Transfiguration of Our Lord

Transfiguration of Our Lord


The Holy Gospel according to Mark.
Glory to you, O Lord.

Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus. As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.

The Gospel of the Lord.
Praise to you, O Christ.

Now let the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to you O Lord, our strength and Redeemer


My wife will be the first to tell you I hate taking pictures. Whether it’s self image issues; I think I look funny; whatever, I’ve never been a fan of getting my picture taken. Laura is lucky to get them at Christmas and Easter 🙂 My family was taking VHS movies and putting them on DVD for everybody and I told them I didn’t want them because I’d never watch them, so they told me they had masters of everything if I changed my mind.

But as I have been walking with many people who have lost loved ones lately, there have been lots of picture showing and I must admit when I see them, and am told about the situation it was taken, I get a smile. 

I always laughed and said I didn’t need pictures because I had the memories in my head. But I’m beginning to realize I could not have been more wrong. Our minds play tricks on us and our recollections are not as accurate as a picture can remind us. But pictures do have their limitations.

Most of us have memories like that, golden oldies from our pasts that we’d like to preserve (along with some we’d like to forget). But when we capture them in fixed form instead of in the living recollections of our memories, they can be oddly dissatisfying, quaint, not quite right when we revisit them. They are true and they’re not. I love the old pictures, but I look at them knowing that they capture only a single moment seen through one lens and focused by one person’s take on reality. They cannot capture that moment of life in its entirety.


This week’s lectionary readings are about confused disciples who go on to fully embody their masters’ teachings. Elijah was a cranky prophet who had tried to resign his call many times. God finally sent a whirlwind to begin Elijah’s journey directly into the heavens without having to experience death first.

Accompanied by Elisha, Elijah began his journey across the Jordan. Along the way, he repeatedly asked his disciple to leave him alone. Companies of wilderness prophets also warned Elisha that God would take away Elijah from his head that day. But, Elisha ignored the prophets’ words and Elijah’s pleas and continued on the journey, going so far as to swear on the Lord’s life that he wouldn’t leave.

As the two drew close to the Jordan, Elijah rolled up his cloak and struck the river. 

The Jordan separated, and Elijah performed a reverse pilgrimage in the same vicinity where generations earlier the Israelites were said to have crossed the river on dry ground. Elijah and Elisha then crossed over to the region where Moses’ life came to an end. After Elijah ascended into the heavens in a whirlwind, Elisha returned to the Jordan River and used Elijah’s cloak to strike the water and reenter the promised land on dry ground. Elisha literally and figuratively took on the mantel of his master to do what he had seen Elijah do.

Hundreds of years later, Jesus’ disciples acted just as Elisha had. Jesus stood on a high mountain in his brilliantly white robe, with Moses and Elijah. Upon seeing Jesus transfigured and the prophets Moses and Elijah, Peter suggested that he could set up holy shrines for the three men. This suggestion didn’t seem to elicit any response from Jesus. Instead, a cloud suddenly appeared and ordered Peter, James and John to listen to God’s beloved son.

Frequently interpreters will criticize Peter for missing the point of the transfiguration. Jesus wasn’t transfigured in order to become an object of worship. Instead, Jesus was transfigured and God spoke to give divine support to his teaching: “Listen to him!” The revelation worked! Peter not only listened to Jesus but lived and died like Jesus.

The point of these stories about Elijah, Jesus and their disciples is that we are encouraged to listen to the words of our Lord and become like Jesus. We are to take up the mantel of Jesus and do the work set out for us as members of the body of Christ. We are called to love like Jesus loved and to confront complacency like he did. We are called to wage peace like Jesus did. Let us obey God and listen to the teaching of Jesus.


Peter, on that mountain, is as enthusiastic as my parents were with a VHS camera and our family. As reluctant as Peter was to consider seriously Jesus’ pronouncement of those few verses above, he is that much more enthused about his mountaintop experience: he wants to capture it forever. Let’s settle in, he says. Let’s stay up here where it’s wonderful and safe and we’ll never have to change.

Perhaps it is for Peter a moment of release from the endless demands on his time, or a moment to forget his embarrassing moment just a few verses before this encounter. Peter could not stomach Jesus’ prediction of his coming suffering and death, so he presumed to tell the person he’d just identified as Messiah how a self-respecting Messiah ought not to act. 

The voice from the cloud on the Mount of Transfiguration, like the voice from the cloud at Jesus’ baptism back in chapter 1, pronounces Jesus both “Son” and “Beloved,” but here pointedly directs that the witnessing trio “listen to him!” It is not, I suspect, simply a suggestion for the future, but a claim that everything that Jesus has been saying must be believed and taken seriously. 

But Jesus also reminds his disciples, and us today of another important thing…we cannot stay on the mountaintop forever. The world will not be changed by the power of God unless we go back down the mountain to where the people are. Unless we walk away for these types of inspiring moments and get back into the nitty-gritty of life then these experiences of encouragement, nourishment, support and inspiration are all for naught.


So in closing my question for you all this weekend is this: When was the last time you saw Jesus? I mean really saw Jesus for who he is—God’s beloved son who embraced in the flesh our skin-and-bones humanity, yet who also is God in divine glory, light, and love?

Okay, so maybe that’s not really a fair question. We can’t see Jesus in the flesh in the same way that Peter, James, John and the other disciples saw him. We don’t get to saunter with Jesus throughout Galilee, healing the sick, casting out demons, eating dinner, and walking on water (or at least trying to). We also don’t spend time locked in an upper room terrified for our lives after having watched Jesus die a horrible death and risk execution ourselves—at least not in North America in this day and time.

Let’s think outside the box for a minute. When was the last time you saw Jesus? 

  • Have you seen him in the face of your neighbor half way around the world? 
  • In a face that doesn’t look anything like your own? 
  • In the face of a fellow congregant when you pass the peace in worship? 
  • In the tired face of the cashier ringing up your purchase at the grocery store; you know, the one who still manages to smile with an uncommon radiance? 

When did you feel the presence of his love enfolding you? 

  • Was it while you sat in quiet contemplation of scripture or in silent prayer? 
  • Was it in the cool, calm touch of a medical professional bringing healing and hope? 
  • Or was it in the arms of a friend as you mourned a loss or suffered great disappointment?

Friends, every atom and molecule of creation is infused with the divine spark of God. Every person you encounter is dearly beloved by the same Creator who knew you in your mother’s womb, even if you can’t see that divine spark when they’re honking at you in traffic or appear on the opposite side of the huge chasms we’ve created in this country. The light of Christ shines everywhere—in broad daylight and in the darkest nights of our soul. No darkness can overcome that light, not even our stubborn human willfulness and inability to see.

I take comfort in the fact that Jesus’ three closest disciples were still dazed and confused when his true nature was revealed to them on that mountain. God had to come in and tell them to listen to Jesus and remind them of their rabbi’s true identity. Even so, they still didn’t completely understand the countercultural trajectory of Jesus’ ministry. 

Yet Jesus never left them and promised to always be there for them in the gift of the Holy Spirit. You and I—all of us—are heirs to that same gift and promise. We are all bathed in the light of Christ, even when we don’t realize it.

This Weekend find as many ways possible to celebrate Jesus in all his glory—Son of God, Divine Light, Savior of the Nations, Alpha and Omega, God incarnate, and beloved child of the Father—sing, pray, praise, and shout Alleluia! Then, take a hint from God and really listen. As we head toward Lent, lean in. Spend time in prayer, contemplation, and study. Listen for Jesus. Look for Jesus. You will hear him, and you will see him in so many unexpected, beautiful, ordinary, and extraordinary ways.