Thursday, August 7, 2008

Sermon #1: The Transfiguration

The Transfiguration
Carl Bloch

I preached my first sermon on Wednesday. It all went pretty well, other than I spoke a bit too quickly, which combined with my Kiwi vowels, and age of the congegration, probably meant bits of what I said may have been missed. For better or worse, here it is:

There in their presence he was transfigured:
his face shone like the sun
and his clothes became as dazzling as light.

The Transfiguration of Jesus on the Holy Mountain must be one of the most overlooked events in all of his earthly ministry. Many other happenings such as the feeding of the Five Thousand, turning water into wine, walking on water are common knowledge to believers and unbelievers alike. Yet the Transfiguration is quite unknown outside of the church.

I know when I came to the faith, I was drawn to this passage, and was completely baffled as to why I had never heard of it.

Why did this event occur ?
Six days earlier, Jesus had asked the disciples who people thought he was.
Some say John the Baptist,
some Elijah,
and others Jeremiah
or one of the prophets.
The people had heard him teach, seen him heal the sick, They had witnessed the miracle of the loaves and fishes. For all he had spoken and shown of himself, the people weren’t really understanding his true identity: that he was The Son of God. This must have been a bit disheartening. He then puts the same question directly to the disciples:
But you who do you say I am?
The disciples, as well as experiencing what the general public had witnessed, had also witnessed him calm the sea. He had given them authority to heal and cast out spirits. After His words, we can imagine the silence, the uncomfortable shuffling around.
But you,' he said, 'who do you say I am?
Do these men that he has chosen really understand who he is? And even if they do, will they be able to accept what needs to occur? And Simon Peter answered and said,
You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.
From then onwards
Jesus began to make it clear to his disciples
that he was destined to go to Jerusalem
and suffer grievously at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes
and to be put to death
and to be raised up on the third day.
This is the fate of the Messiah? Confusion must have reigned amongst the disciples. The Messiah they had found will be killed by their own religious leaders. What kind of a Messiah would allow that to happen? Maybe he is not the Messiah.

If there were doubts about this, they weren't voiced as such, rather, Peter flat out states that this cannot happen
Heaven preserve you, Lord, this must not happen to you
This leads us to a reason for the Transfiguration. Maybe Jesus had picked up on the disciples doubts, or Peter's disbelief about Jesus' forthcoming death, or the fact that many viewed him as a only "one of the prophets" made him realise that maybe that more of his true divine nature needed to be revealed.

The actual physical transformation is not of Jesus' doing. He does not transfigure himself: he is transfigured. It comes from beyond him, it is his unique envelopment into the heart of god. The light only shines only from Jesus himself, showing that it is an outward manifestation of his true identity, which is itself dependent upon God. It has its source in God, but has been present in Him from the beginning of his earthly life.

He is transfigured before them, the three pillars of the church, Peter , James, and John. The event is for their sake, as much as his own. If it was to occur as the first thing "the three" had experienced of Jesus, they would more than likely thought he was supernatural, but not necessarily the Christ. By this point in the Gospel, they have witnessed many things, heard revelations, and seen prophesies fulfilled. By showing his Divinity in such a majestic way, maybe they will understand all that has gone before, and more importantly believe His revelation of the Passion.

Why would such a transformation lead the disciples to believe Jesus was the Son of the Living God? That he is both human and divine?

Light is often used throughout the Bible to show God's presence.
God is light,
and in him is no darkness at all.
White clothing, and light are characteristic of heavenly beings, a divine presence.
one most venerable took his seat. His robe was white as snow
These clothes are the same that heal a woman with a single touch, and the soldiers cast lots for. In the Transfiguration, Jesus becomes not literally the colour of white, but rather the colour of light, a light that transcends the natural world. A divine hue showing His true identity, one that has been hidden thus far, but implied in everything he has done.

Maybe it was the radiance of his body shining through his garments.
His face shone like the sun
When Moses came down from communion with God on Mt Sinai,
the skin of his face was radiant because he had been talking to him
As Moses' radiant face gave a legitimacy to his experience, and his message to the Israelites His face shone due to his communion with God, a reflection.

On the other hand, Jesus face shone like the sun; it is the cause of the light, not a reflection. Jesus' radiance at the Transfiguration authenticates him as the new, and greater Moses.

The BCP 1928 has the following for today's epistle reading:
My dear friends,
we are already God's children,
but what we shall be in the future has not yet been revealed.
We are well aware that when he appears we shall be like him,
because we shall see him as he really is.
As Bishop Westcott wrote in “The Historic Faith”
"The Transfiguration is the revelation of the potential spirituality of the earthly life in the highest outward form"
He goes on to state that Jesus in the Transfiguration:
"gives the measure of the capacity of humanity, and shews that to which He leads those who are united with him"
He is revealed as he truly is, not being transformed into something new, or receiving some divine power; more it is a revealing of the heights of spirituality. Jesus revealed himself as he really was, and was also showing the ultimate reality or destination of those who follow him:
He belongs to the earthly realm as well as the heavenly. Not just in the present but also the infinite. At the Transfiguration, it wasn't Jesus changing into something, it is more like a veil was lifted, and he was revealed as he truly is: the Son of God.
As William Blake said:
If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite.
As Christians, we are Children of God, and the Transfiguration shows us what our ultimate reality is
when he appears,
we will be like him

No comments: