of the extraordinary into the soul-stirring status of the super. During these long, harsh cold winters, we find something inspiring and exciting and super to take our mind away from the monotony of being hemmed in with temperatures hovering around the minus thirties. Why do you think so many of us search Netflix for sci-fi or other forms of escapism?
Today in the scriptures we heard about something rather super! It’s quite marvellous and out of the ordinary. It’s something super-natural actually— now known as Transfiguration Sunday. You heard the narrative read. The Lord takes the inner circle of his disciples up into a high mountain. “And while He was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to Him. They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.” What happened there, Matthew could only put down in the stumbling, inarticulate, inadequate words of those who were eyewitnesses.
Peter was dazed and in a bit of a stunned trance.
Do we wish to believe this story? Do we wish to be raised above the realm of the ordinary into the glorious presence of God?
In our somewhat jaded world we typically don’t really want to believe in miracles. We are always looking for a ’natural’ or scientific explanation of miracles, even if it’s a miracle written in the Bible. For example, here’s one I heard recently about the very familiar wedding story when Jesus turned the water into wine. Sounds quite miraculous to me. But the realists describe it as if there’s nothing unusual about Jesus changing water into wine. He does that every year. The rain falls, the water falls upon the earth, the grapes grow, and finally, the rain water is transformed into the wine of the grape. Same thing, you see. It just takes a little longer. Talk about ‘water down’ that miracle.
There are many things that can’t be explained scientifically or naturally. Many of us have heard stories of a cancer patient who suddenly gets a clear bill of health. The cancer cells are miraculously no longer detected on a cat scan.
Or what about the numerous near death experiences that are reported. I recently read about a surgeon, who obviously had a very scientific background. He has a near-death experience during his own surgery where he sees the tunnel, the light. Where he sees angels and others in a heaven-like state, where he feels at peace, not fear. But he comes back to earth.
In December of 1980, a 19-year-old girl named Jean Hilliard crashed her car while on the way to a friend’s house in rural Minnesota. She tried walking the remaining two miles, but the frigid temperatures stopped her. She was found frozen solid the next morning, and her heart rate had dropped to eight beats per minute. Miraculously, she made a full recovery, and doctors were baffled as to how she survived the ordeal. Some insist the story has a medical explanation. Or was this a miracle?
Is Peter’s experience any different?
Peter was in a kind of stunned trance, and finally, he whispers, “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” Yes, this was Peter speaking, hardheaded, practical, down-to-earth Peter. No messing around for him. He was a good businessman and a leading fisherman, a big man in the community. Peter was one of the officers of the Fishermen’s Association at Capernaum. He didn’t lease his boats. He was a capitalist. He owned his own boats, and he got his own profit. And yet, this same, down-to-earth Peter said: “Let’s stay here. Let’s stay here on the mountain, far from the fish, the nets, the boats, and the business.”
Tranfiguration Sunday — a journey into the supernatural through Luke’s passage. A journey with God’s glory surrounding Jesus and Peter, and Moses and Elijah. Life with God, though God and in God is truly… life on the mountain.
Yes, a good, hard, practical, down-to-earth Peter saw the glory of it, the majesty. You and I can, too. 1)
1) Parts of this message are inspired by a sermon by Louis H. Valbracht, published on sermons.com
Copyright 2019 – Heinrich Grosskopf, Minister of Dayspring Presbyterian Church
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