A sermon by the Rev. Linda Harrison
Transfiguration; March 3, 2019
Exodus 34:29-35; Psalm 99; 2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2; Luke 9:28-43a
After encountering the Divine, the face of Moses shines with Divine light. Moses is transformed. The Israelites fear looking upon the face of Moses because to do so would be akin to looking upon the luminous face of God. And so, Moses wears a veil in the presence of the people.
Jesus is transfigured into a dazzling sight to behold as Jesus encounters the Divine through the prophets Elijah and Moses. Jesus shimmers in the glory of God.
On the mountaintop, they speak of Jesus’ departure – Jesus’ exodus. Elijah, perhaps the greatest prophet in Hebrew tradition, is not a stranger to exodus and wilderness moments. The first hearers of this gospel story would certainly make that connection as well as the obvious connection of Moses and the Exodus of the Hebrew children from bondage in Israel to the freedom of the Promised Land.
And so, shining brightly with Divine light, Jesus speaks with these great prophets and leaders about his own exodus.
Exodus: the promise of hardship, the promise of wilderness wandering … and the promise of liberation. The promise of God’s presence every step of the way. God desires nothing more than freedom and life for the people of God, and so God raised up Moses to lead the people out of the bondage of slavery. God was with the people, as the story in Exodus goes, as an ever-present pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. The way to the Promised Land was difficult, filled with physical hardships and even harder lessons learned. To follow the way of God, to live into the freedom that God offers, is never easy – and one never travels alone.
Going back down the mountain, Jesus knows the way will be hard, fraught with frustration and disappointment, and eventually a tortuous death. And yet, even after experiencing such an intense encounter with the Divine, a theophany that transforms his very appearance, Jesus comes down the mountain side and walks into his exodus. An exodus of transforming love, leading all who will listen to and follow Jesus to the way of liberating life.
The Sunday of the Transfiguration closes out the Sundays after the Epiphany as the church calendar turns toward Lent. Lent, a time of wilderness wandering when Christians are invited into a deeper and more intentional time of spiritual devotion in prayer, meditation, fasting, study, acts of compassion. It can be an unnerving time for some of us when prayer and other disciplines take us where we might not have sought to go. It is a time Christians are invited to meditate upon the mysteries of God in Christ, a time when there may be more questions than answers. But nonetheless, a time that leads to abundant life in God.
Jesus shows us the way on this exodus journey through Lent. Indeed, Jesus is the Way as the One who walks with us, beside us and before us.
In our own Lenten wanderings, Jesus offers hope during hardship, presence during grief, mercy during struggle, compassion during self-doubt. Jesus offers life, the liberating life of joy in the love of God. And in the exodus of Jesus – in his wanderings of teaching, healing, preaching, and in his death, resurrection, and ascension – the Christ of God shows us what liberation looks like and feels like. In his exodus, Jesus offers us release from captivity, deliverance from all that keeps us from being who God has called us to be in this world, in this life here on this little planet. God presents to us an open future in the unbounded love of God.
On this Sunday of the Transfiguration, we glimpse Jesus, shining in the glory of God. We touch a bit of that theophany with Jesus. We have but a foretaste of our own glory.
And as we step off that mountain side where we too are engulfed in the brilliance of God, we begin our Lenten exodus journey in the full knowledge that God is with us. We step into Lent, ready to embrace our wilderness moments, turning our faces with Jesus toward Jerusalem. We step off that mountain, obeying the voice of God that commands us to listen to this One, the Only Begotten, the Beloved of God. Touched by the glory of God through the Christ, we step off the mountain, transformed ourselves, ready to offer the same transforming and liberating and loving glory to a world waiting for God’s open future and unbounded love.
May are Lenten practice prepare us with the strength and the courage to do so and be so.
Blessed be God forever.