Second Sunday of Lent
Reading 1GN 12:1-4A
The LORD said to Abram:
“Go forth from the land of your kinsfolk
and from your father’s house to a land that I will show you.
“I will make of you a great nation,
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
so that you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you
and curse those who curse you.
All the communities of the earth
shall find blessing in you.”
Abram went as the LORD directed him.
Reading 22 TM 1:8B-10
Bear your share of hardship for the gospel
with the strength that comes from God.
He saved us and called us to a holy life,
not according to our works
but according to his own design
and the grace bestowed on us in Christ Jesus before time began,
but now made manifest
through the appearance of our savior Christ Jesus,
who destroyed death and brought life and immortality
to light through the gospel.
Verse Before The GospelMT 17:5
From the shining cloud the Father’s voice is heard:
This is my beloved Son, hear him.
Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother,
and led them up a high mountain by themselves.
And he was transfigured before them;
his face shone like the sun
and his clothes became white as light.
And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them,
conversing with him.
Then Peter said to Jesus in reply,
“Lord, it is good that we are here.
If you wish, I will make three tents here,
one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
While he was still speaking, behold,
a bright cloud cast a shadow over them,
then from the cloud came a voice that said,
“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased;
listen to him.”
When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate
and were very much afraid.
But Jesus came and touched them, saying,
“Rise, and do not be afraid.”
And when the disciples raised their eyes,
they saw no one else but Jesus alone.
As they were coming down from the mountain,
Jesus charged them,
“Do not tell the vision to anyone
until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”
Every year, on the second Sunday of Lent, we recount the story of the Transfiguration of Jesus on the mountaintop. We hear that Jesus “takes leave of” the busy and demanding activity of his ministry and steps away to devote time to prayer. Accompanied by three disciples, Peter, James, and John (I would suggest they represent dimensions of who we are as followers of Jesus), Jesus is “transfigured” while in the presence of Moses and Elijah.
Following last week’s story of the temptations in the desert, we are now invited to witness and ponder this awe-filled event in which the glory of Jesus quite literally shines forth in the transfigured person of the only Son of God, he who is the Word of God enfleshed in our human condition. And this event, like so many others, leads us (I hope) to ask the all-important question, “So what?” And so: What does this event mean for me and you – now, in this time, in this place where God has planted us?
These 40 or so days of Lent invite us to prepare for, if you will, the transfiguration of our world precisely because of what we celebrate on Easter Sunday: that death leads to life, to new life, to everlasting life – as God has desired from the very beginning of time as we know it. I suggest that in this Lenten season of 2020 we consider three particular themes:
1) The Word of God is gift; 2) The “Other” is gift; 3) Sin blinds us.
In my view, it follows that you and I are asked to consider ways in which our life might need a kind of “transfiguration” (or, perhaps better, a transformation) in order to better recognize the gifts that are offered us, and to avoid being blinded to them by the reality of sin that so easily obscures them. What might I need to “fast from” or turn away from that would be an obstacle to what God desires for me? How might you or I better enter into the fullness of life that has been won for us, to grow in our union with God as we also grow in our union as sisters and brothers in Christ?
In all honesty and humility, we must admit the challenge of the invitation we receive – because the rub is that something or someone needs to change, and we are not always so open to that! The very word “transfiguration’ or “transformation” implies and requires such change. The words Jesus spoke in calling his disciples, “Come, follow me,” certainly required risk-taking on the part of those called – because life, as they knew it, would surely be different.
Jesus took Peter, James, and John along to be witnesses – but also to be responders to what must have challenged them as individuals and as companions on the way with Jesus. Remember that they had to come down from that mountain-top experience to continue living their lives – in ways that would now challenge them as never before. “So, what now?” must have been the question on their minds as they returned to their everyday, ordinary lives.
Of course, nothing could be quite as ordinary after an event such as the Transfiguration!
Here is where the second theme seems to enter into deeper consideration. Jesus, and the disciples, return to the public ministry and Jesus goes about teaching and curing and reaching out to others in their hunger and thirst for peace and wholeness in life. If we have learned nothing else, we have learned that the ministry of Jesus was always about “the other,” and never about himself. Even if it took a while, the disciples began to realize that this was a choice they would also have to make if they were to follow in the gospel of Jesus Christ. The other lesson to be learned was that this never happens in isolation – and so we need to be open to the presence of others in our life who may be companions on the way, or who may challenge and/or affirm us as we strive to change our lives and enter more deeply into the intimate relationship God has offered to us.
But the heart of the Good News is not about what we are required to do, it is about what God has done for us in the gift of Jesus the Christ: Jesus came into our world to dwell in our hearts. We can know him and hear his voice, we can love him, and we can even be changed to become more like him.
We ourselves may not see Jesus transfigured with our physical eyes, but as we open our hearts in prayer, as we read his word, it is possible for us to see Jesus with the eyes of our heart, with eyes of faith, to know how great his love is for us. For to know Jesus as Lord and Messiah, Jesus must be revealed to us by God himself!
Our readings and our liturgy today offer us the opportunity to glimpse the meaning of what we gather to do, the meaning of what we are called to celebrate with God, and who we are called to be as followers of Jesus. The transfiguration of Jesus should give us tremendous hope if we look forward to eternal life with God. For the transfiguration of Jesus gives us a glimpse of what we will be like in heaven – transformed in body and in character.
Out of the cloud came a voice that said “This is my beloved Son on whom my favor rests.” God offers the same pronouncement upon each of us, his daughters and sons, if we but open ourselves to his revelation, if we but follow his commandments, if we but seek to grow in his image and likeness, to grow in faith and in fidelity.
I find it rather concerning that in today’s world many do not come to church regularly. It’s not in “their” playbook. It’s not in “their” plan. I think they’ll have some rude awakening on that judgement day and find whether Jesus recognizes them and asks them, “where were you and what did you do for me while you were there?”
And that’s all he is going to ask.
You see unless, as humans, we are constantly reminded about sin, scripture, and fellowship we fall prey to the demons in our life. The very demons that destroy our goodwill, our closeness with God, and our very lives. And these demons live right outside this church door.
Sadly, our world has changed and we see the repercussions of that in our news, and even in our cities.
“Listen to Him”. He is my beloved Son on whom My favor rests”. It’s not that difficult.
You are free to choose, but you are not free from the consequences of your choices.
Our call is not to a new land, our call is not to be a new people.
Our call is to new life as God’s holy people – new life made possible by God’s gift of his Son Jesus for us, new life made possible because Jesus has conquered death, new life because Jesus continues to offer us the gift of his saving grace.
Let us also rejoice and be glad, for it is good that we are here at United Riverside Congregational Church to celebrate what God has done for us, and to be transformed by that!
May your blessings be great and may you continue to have the wisdom, fortitude, and continuously carry the “eternal” light that brightens your path through your darkened hours
God bless every one of you.