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Sermon for Transfiguration Sunday - Year A
Exodus 24:12-18; Psalm 99; II Peter 1:16-21; Matthew 17:1-9
"On The Mountain of Transfiguration"


READING:  Exodus 24:12-18; Psalm 99; II Peter 1:16-21; Matthew 17:1-9
SERMON :  "On The Mountain of Transfiguration"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
Father Marvin Lee Foltz
a-tran-foltz
                    
   The following is a more or less complete liturgy and sermon
   for the upcoming Sunday.  Hymn numbers, designated as VU are
   found in the United Church of Canada Hymnal "Voices United".
   SFPG is "Songs For A Gospel People", also available from the UCC.

   Sources:  The sermon, with only minor variations is that for
   Transfiguration Sunday as written by Father Marvin Lee Foltz
   (Father.Foltz@CCMAUI.NET) of the Good Shepherd Episcopal Church,
   Wailuku, Hawaii, 2002 and is reproduced here with the variations
   by permission.  It is good example of preaching oriented to both
   the texts of the Lectionary and to the Church Year.


SERMON:  "On The Mountain of Transfiguration" 

   O Lord, we pray, speak in this place, in the calming of our minds
   and in the longing of our hearts, by the words of my lips and in 
   the thoughts that we form.  Speak, O Lord, for your servants listen. 
   Amen.

The Transfiguration is the story of a glimpse of glory.  

Just before the beginning of Lent, every year the church goes mountain
climbing.  We go, like Peter and James and John did, following Jesus.  

At the mountain height we see him as he really is.  
By him and with him and in him the glory of God shines. 

The season of Epiphany ends as it began with a shining star.  

Jesus the Day Star, the bright and morning star, shines here on the mount
of Transfiguration as the light from heaven shone above his cradle in
Bethlehem thirty or so years earlier.

But why?  Why do we climb to see this light?  Why do we take valuable time
away from our busy lives and devote ourselves to climbing the mountain
where God's glory is revealed?  Aren't there hungry to be fed?  jobs to be
done?  Aren't there bills to be paid?  Children to be fed and clothed? 
Sick to be healed?  Grievers to be consoled?  Why does Jesus take this time
away from his mission?  Why do we?

Mark Twain once said: "You can't depend on your eyes when your imagination
is out of focus."

We climb the mountain of Transfiguration each year before Lent begins 
for the same reason Moses climbed Mount Pisgah 
- to get a glimpse of the Promised Land 
- to see where we ourselves are headed.

   "Come dance with the West wind, and touch on the mountaintops,"
   wrote John Denver.  "Sail o'er the canyons, and up to the stars. 
   And reach for the heavens, and hope for the future,     and all that we
   can be, not what we are."
 
All that we can be - not what we are.

When Jesus arrived at the mountain top his figure changed 
and the outside of him, which had been ordinary and like us, 
shone as if he was not like one of us.
  
Jesus shone with the glory that caused old Moses to shine that day on the
mountain of Sinai, when the holy law from heaven came down.  
   
He shone with the glory that carried old Elijah up to heaven's height -
gone from this world - but alive in the next.  
       
He shone with the glory of his own baptismal day, when his Father's voice
from above was heard to say: "This is my Son, the beloved, in whom I am
well pleased" - and indeed those words first uttered at the River are
repeated on the Mountain Top.
 
What can mere mortals say when faced with such glory?  

"Let all mortal flesh keep silence" says the old hymn.  

But not Peter.  
When in doubt, shout it out.  

First say the obvious, "Lord, it is good for us to be here."  

Then make a plan without listening: how about we prolong this camp-out on
   the mountain Lord?  We can rig up a tent for you and Elijah and even
   one for Moses.

But that, of course was not the point.  

Jesus was facing the long journey to another mountain, where he would be
lifted higher.  
   Jesus knew that ahead was the long walk to the cross, with all its
   possible escapes and sidetracks.
 Jesus knew that he could walk away from the will of the Holy One.  
   
   Jesus knew that he had a way out of this, but Jesus also knew that he
   would not take it.  
He knew that his death was only weeks away.

As unlikely as it seems, the scripture tells in many places that to be like
Jesus is our destiny; that the intention of God in his calling of us is to
make us like him. 

We are destined for glory 
- a glory like his 
- a glory that will make us shine as he shone.

But first - as with Jesus - there is cross to bear.

And so - each year we climb the mountain of Transfiguration with him.
   
We climb because there is a rough road ahead of us.
   
We climb to share the vision that Peter and James and John beheld,
and to be strengthened by it for our return to the lowlands and for the
days before we receive the fulness of the glory that Jesus gives to us
through his death and his resurrection.

I imagine Jesus seeking the face of the Holy One as he drew near to the
time of his sacrifice,
   - and finding in the example of Moses, the great lawgiver whose face
   was unveiled when he talked with the Holy One 
   - and in Elijah,  the great prophet who was both afraid and yet willing
   to challenge the kings of the earth, 
both the strength and the courage for the road ahead.

Jesus looked ahead to the choices of the Passion and God gave him the
vision and the strength he needed:
- the vision and the strength to walk with us in the long steps of life's
journey.  

And God too wills to give us the vision and the strength we need 
   - the vision and the strength to face the fears and foibles of our
   lives.
   - the vision and the strength we need to respond to the call of God to
   live beyond ourselves, to live lives of sacrifice and courage 
till the glory we see in Christ settles on us not just for a day, 
but forever.

The road ahead is the way of the cross.  

In the weeks to come we will be reminded that the Lord did not go straight
from his baptism to heaven.  

He went out into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  

We will remember that he walked the path of suffering for us, 
that he prayed for us, 
that he fought the spiritual fight for us.  
That he bled and died for us.  

In Lent we remember that God has made the way of the cross to be the way of
life and peace, and that our destiny is joined to Christ's destiny.

Last week at the celebration of life for Cecil Drage
we sang his three favourite hymns.

The last verse of the last hymn went like this (don't worry now, I'm not
going to sing it, I'm going to read it).  

   When we've been there ten thousand years 
   bright shining as the sun,
   we've no less days to sing God's praise
   Then when we first begun.

The glimpse that we are granted of Christ's glory on the holy mountain is
the foretaste of heaven; the image of humanity as God intended us to be in
creation.  

As we prepare to bring ourselves into the disciplined walk of faith and
   devotion during the fast of Lent, we remember this glory of God that
   calls to us.

We remember that we too will be bright shining as the sun. 

The mountain of Transfiguration reminds us that though Jesus walked in the
way of the cross, he also rose from the dead in the glory of the Father.   

Easter is the end of Lent, its goal.   
Everything we do in Lent brings us a step closer to the joys of Easter.

On the holy mountain of Transfiguration, we taste those sweet eternal joys. 

We take strength from them, Christ's strength, as we prepare to walk our
Lenten journey together - - blessed be his name, now and forevermore. 
Amen.


copyright - Father Marvin Lee Foltz 2002
            - adaptation and page by Rev. Richard J. Fairchild 2005
            please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.


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