Of Faith and Hope
Psalm 99 (9)
2 Corinthians 3:12–4:2
St. Luke 9:28-36 [37-43a]
Prayer of the Day:
Holy God, mighty and immortal, you are beyond our knowing, yet we see your glory in the face of Jesus Christ. Transform us into the likeness of your Son, who renewed our humanity so that we may share in his divinity, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
9.28 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.]
St. Luke 9:28-36 [37-43a] New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.
What do Peter and James and John understand on that Transfiguration Day? They are looking at their leader, standing together with Moses (God’s chosen servant who was instrumental in leading God’s people out of their slavery in Egypt) and Elijah (God’s chosen servant who was, arguably, the greatest of the prophets in the Hebrew Bible) on top of a mountain (where God had so often appeared to the faithful throughout the years). Surely they have glimpsed that Jesus is more than your ordinary every-day miracle worker and healer. Surely they have glimpsed that Jesus is more than a wise teacher and counselor. But can they possibly have glimpsed what the church has proclaimed through the years about this day? That in the clouds and the splendor and the presence of these two central figures from the Hebrew Bible, the mysteries of our faith are confirmed, and our adoption as God’s children is foreshadowed?
Of course the answer is no. Prior to the Lord’s death and resurrection, there is no way to truly understand what this experience means. It is, for Peter and James and John, a memorable occasion that will only take on its intended meaning many months later. But for us, today, there is no doubt. Jesus is seen in his glory on top of that mountain, and his mission among us is once again confirmed by God’s voice. This one, this chosen one of God, will go on to speak words of power and grace. Words that will transform the lives of his first century listeners. Words that will free them from sin as surely as Moses freed Israel from its slavery in Egypt. Words that continue to give life and meaning and hope to believers today. As faith in him grasps our hearts, we are indeed adopted as children of God. We need no longer fear anything: not even death itself, because as Paul says, nothing is able to separate us from the love of God that we know in Jesus. This is our source of hope. This is our source of strength. This is the center of our lives.
As I write this message, the news is filled with stories of Evan Muncie, the 28 year-old Haitian man who was found alive today, in Port-au-Prince. He had been lying under the rubble of a marketplace ever since the January 12 earthquake in that country – 27 days ago! The people of Haiti are a people of deep hope. Yet their hope doesn’t lie in the hard working people who have been tearing away at the rubble for four weeks, as admirable as their efforts are. Their hope doesn’t lie in the medical teams who have traveled from all over the world to offer their assistance, as generous as those teams have been. For many Haitian people, their hope comes from their faith in Jesus Christ – the same Jesus who was transformed on the mountaintop so many years ago, has transformed their lives, and has given them the strength and courage to persevere through the difficulties of these past days.
We take heart in the conviction that on top of that mountain, so many years ago, this image of Moses and Elijah and Jesus standing together confirms the mysteries of our faith, foreshadows our adoption as God’s children, and gives us reason to believe, for our friends in Haiti and for all believers, that we need no longer fear any calamity this world can throw at us. Jesus has conquered death once and for all, and has given us reason to live in hope. May our lives be a proclamation of that truth.
David J. Risendal, Pastor
Exploring This Week’s Gospel:
- What must Peter, James and John have thought when they saw Jesus with Moses and Elijah?
- Why does St. Luke state that Peter didn’t know what he was talking about when he proposed a monument?
- What does it mean that Jesus immediately left the mountain-top and headed into the valley to minister?
Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:
- Why does this image of Jesus transfigured give me hope for myself and for my loved ones?
- What pain or grief or sorrow do I want Jesus to heal?
- When have I experienced God’s presence, in a way that has transformed me from brokenness to wholeness?