Transfiguration – When the Smoke clears

The First Reading from Exodus 34:29-35

Moses came down from Mount Sinai. As he came down from the mountain with the two tablets of the covenant in his hand, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God. When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, the skin of his face was shining, and they were afraid to come near him.  But Moses called to them; and Aaron and all the leaders of the congregation returned to him, and Moses spoke with them. Afterward all the Israelites came near, and he gave them in commandment all that the Lord had spoken with him on Mount Sinai. When Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil on his face; but whenever Moses went in before the Lord to speak with him, he would take the veil off, until he came out; and when he came out, and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, the Israelites would see the face of Moses, that the skin of his face was shining; and Moses would put the veil on his face again, until he went to speak with him.

The Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Luke 9:28-36

Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. 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. 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. While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, ‘This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!’ 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.

The Gospel of Christ.

When the Smoke Clears – a Homily by Mother Beth

When we were first married, Steve and I used to live in Victoria, British Columbia.  Victoria is a beautiful city of gardens and our apartment had a lovely view of the Olympic Mountains.  The Olympic mountains are part of the mountain range known as the Rockies.  They are majestic and beautiful but it was surreal for a girl like me from Ontario – to see mountains.

Lately the western coast of Canada and the US is experiencing many forest fires caused in part by the extreme heat this summer.  So today, if we were to sit on my former balcony in that little apartment I can assure you that we most definitely would not have a view of those mountains.  The smoke from the forest fires has made it impossible to see.     Are the mountains still there?  Absolutely.  My not being able to see them does not mean that they have moved or ceased to exist.

Today in the gospel we hear the story of the Transfiguration.  In the preceding chapter of Luke’s gospel people have been trying to figure out who Jesus is.  There has been speculation that he is a prophet John the Baptist or – a reincarnation of Elijah.  Jesus has asked his own disciples who do you say that I am – and Peter has answered “You are the Christ of God”.   In the passage we hear read today – Jesus takes Peter, James and John apart to pray.  While they are praying Jesus is transfigured.  He begins to shine bright white and two figures appear beside him, talking with him.  The figures are Moses and Elijah.

This would lay to rest any concern that Jesus and Elijah are the same person but it also reveals that Jesus is more than just a special human or a great teacher.  Peter, James and John are given a glimpse of the divinity of Christ.  Their eyes are opened to the truth about Jesus.  They can now see that what Peter has said of Jesus is indeed true – he is the Christ – he is God.

Now let me clarify, Jesus is transfigured in so much as the disciples can now see what was there all along.  Oh yes, Jesus has been walking around in human form – He has not been all shiny and bright as they see him now.  But Jesus is not the one who has changed.  The disciples are changed because their eyes are now able to see what was hidden from them before.    The penny has dropped – so to speak.

Peter is prompted to respond to what he sees and offers to build huts or tents for them to stay there and linger in the glory of the moment.   Then the voice from the cloud announces “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”

You may remember that there was also a voice that made an announcement at Jesus’ baptism which said something similar.  “you are my Son – in you I am well pleased”.  I think it is important to note that the voice at Jesus baptism was directed at Jesus himself – “you are my Son” but this time the voice is directed towards the disciples.  “This is my son, my chosen” – is a statement of introduction – a statement of affirmation for the disciples that Jesus is God’s son.  And then comes the response “listen to him”.

This is God’s endorsement.  This is the confirmation that they have needed.    So what are the disciples to do when they are confronted with the Christ – when the light finally dawns and they realize that Jesus is who he says he is?  Listen to him.  They are called not to build huts and stay on the mountain top.  They are called to follow Christ down from the mountain and listen to him.  Learn from him.

You see when the smoke clears from those wildfires out West the mountains will reappear in all their glory.  What will it take to clear the smoke from our own eyes so that we can truly see Jesus?

Do you remember the song “Turn your eyes upon Jesus”?   Turn your eyes upon Jesus – look full in His wonderful face and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.

What happens when we look at Jesus?  What happens when we refocus our life around Christ?  The things of this world, the distractions – the good things and the bad – the troubles, the problems, the work, the leisure –all of it tempts us to get our eyes off of Jesus and onto something else.   When we look at Jesus all these things seem as the song says, “strangely dim” – not as shiny or important – not as serious or scary – they hold less power over us.  They create less anxiety for us.

Perhaps you think that you are not in the right place to receive such revelation from God.  Well the gospel tells us that just before this great moment of Transfiguration, Peter has answered Jesus question saying, “You are the Messiah.”  But when Jesus begins to explain that he will have to suffer and die, Peter resists him, even rebukes him.   And then right after this correction, Jesus has taken Peter, James and John up to the mountain and there he is transfigured.  They see the truth – no longer is there any confusion.  Peter realizes that this is what really matters – this is the only truth worth seeking after –Jesus Christ is the son of God and nothing else is as important as that.

Surely we can take courage from that.  Peter who seemed to know the truth – after all he gave the right answer to the question- even Peter did not understand what he was saying.  Jesus had to rebuke him.  So no matter whether you think you understand or not.  No matter whether you think you have just blown it with God.  God longs to reveal himself to you.  God wants to be truly known by you.    The transfiguration reveals the truth about Jesus.  And this truth is the hope that will help Peter, James and John as they journey the next steps on the road to the crucifixion.    Today may we each have an encounter with Christ that will reveal the truth of who he is – that will confirm for us that He is indeed the Messsiah – the chosen one – the son of God.   I pray that that encounter would drive us to seek out ways of observing and worshipping him as the Lord of our lives – to build not huts on a mountain top but to build our lives around those times of seeking his face and listening to Him.  We call him Lord – which is an old fashioned word today but which acknowledges the place that we give him in our lives – to call Jesus Lord is to say that he is more important than we are – to call Jesus Lord is to say that he is someone that we choose to serve.

I want to be clear here and say that whether I say Jesus is my Lord or not the truth is that Jesus is Lord of all – my believing it does not make it true – it is true and when I believe it then I am aligning myself with that truth.

This is why Philippians 2 says, [Phl 2:9-11 NIV] 9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Have you discovered the truth of who Jesus is?  God wants to give you a picture of his glory so that you can press through difficult times; knowing that God is greater than any dark road that you may have to walk.

Peter, James and John are given that experience as a gift as they witness the transfiguration.  The truth of who Jesus is enabled them to also walk faithfully with Christ to the crucifixion –when it looked like their whole world was falling apart.

God the Father says to us today, “This is my Son, the beloved, listen to Him.”  Are you ready to lean in and listen to what God will say to you?  May Christ reveal himself in Glory to each of us and may we heed the call of the Father when he says, “This is my Son, my chosen.  Listen to Him”  Amen.


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A transplanted Canadian living in sunny Florida. An Episcopal priest, wife, mother, dog lover, story teller and avid movie watcher.

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