Almost two months we have been in the worship season of Epiphany, a season that celebrates how Jesus showed himself to be the Son of God. The next season is Lent during which we are asked to completely review our life in the light of Jesus. This coming Wednesday we will gather at 7 pm and face our death. As we come into the Worship Space a Cross will be made on our foreheads with the words; “Dust you are and to dust you shall return.” Those are painful words for me, especially when I put the ashes on the forehead of a baby. But that is the first reality we will face during Lent. It is hoped the season will allow each of us to with Christ’s guidance die to the sin in our life and raise to a new life on Easter.
But to take such a difficult journey the Church pauses and takes us to the top of a high mountain with his inner circle of disciples, Simon Peter, and the brothers James and John.
Once they get there Jesus and his disciples pray. At that moment Jesus very visage and his clothes become an awesome bright light. For me this moment God is showing his disciples both that moment and showing us today what we will look like in eternity.
We don’t often think about it, but it is important to remember we are in a journey through the wilderness of this land. We are going to face hardships, as well as joy. But if we live long enough, we will bury those we love and become ashes and dust ourselves. But this is but part of the journey. After we die, we will become fully the folks God intended us to be when we were born. We will never grieve, suffer, get sick, or die again.
We with Jesus and the disciples are experiencing a foretaste of the heaven that Jesus will open to all who believe in him when we die.
But this is only the beginning. Moses and Elijah appear from eternity. Moses was the great law giver, and Elijah was the greatest of all the prophets.
They are in deep conversation. Jesus is heading to the Cross to fulfill all the teachings and desires of God the Father. There he will destroy the powers of sin and death forever.
It is important to know the word NRSV translates as “departure” in Greek means “exodus”. Jesus is going go through the suffering and pain of death in the wilderness to the new life in the “promised land of heaven.”
When you are about to face suffering in death it is important to know that Good Friday is the gateway to Easter.
This year it has hit me stronger than ever before. My wife Ann and I are going to die. This coming November we will celebrate knowing each other 60 years. In June we will be celebrating our 56th anniversary of marriage. Ann is in her late 70’s and I will be 82 years old this year. We are in the Autumn of our life. Sooner than we want to face it we will be attending the funeral of our spouse. Such a loss is devastating. But that is not the whole story. As baptized followers of Jesus we live trusting in Jesus’ gift of eternal life.
Knowing that death does not have the final word changes everything. While I dislike death, I do not fear it will be the end of my existence. Jesus has come that I might have life and have it more abundantly now and even more so in eternity.
A critic of Christianity once remarked; “Christians standing looking at the sky awaiting Jesus’ return to either take them home or bring the fullness of God’s Kingdom are no earthly good.”
So, let’s continue our Transfiguration Journey. We are faced with a fog and out of the fog we hear the voice of God the Father: “This is my Son, my Chosen, listen to him.”
Yes, we will one day die to be with Jesus and those who have gone before us to a great reunion in eternity.
But what about in the meantime. That is where the rest of the story comes home to us. The disciples are told don’t tell others what has happened on the mountain until Jesus has risen from the dead.
He leads them right back into the world of his ministry. They encounter a son and his father. The son is being thrown to the ground by a demon. The man had begged Jesus’ disciples to heal him, but they could not.
By the way illness like mental illness and epilepsy in Jesus’ day were seen as being infested by a demon.
Jesus berates his disciples for their lack of faith.
Then he turns his attention to the boy. Jesus rebuked the demon, and it left the son.
What I see is Jesus telling us: There is never a time when a disciple of Jesus can retire. Through prayer, the study of scripture, and the gathering with other disciples of Jesus and strengthened by Holy Communion, Jesus empowers us to grow as his disciples.
Jesus will lead us into situations where he will give us power we never dreamt possible. I experienced this when I was trained with others to fight fires and operate as part of a rescue squad. I saw it happen once when I saw another Christian who approached a person who was screaming and hollering. When they came to the person the person began to punch them. They lovingly hugged the person, and they began to cry. Soon the cry became a sob. And finally, they just fell into the arms of the person holding them. They had been freed of the demon.
Keep your eyes and your heart open to what is happening around you, and who knows when God will use you to be an instrument of his healing.
Thanks be to God for giving awesome mountain top experiences and empowering us to be his active disciples until He calls us home. Amen.