A Lutheran Says What?

Sermons and random thoughts on God, the world and the intersection of the two

Figuring Out Jesus Sermon on Transfiguration Sunday Year A February 23, 2020

This sermon was preached at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church on February 23, 2020 in Holladay, UT. The texts were:

Exodus 24: 12-18
2 Peter 1: 16-21
Matthew 17: 1-9

Children’s sermon: (*I ran from one spot in the sanctuary to the next stopping only long enough to do something silly like dance, jumping jacks, etc. without giving the children much direction at all except to follow me.)  How was that to follow? It might have been confusing at first because I didn’t tell you to look for something new. But once you caught on to the new thing, you got it! Our bible story talks about seeing something new. The disciples went up the mountain with Jesus, and they thought that Jesus was special, but they didn’t know how special. They just thought he was a good rabbi, teacher, healer. But then they saw Jesus in a new light! Jesus shined with God’s glory! We don’t really know how that happened, only that God made it happen. The disciples were afraid and fell down-but Jesus touched them and said, get up, don’t be afraid. Just because you saw something new, doesn’t mean you need to be afraid! Jesus says: Now you have seen me differently, now you know that there is more to come, and you will follow me in a new way, on a new and different path than you first thought. It’s not only about teaching, healing and praying. It might not all be easy, but God is with you. Jesus helps us to see the world around us in a new way and to do new things-even if they might scare us. Have you ever been afraid to try something new? I have! It’s scary to talk to a new person, or to help someone in need, especially if it means that we go to places that we don’t know or we might think are unsafe-sometimes that true but sometimes it’s not and we’re just unfamiliar. Jesus says when you are afraid to do something new, I am with you! All the time! Let’s pray:

You’ve heard the saying, “it’s not the destination, it’s the journey.” I’m not always great at remembering that, as I tend to start a journey with the end already in mind. When we go up into the mountains hiking, I have a hard time not worrying about how much further to the top, especially if I’m on a new trail. I’m not much of a enjoy the journey kind of personality. I’m more of a “are we there yet?” kind of person and I really like to know where I’m going, exactly how long it will take to get there, what the path will be (hard or easy?) and if I have everything I could need for the journey.  I’m working on letting go, enjoying the journey and trusting the path. BUT sometimes the destination will shift and not be what I think it is. There have been times in my life, not just hiking, when I thought the destination was in one place, only to find out that it’s not. Such as when I was 21, I thought when I graduated with my teaching degree that was the end, I was a teacher forever. Well, my journey changed as did my destination. As my vocational journey changed, I had to let go of some things from my past journey and be open to a destination that was unknown to me.

We started the Epiphany season with the story of the Magi on their journey of following a star. They had a destination in mind, but didn’t know exactly where. They knew it involved finding where the baby king was, and they followed a star-a star to the sweet little baby Jesus, God now with us in the world. But that wasn’t the end of their journey or ours in Epiphany. The path led to the stop of the Jordan river, where Jesus was baptized and claimed as God’s own son, but that also wasn’t the end. The path then led to the mount where Jesus taught the crowds of the upsidedownness of God’s kingdom where the poor, meek, peaceful, grieving, hungry, are pivotal and important. But that, too, wasn’t the end.

And today the path is literally up a mountain, with three disciples (Peter, James and John) and Jesus. And once at the top, the supposed destination, the unimaginable, the unexplainable, the unbelievable happens. Jesus is no longer who the disciples think Jesus is. The path they had been on with Jesus was one that the disciples had become comfortable with, they could predict with some accuracy what their day to day with Jesus would be like. Jesus will do some teaching, feed some people, heal people, maybe say some weird stuff, but overall, basically they thought that they had Jesus figured out.

But then it all changed. Just when they thought they had Jesus figured out, Jesus transfigured! They saw him in a new light! Jesus revealed a new path on the journey. Much ink has been spilled on why Jesus shines, and the meaning of being up on the mountain and such, but honestly, this isn’t an event to scientifically explain, figure out or dissect-it simply is. Jesus is more than we thought we had figured out and Jesus will continue to reveal to us along the way more and more about what God’s promise to be with us means for us and the world. The journey continues. Peter attempted to make some sense of this event by offering to build the dwellings-one for Moses, Elijah and Jesus. And before we ridicule Peter for this action, Peter was simply applying his previous journey to the current one. Peter was recalling the Jewish celebration of the Festival of Booths or Sukkot, in which temporary shelters are built to give thanks to God for the harvest. It was instituted after the exodus to honor that everything comes from God. Peter is recalling the journey of the Israelites. God’s voice interrupts Peter and puts him, and the other disciples on a new path. They fall down in fear and Jesus comes to them, touches them, tells them to rise and don’t be afraid. And when they look up: all they see is Jesus. Jesus who is the way, Jesus who is their guiding light, and Jesus who will lead them to a new destination that they couldn’t and wouldn’t imagine: the cross. But Jesus says, that destination, the cross won’t be the end of the journey either. There will be more to the journey, for with God what may look like the end, isn’t really the end. There is always more, the journey will always continue and path is one where we are never alone.

Like the disciples, it’s hard for us to imagine the next part of our journey. It’s tempting to simply fall down in fear from the change in direction and the uncertainty or want to figure out how to stay exactly where we are. But Jesus comes to us, touches us, tells us to rise and not be afraid. And when we look up, we will see what the disciples saw: Jesus. Jesus who has always been with us on our journey, whether it’s a mountain top experience that we can’t explain or our path down the mountain, to the valley, to the everyday mundaneness  of our lives where the next stop isn’t always clear. Jesus’ voice rings in our ears, in our hearts and in our souls to guide us on the path. And we listen.

It is good that we are here, and it is good that we don’t stay here. There is more to our journey, for us as individuals, for the community here at OSLC, and for all of God’s people in the world. Just when we think we have our journey with Jesus figured out, Jesus will shine God’s light on a new path, with new people, new experiences and new places. We will see our relationship, our mission here in new light. What may look like an end, is only the beginning to a new part of our journey. Our journey isn’t something to figure out, but our journey is to rise up, be unafraid and to walk with Jesus on the path. Amen.