Grace Lutheran Church
February 19, 2023
2 Peter 1: 16-21
Grace to you and peace from God and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Please pray with me – May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.
I’d like for you to close your eyes and in that delightful place of delightful memories go back to a delightful time. A time of pleasure and joy. A time that may have been yesterday or years ago. A time you relish and cherish. [pause]. Live in that time for a moment. Who is with you? Or are you alone? What do you see? What do you hear? Even in your remembering, feel the joy of that time. Maybe there’s even a sense of amazement. We want to hold it ever so close. Keep that image in the back of your mind as we consider today’s gospel.
While we are a mere two months after the birth of Jesus on our calendar, the Transfiguration occurs at a turning point in the Gospel of Matthew. Let’s place it in context. Jesus has called all of his disciples, preached the Sermon on the Mount, cleansed the man of his leprosy, healed his mother-in-law and many others of their diseases and sicknesses. He quieted the storm on the Sea of Galilee, restored the life of a young girl, taught the crowds and especially the disciples – taught them that the kingdom of heaven is unlike anything that they might expect. Jesus broke the rules that were enforced to the letter of the law. He spoke in parables that defied easy interpretation, grieved the death of his cousin, John the Baptist. He fed the thousands, walked on water, and reached out even to the Samaritans — yes, even them.
And then in an intense conversation with his disciples, he asks them quite pointedly, “Who do you say that I am?” And Peter said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” And Jesus, said, “Yes. And this is what is yet to come – he would go to Jerusalem, undergo great suffering, be killed, and on the third day be raised. And you – if you are to follow me, you must deny your self and take up your cross.” Almost too much to take in, isn’t it?
And then, Jesus takes his three closest disciples, Peter, James and John, and takes them up a high mountain and something miraculous occurs. He is transfigured – that is he is changed – his face shone like the sun and his clothes became dazzling white. And that’s not all – standing with him were Moses and Elijah – two of the great ancestors of the people of God. And Peter, you gotta love Peter, jumps into the midst of it all and says, “Lord, this is flat out amazing. If you’d like, I’ll make three places here for you and Moses and Elijah to dwell.” And the words were still coming out of his mouth when he was interrupted by a voice that proclaimed, “This is my Son, the Beloved; I am pleased with him. Listen to him.” And the disciples fell to their knees in fear.
And Jesus came to them and touched them and said to them, “Get up and don’t be afraid.” And when Peter and James and John dared to look up, they saw only Jesus. Who then led them down the mountain.
In its wisdom over the centuries, the Church has placed the Feast of the Transfiguration on the last Sunday of the season of Epiphany. Epiphany, the season of magi’s gifts, baptism in the Jordan, and water into wine. Epiphany, the season of light and revelation. Epiphany, culminated in the Transfiguration, a mountaintop time in the Church.
We often speak of times of delight and pleasure and joy as mountaintop experiences. We relish them and cherish them and want them to go on forever. But they don’t last, do they. In fact, sometimes it seems that they are over in a flash. And we return to everyday life. A friend of mine noted to me several years ago that mountaintops are wonderful but it’s in the valleys that things grow.
My friends, in these three days until Ash Wednesday, we are coming down from the mountaintop and entering into the Season of Lent. Forty days. Now, if you count the number of days on the calendar from Ash Wednesday until Easter, you’ll come up with forty-six. You see, we don’t include the Sundays in the 40 days of Lent because each Sunday throughout the year is a “little Easter.”
Forty days. How will you use these forty days? Can they be for you a valley – a time of growth? A time of deepening your relationship with God? A time of closer relationships with fellow Christians? Or other people of God?
How will this come about? In the Christian Church over the millennia, Lent has been a time of prayer and fasting and almsgiving. Some people adopt a new prayer practice or devotional time. Perhaps having Morning or Evening Prayer everyday. Maybe trying a new kind of prayer – perhaps Centering Prayer or walking meditation. Or using a prayer list for your petitions. Maybe you want to pray one of the Psalms every day. Your hymnal is a great resource.
Others may give up something – chocolate, wine, red meat, coffee. The purpose of this of course is to help us recognize the abundance that is poured into our life; to help us become familiar once again with what it is like to be in want for something. And to help us use our longing for what we are fasting from to turn us toward some other good.
Some people establish a practice of serving others, helping the poor or suffering. Perhaps a special offering or a time of personal service at one of our community’s agencies or organizations.
Forty days. How will you use these forty days? I have placed a few books and resources on one of the tables in fellowship hall. You can peruse them and see if you may want to add them to your library. And, if you would like to talk about how to spend your Lent, of course, I am happy to do so and would consider it a privilege.
So, in your mind’s eye, go back to that place of delight and pleasure and joy. Bask in it. Soak it up. It is one of God’s good gifts to you.
And then get ready to come down the mountain into the valley – where things grow. And in the valley there are baptismal waters that refresh and renew morning by morning, bread and wine that nourishes and sustains day by day and the sweet company of the saints and of all who make this journey. Because we don’t journey alone.
Thanks be to God. Amen.