Transfiguration of Our Lord
6 March 2011
St. John's, Chicago, Illinois
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
It was the ultimate "mountain top experience." In fact, it is the very reason we have the expression "mountain top experience." Jesus takes Peter, James, and John up the mountain to behold Him in His glory. But what does this mean?
As a teenager, I went to one of the earlier National Youth Gatherings. We were with some 15,000 youth, and were caught up in the excitement and emotion of it. Many times that week, we were told that this was a great " mountaintop experience" -- and it was. The trouble was, few of us wanted to go down from the mountain and experience regular, everyday life.
And more trouble -- you get caught up in the scene here, rather than the words. You look at the flashing white clothes and how regal and impressive the event is, and you think that this is the glory. But it is not.
You are like all people. You want the glitz, the glamour of the red carpet, the lights of the paparazzi cameras, the popularity of celebrity life, of a YouTube video with a million hits, of having a Facebook account with a few thousand "friends." To a 21st century American, that is glory.
But that is not real glory. That is a broken, sinful idea of what glory must be. But it is not true glory.
Moses had gone up on the mountain to talk with the Lord. Elijah also went up Mt. Sinai, several hundred years later, to talk with the Lord. Is this now some divine rift in the space/time continuum, where we see those events from the other side? In other words, do we see here what Moses and Elijah experienced in the books of Exodus and 1 Kings? We just don't know. But we do know that these were not simply ghosts; this was the real Moses and the real Elijah bodily speaking with Jesus -- God-in-the-flesh, in all His glory. And this body was now radiating with light beyond compare!
But what makes this so full of Jesus Christ's glory? The light? The display of power? The voice from heaven?
The glory is made known through the Word! The Word spoken by the Word-made-flesh. And what does He say? Luke's account tells us; Jesus speaks of His exodus--His departure. In other words, He talks to Moses and Elijah about His upcoming crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension. And there is the point. That is where we see Christ in His glory.
Our God and Lord, suffering and dying on the cross -- there is the image of ultimate mercy. That is God's love in action. And that is the most beautiful, most poignant moment of God's mercy -- ever. When you gaze upon the image of the crucified Jesus, remember: you are not looking on our Lord being defeated. No! You are seeing our Savior, victorious over sin and death, fully displaying the glory of our merciful God!
And this is how His glory comes into contact with us, week after week. Jesus uses this pulpit on Sundays, and these classrooms throughout the week to be places where His saving Gospel is proclaimed. The glory of Jesus is handed out, in the preaching and teaching of His death and resurrection. Our Lord gathers a pastor, a faculty and staff to be His mouthpieces in declaring His exodus, and pouring out His glory, that His baptized children may bask and bathe in it.
Through the saving Gospel, our Lord Jesus frees you from the sin of seeking your own glory. He forgives you for looking for His glory, but in all the wrong places and all the wrong ways. He removes your guilt for stumbling and not knowing the right things to say, like Peter offering to set up tents.
His glory is seen as He gives you forgiveness, life, and salvation. The glory of the Lord was revealed as He led the children of Israel through the Red Sea on dry ground. St. Paul refers to that event as a "Baptism into Moses." God's glory foreshadowing baptism.
The glory of the Lord was revealed as He miraculously provided bread for Elijah and the widow. Before that, the Lord sent ravens to give him bread. The Lord provided a never-ending supply of bread to sustain Elijah's life.
These events were used by God to show His coming glory in His sacraments. The glory of the Lord can be found in Holy Baptism and His Holy Supper. They look and sound simple and ordinary. Bread, wine, and water do not seem to suggest "glory." Yet our dear Lord attaches the glory of His Word to these elements, and His Word does what it says.
These precious gifts then bring the forgiveness, mercy, and blessing of Jesus to you. They bring God's glory to you. And they prepare you and your body for the day when you will see God face-to-face, in all His glory, as you dwell with Him in eternity.
Our Lord's Transfiguration fixes your eyes on Jesus. But it is not all about getting caught up in the light and white robes and majesty. The glory is all in the Word spoken by Jesus to Moses and Elijah. He tells them of THE mountain top experience He was about to undergo. He had set His face toward Jerusalem, and was about to give Himself on the cross of Mt. Calvary.
Yes, the mountain top experience of Mt. Calvary is the greatest moment of His glory, and the truest place where we want to cling to Him and cry out in faith, "'Tis good, Lord, to be here." And as we follow Him from His victorious cross to His empty tomb, we are given the gift of experiencing His glory; not through some time machine, but through His preaching and sacraments that bring those moments to us.
Thanks be to God! Our Transfigured Lord brings His ultimate mountain top experience of Calvary to you, giving you His life and salvation! Amen.