Sermon St Peter&Mary 7th August 2022 Trinity8 P14 Transfiguration
Daniel 7v9-10,13-14 Psalm 97 Responsory 2Peter1v16-19 Luke9v28-36
Let us pray: May God the Holy Spirit open our hearts and minds to hear His voice.
The Lectionary celebrates the Transfiguration of our Lord yesterday on 6th August, but as it is such a significant festival I wanted us to look at it this morning. No wonder the Gospel reading that we have just heard is one of my favourite passages, so let us take a quick look at it.
We have presented here the description of the Transfiguration of Jesus, which most likely took place on the lower slopes of mount Hermon now on the Israel-Lebanese-Syrian border. It is a picture of the majesty of the one true and living God, a God who is surrounded by a Holy Glory; the God of creation who desires justice and mercy, and who we as Christians worship and serve.
Jesus had taken his closest three disciples Peter, James and John with him to pray on the mountain, and from that time they spent with him we can draw an important lesson. When we pray we have to be prepared for God to reveal to us deep insights into His person, to take us into his presence, and even to touch us with the light of His glory. Such is the importance of prayer as we seek to develop our Christian lives and live as disciples following after our Lord Jesus. I have to confess that even after 50 years as a Christian I still need to place much greater emphasis on prayer, and I do not find that easy.
From that encounter on the holy mountain the three disciples were left in no uncertain terms as to just who Jesus was. Just a week earlier, in the pagan region of Caesarea Philippi, a region dominated by the pagan god Pan, Jesus had asked the disciples a searching question, “But who do you say that I am”
It is a question that we have all had to ask of ourselves, just who is Jesus.
You will remember that Peter answered Jesus saying, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God”, a response I trust we all here can also echo.
Our story then takes place on that ‘holy mountain’ where in the presence of Moses and Elijah, Jesus is transfigured and surrounded by the glory of God, a glory so often depicted as pure bright light. Moses and Elijah were there to affirm the testimony of the Jewish law and prophets to Jesus as Messiah.
Then as if to reinforce Peter’s answer at Caesarea Philippi, God speaks from the cloud “This is my beloved Son; listen to him”.
And that is perhaps the most important lesson we can ever learn during our Christian lives, to listen to the voice of Jesus, a voice that is confirmed to us by the Holy Spirit in our hearts, and through the scriptures that we read and the people that we meet.
We saw a few weeks ago how Saint Thomas is often painted in a poor light as ‘doubting Thomas’, although the testimony of his life has so much more to say to us, and Peter in this encounter also receives poor press from his comment, ‘let us make three tents for he did not know what to say’. In fact I think that there was more behind Peter’s comment than is generally credited.
When we know the context of the story, that it took place not long after the Jewish festival of booths or tabernacles, a time you will remember when the people dwelt or tabernacled in temporary shelters. That festival was to remind them of their 40 years travel across the wilderness as they escaped from the bondage and slavery in Egypt. So perhaps Peter had that recent festival in mind, and it was that which prompted him to make the comment, and for his desire to build three temporary shelters?
It also reminds us that when we have put our faith and trust in Jesus as Messiah and Saviour, our bodies become a tabernacle, a temple for God’s Holy Spirit, and that should transform the way we live out our lives. For through our belief in Jesus we have now left the bondage of sin, and as we journey through the wilderness of this world, we have also become members of the household of God with a joyful hope in God’s coming new creation.
The transformation of our Lord ends with another wonderful picture. We read that as Moses and Elijah vanished back into heaven, and Jesus was once more back in his earthly glory, the disciples ‘saw only Jesus’. And that should be our hope and experience if we are to navigate a successful pilgrim path through the distractions of our every day lives. We need to cultivate a walk where we too ‘see Jesus’ as our way, our truth and our life, as we seek to follow Jesus alone, showing to our family, friends and neighbours the transforming grace that Jesus alone can bring to all of our lives.
Let us pray: Merciful God, you have prepared for those who love you such good things that pass our understanding: pour into our hearts such love towards you that we, loving you above all things, may obtain your promises, which exceed all that we can desire; we ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord and coming King. Amen