The Transfiguration of Our Lord; Year B (2/11/2018)

Revised Common Lectionary Texts

2nd Kings 2:1-12
Psalm 50:1-6
2nd Corinthians 4:3-6
St. Mark 9:2-9

Prayer of the Day

Almighty God, the resplendent light of your truth shines from the mountaintop into our hearts. Transfigure us by your beloved Son, and illumine the world with your image, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

9.2 Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, 3 and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. 4 And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus.5 Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 6 He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. 7Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” 8 Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus. 9 As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.

St. Mark 9:2-9 New Revised Standard Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Powerfully Sacred Presence

This year we are spending time in St. Mark’s Gospel. The earliest of the four Gospels, it is known for its intensity, its attention to spiritual warfare, its focus on physical and spiritual wellbeing, and its perception that the followers of Jesus hardly ever get it right.

This week’s text illustrates the last of these notions. In one of the most dramatic scenes of the Gospel, Jesus makes his way to the top of a mountain with Peter, James and John (with no mention of why Andrew is absent). While there, the three followers are treated to a terrifying sight: Jesus is transfigured. His clothes (and presumably he, himself) become dazzling white — whiter than anything the people of his time have ever seen. And while transfigured, he is seen speaking with Elijah and Moses — two of the most important and influential figures in the Hebrew Bible.

Peter, of course, gets it wrong. Not having any idea what to say, he blurts out, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” It is the age-old religious instinct. Let’s put up a few monuments to honor the moment. Then, in years to come, we can make our way back to the top of this mountain and remember what a grand time it was.

God has something else in mind. A cloud engulfs them. A voice declares Jesus to be the Son of God (not just your run-of-the-mill Rabbi), and demands that they listen to him.  Jesus leads them down the mountain. And when they arrive at the bottom they are immediately met with a great crowd, scribes arguing with the rest of the disciples, and a young boy who is possessed with a spirit that causes him great anguish. The grand time seems to be over. Jesus is once again laser focused on his mission.

St. Mark would have us believe that these three disciples remain confused, uncertain, and incapable of understanding what they have just experienced. Indeed, at this point in the story, they probably still are. Over time, though, their experiences with Jesus, and eventually the power of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4), will lead them to a deep and lasting faith — one that they are bold enough to share with the world.

So Christians all over the world will gather this Sunday to reflect on this story. We’ll break open the Word of God, and proclaim it for all to hear. We’ll experience the presence of Christ in the meal, and receive forgiveness, strength and peace. We’ll gather for prayer, praise and thanksgiving, and be united in our faith and our desire to worship God.

The question is: what impact will this Sunday’s worship have on us? Will we walk away like these three disciples, more confused than inspired? More uncertain than enlightened? Or will our hearts be stirred by the powerful, sacred presence of Christ in our midst? This Sunday and every Sunday, God promises to meet us in worship. Let us gather with expectation, and open our hearts and minds to the presence of God in our midst.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel

  1. What might Jesus have wanted Peter and the others to experience on the mountain?
  2. What was misguided about Peter’s offer to build three monuments?
  3. Why does Peter seem to be a completely different person on the Day of Pentecost?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel

  1. When have I experienced the presence of God in my life?
  2. How might I be more aware of what God is doing in my world?
  3. How will I look for (and anticipate) the presence of God in worship this coming Sunday?