Homily preached by Br. Andrew at Maroubra on Sunday 15th February 2015:
The Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany - the Transfiguration
2 Kings 2:1-12; Psalms 50:1-6; 2 Corinthians 4:3-12; Mark 9:2-9
Today, is the last Sunday after the Epiphany, and as the last Sunday before the beginning of Lent is also the Sunday of the Transfiguration of the Lord.
The word Transfigure is derived from Latin “transfigurare” or “across figure” and this word came into the English via the Old French between 1100 and 1250. Its common meaning is ‘to transform into something more beautiful or elevated.’ To change the form of something or someone into something more beautiful or elevated
Spiritually speaking, when we find ourselves on this mountain top each year with Peter, James, John, Moses, Elijah and Jesus it is not only outward experiences that concern us, because, you see for those of us who walk in the footsteps of Christ we are ever learning new things of him.
This is His final Epiphany experience, or rather ours before He begins the Journey to Death and Resurrection in Jerusalem. Epiphanies are Manifestations, revelations of certain information to certain individuals.
THE primary or official EPIPHANY, occurred when Jesus was made manifest, revealed to the Nations in the three Magi, who came to worship him, as King of the Jews witnessed by his parents.
The second time was at his baptism in the Jordan when God made it known in person that Jesus was his own beloved son. Andrew and John were present at that time.
Here we are once more atop what must have been Mount Hermes, (we can talk about this on Thursday), with Peter and James and of course John who was present at Jesus baptism.
It says “And he was transfigured before them, 3 and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one* on earth could bleach them” (Mark 9:2b, 3) I guess the easiest way Peter could describe the event to Mark must have been that Jesus’ clothes became so white that he had never seen the like before because we don’t have any description of Jesus here just his unearthly laundromat.
Retrospectively, in Peter’s realization that he was in the presence of the True and living God he later refrains from giving the description to Mark or any of us for that matter because he saw the face of God and lived – just a thought?
We notice that as soon as Christ is transfigured that Elijah with Moses can be seen speaking with Jesus, were they there all along and did the Transfigurement then allow the disciples to see and to hear them? What might we SEE if we were to place ourselves in this diorama with the group and encounter the living God in Jesus; would we be open to learning or would we like Peter want to pitch tents, because it would be too much for us, I guess it had better be too much for us else what are we doing here?
Elijah represents the epitome of Prophet hood and was to return before the Messiah arrived, we know that one with a spirit like his walked and talked in John the Baptist and was executed and now Elijah appears with Jesus before Jesus, in his turn is about to make the ultimate sacrifice for the sins of the world, past present and to come.
Our reading from the second book of the Kings is about the Ascension of Elijah who was taken to heaven in a whirlwind by God. The reading takes us through what was the last walk in his life and also through the brief and final stages of the apprenticeship of the prophet Elisha.
“2. Now when the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal”( 2Kings 2:1) And they walk from Gilgal to bethel and from Bethel to Jericho and from Jericho to the Jordan, each time Elijah telling Elisha to remain behind and each time Elisha saying “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you” Notice the Company of Prophets telling Elisha that today the Lord will take your master away from you and he tells them to be quiet because he knows.
Unlike Peter, Elisha is absolutely aware of what is going on and ready to take up the challenge to walk with his master to his master’s death.
Moses – the representative of the Torah the living Law, also died in special circumstances somewhere nearby the place where Elijah crossed over the Jordan on dry ground. He was led up to the top of mount Nebo from where he surveyed the Promised Land, he was never to enter because of his disobedience. It is questioned that depending upon which mountain was the mount of Transfiguration and from which part of the mountain range Moses viewed the Promised Land that he may have been able to have seen the mount of Transfiguration… What we do have here are some interesting ponders – that Moses who sinned and did not cross over the Jordan died on Mount Nebo and was hidden by God in a valley somewhere.
That Elijah crossed over the Jordan by striking the water with his furled cloak and crossed over on dry land before Ascending into heaven in a whirlwind. AND effectively speaking the Jordan was where Jesus’ earthly Ministry began.
That these three in manners of speaking have all met before in sin and in death and now the Law and the prophets have come to bear witness with the Apostles in the sound of the voice of God, a theophany, “This is my Son, the Beloved;* listen to him!’”(Mark9:7b)
Using a cloud to protect the Apostles from the terrible presence of God assists the disappearance of Moses and Elijah. Arriving in dazzling light and departing in cloud.
If we have managed to place ourselves alongside the party in this diorama have we listened?
Will we now listen to Jesus?
Just a little about Paul because it really needs much more time, perhaps Thursday. We really do need to listen with dictionaries and thesauruses in hand when we read Paul.
Briefly what he says is that the Ministry of the New Covenant, more glorious than that of Moses is like the very first creation of God, Light and yet it has been entrusted to frail human beings who were fashioned from clay. Paul himself alludes to the struggles he has had and to his feelings of inadequacy, we know the struggles of Peter just from our Gospel readings yet God has entrusted us to take the light of the Gospel to the world.
This light is so bright and regenerative that it can withstand all our weaknesses even after all the evil that has been done in its name it is still the reflection of God’s divine glory and has the capacity to transfigure the soul.
If ever we become inflated with our own solo capacity to preach the word we need to climb our own private Nebo’s and recall our weakness and sin and Christ’s ultimate act of self-sacrifice that had enabled us to follow Elijah over the Jordan – dry shod.
And take up our frail urns which only the Spirit of God can strengthen and let the Gospel light shine.