28 Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. 29 And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. 30 Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. 31 They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. 32 Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. 33 Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, “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. 34 While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. 35 Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” 36 When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.
37 On the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, a great crowd met him. 38 Just then a man from the crowd shouted, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son; he is my only child. 39 Suddenly a spirit seizes him, and all at once he shrieks. It convulses him until he foams at the mouth; it mauls him and will scarcely leave him. 40 I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.” 41 Jesus answered, “You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here.” 42 While he was coming, the demon dashed him to the ground in convulsions. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the boy, and gave him back to his father. 43 And all were astounded at the greatness of God.
How about that fog this week? Wow that was pretty intense some of the mornings and we don’t get it very often like some coastal places do. I love the way we get the frost from it that paints everything a beautiful white and when you look at it closely the patterns are just amazing like snowflakes. Seeing it from the safety of the house is quite different than driving in it. Its pretty tough to see what’s ahead of you and if you have many curves along the way that could be scary. Also, when it is still dark and you have your lights on, we know that the instinct is to turn the lights up and maybe our bright lights but then it bounces off the fog and it is even worse. Living in NE Colorado we take for granted sometimes the ability to see as far as the eyes can see.
We have these times when we feel like we are walking in a fog as well. When our bodies are not feeling the best. Maybe we are too tired or congested from a cold and we have this dull sensation going on in the front of our face. We want to get out of the fog, but our mind will not let us. We even have jokes about walking around in a fog when we are not able to think or see clearly. The disciples were definitely in a fog when they experienced the Transfiguration.
The moment of Transfiguration is a pretty cool event. When I first started preaching, I don’t think that I always got the meaning of this climactic point in the gospel story. But before we get to this important point let’s look at how Luke the gospel writer takes on this story. We are going to start with the end of the story and the healing event when they come down from the mountain. The disciples have gathered around a family and a child is possessed with a demon. The father of the child begs Jesus to heal his son who shrieks and is seized with a fit, foams at the mouth and the sprit throws him to the ground. The father explains that he asked the disciples to heal him and they could not do it. Jesus responds, “You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here.” The demon throws the child down again and Jesus takes the boy in his arms casts out the demon and then gives him back to the father. Pretty harsh words, faithless and perverse generation. Was he talking about his day or 2019? The disciples tried but they could not get the spirit out of the boy. It was like they were working in a fog. They had seen Jesus do it, but they just could not complete the task.
Many of us are just like the disciples filled with the Sprit one day but unable to get the work done the next day. According to Pastor Bardley E. Schmelling senior Lutheran Pastor in MN he writes, “Churches are notorious at severing the transfiguration cord between work and spirit, making us agents of a task list rather than missionaries with power.” We are so good at naming what needs to be done. We need to get more young families in the church. We need to get the parking lot fixed. We need some more money to bring exciting new ministries to the church. Even worse we are clear about what other people should be doing. Well if they knew what was good for them, they would come to church. How can they raise a family with those little kids and not bring them to Sunday school or youth groups? They just allow their kids activities to take over their lives and don’t care about being in church.
Committee meetings become sterile. I have heard it said that the Presbytery office is the most godless place in the whole Presbytery. The more our church attendance shrinks the more we shriek. We throw our hands in the air and we turn to complaining. There I also the other side that crops up sometimes as well and that is thinking we have to change everything to get the desired demographic to church. New music, technology, younger pastors or leaders, throw out liturgy and replace with praise hymns. When Jesus rails against the disciples for being godless and perverse, we glimpse first his humanity which does get frustrated. And second we see the disconnect between the Spirit and the reality we all face. So often when we are in the valleys of our lives, we forget the mountain top experiences.
The Transfiguration story and the shining of Moses face…
The disciples are experiencing something that was hard to comprehend. Half asleep trying to stay awake during a time of prayer there is Jesus with Moses and Elijah and Peter yells out do you want us to make three booths, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah? Is that all that Peter is getting from this conversation, this mountain top experience? He wants to build a place for them to stay in. It’s almost a moment of levity, if we were watching this on TV with our friends, we would want to elbow them in the ribs and say did you hear that? Peter is such a crack up.
Then the voice of God comes and the reality of the situation grows even more. The two men who join Jesus are there as they talk about what is about to happen. The moment of the heavens and earth becoming one and knowing that Jesus is going to have to go to Jerusalem to face the powers of the establishment. He is going to be killed and the pointing toward that difficult process. The time we think of as Lent in our church. The voice of God reminds Jesus and the disciples that through it all God will be with them.
The mountain top experience leaves us wondering how do we deal with this moment. Do we build booths or do we allow the light of the Spirit and the voice of God to move us? Are we like the disciples who tried to heal the boy possessed with a demon and failed or do we have the confidence of Jesus that God’s presence and Spirit will work with in us? Do we allow the mountain top experiences to sustain us when we are in the valleys?
It is easy to be a Christian when everything is going well and there are no challenges before us. It’s easy when you are ahead on the scoreboard and just a few seconds remain on the clock. But what about when adversity strikes? We know it will, and we need to be prepared for when it does. We must practice the sharing of the Spirit’s gifts of love and compassion for others when we might need it for ourselves. Do we trust that we have a lifeline to that voice and shining light from the mountaintop? Or do we go around in a fog, half asleep and become surprised around every corner not knowing where to turn? Don’t worry about building the booths. Be prepared to share the beauty and glory from the mountain top. Be prepared to make a difference for all who are seeking a difference in their lives. Let you light shine and the voice of God to come through your actions and love. Amen.