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2024-02-11 Transfiguration

Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen!

My first congregation was in Oliver, BC. It’s the more agrarian chunk of the Okanagan valley, just north of the more-known tourist destination of Osoyoos. It’s a beautiful spot for sure. Absolutely gorgeous countryside with vineyards, orchards and golf courses throughout the deserty hills of the valley all round. And the crown jewel of it all is the lake, smack dab in the middle of the valley. Osoyoos lake at the south end was where all the cool kids go to vacation. And even more fun was that the lake was the place where they had the Canada Day fireworks! They took a pontoon boat out on water after the sun went down. And then the music and light show started. They played the well known hymn “Smoke on the Water” by Deep Purple as the colours began to light up not only the sky but also the reflection in the lake! It was unbelievable to behold! It went on for like an hour and then came the grand finale as 17 million fireworks all went off and illuminated the night like the sun at high noon! What an amazing sight to behold!

Today is our grand finale of the season of Epiphany. Throughout this church season, our Lord has been revealing Who He is and what He has done for us and our salvation. His teaching, His preaching, His healing all of these and more brought the light of God’s Kingdom to our dark world, illuminating the darkness the brilliant light of Christ. And today is the most brilliant of all, Transfiguration Sunday. Better and brighter than all the fireworks shows known to mankind, our Lord reveals His true glory that has been veiled in the flesh of His incarnation.

Do you remember that TV show from like a decade ago called “Undercover Boss?” The idea was that an upper-management person or CEO would go undercover as your everyday, bottom-of-the-heap worker in a company. This boss would see how his other staff treated each other and the customers and was also able to scope out any deficiencies in the company too. Then after a week or so, the Boss’ true identity is revealed and all the regular working stiffs are amazed that they’d been hanging out with the big cheese all week! And then for TV good times and ratings, the Boss would give the employees he got to know fabulous prizes or better working conditions or a gold toilet in the staff bathroom or whatever.

This grand revealing of the Boss is a lot like Transfiguration. Jesus is supremely revealed to the Disciples. It goes from Epiphany to Theophany a magnificent manifestation of God. The Divine Nature of Christ is put on display through the brilliance of uncreated light. We are reminded at this sight of what John writes in His first epistle: “that God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all” (1:5). The bright cloud, the shining of our Lord’s face brighter than the sun, the extreme whiteness of His clothing - all of these grand displays of glory tell us one thing. Whereas Christmas tells us that Jesus is fully human, Transfiguration tells us that Jesus is fully God.

Further to this point, God the Father bears witness from heaven about His Son. “This is My beloved Son; listen to Him” (MK 9:7). This tells us that Jesus is God by nature. From eternity, ages of ages, long before Jesus’ incarnation and baptism and even the Transfiguration of today, Jesus is God’s Son, fully sharing in the Divine Essence of the Father. God of God, light of light, very God of very God, begotten not made, being one substance with the Father, as we confess in the Nicene Creed.

So not only does the Transfiguration reveal that Jesus is the heavenly Boss, it also points us ahead, foreshadowing His ultimate future glory when our Messiah will come again and usher in the long awaited eternal Kingdom. The bright cloud that surrounds the mount of Transfiguration recalls the tabernacle in the desert where God’s amazing presence led the Israelites as a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. It was a visible sign of God being extraordinarily present with His people - much like the sacrament of Holy Communion where our Lord has promised to be with us.

Peter beholds this wondrous sight all around him and starts in on his “Tent Talk.” “It is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah” (MK 9:5). As Peter’s eyes grow wide in amazement, he is snapped back to his confirmation class where he learned about the old testament Feast of Tabernacles, a feast in preparation for the final arrival of God’s heavenly Kingdom. This is why he says this kind of off the wall thing about the tents or the booths as was done at the feast. This served as a reminder of God being Emmanuel, dwelling with His people.

And, lest we forget about the other wild and crazy thing that happened, Moses and Elijah are also somehow present on the mountain with Peter, James and John. And how did the disciples know it was them?! Did they have the “Hello my name is” name tag stickers on? I don’t know! But more important is what their presence teaches us. Moses is there to represent the Torah, the Law, and all the people who have died. Elijah is there to represent the Prophets, the heralds of God’s Kingdom through the centuries, and all of those who are alive, for as we also heard this morning, Elijah did not taste death. So you have all the Law and the Prophets, the living and the dead, all giving unanimous witness to Jesus being the One Who fulfills the entire Old Testament. Truly this is the Messiah promised of old.

And finally, the Transfiguration opens the eyes of all to reveal God the Holy Trinity in His fullness. Much like our Lord’s Baptism in the Jordan, we have this 3 fold revealing. Jesus being transfigured, revealing His divine essence and nature, God the Father speaking from Heaven telling us exactly Who Jesus is as His beloved Son and the Holy Spirit, present as the dazzling light surrounding Jesus and overshadowing the whole mountain. A grand theophany, revealing precisely Who God is and what He has done for us and our salvation.

After the Father’s voice was finished speaking, the bewildered disciples “looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them but Jesus only” (MK 9:8). This is Who we really and truly need: Jesus only. He is our life and our salvation. He is the author and perfecter of our faith. He is our Savior, Redeemer and Lord. He is our King of Kings to which every knee will bow. He alone will lead us to the glory of God’s Kingdom, a glory that shines forth in uncreated light. But first, another journey must take place. The journey to the cross where the Lord of glory will reveal and manifest Himself once again as the suffering Saviour. This journey to the cross our glorious Lord and King willing walks for you. His grace and mercy will display and reveal His great love poured out on the cross for the life of the world. But first we journey, down from the mount of Transfiguration and up to Jerusalem. The Bright Sadness of Lent will lead us the greatest joy we have in our crucified and risen Saviour. To Him be all honour, glory and dominion from now and to ages of ages. Amen!

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