Luke 9:28-36 (Common English Bible)
28 About eight days after Jesus said these things, he took Peter, John, and James, and went up on a mountain to pray.29 As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed and his clothes flashed white like lightning. 30 Two men, Moses and Elijah, were talking with him. 31 They were clothed with heavenly splendor and spoke about Jesus’ departure, which he would achieve in Jerusalem. 32 Peter and those with him were almost overcome by sleep, but they managed to stay awake and saw his glory as well as the two men with him.
33 As the two men were about to leave Jesus, Peter said to him, “Master, it’s good that we’re here. We should construct three shrines: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah”—but he didn’t know what he was saying. 34 Peter was still speaking when a cloud overshadowed them. As they entered the cloud, they were overcome with awe.
35 Then a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, my chosen one. Listen to him!” 36 Even as the voice spoke, Jesus was found alone. They were speechless and at the time told no one what they had seen.
Thoughts on the passage:
Transfiguration Sunday is celebrated every year on the Sunday before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. Its reference to Christ’s coming departure and its place in the timeline of the Gospels helps set the stage as we prepare our hearts and minds for Lent and the journey to the Cross. As a story though, it also captures the struggle that many of us are with faced. Even when confronted with the living, breathing Christ and even after seeing God revealed in glory, the disciples still struggle to understand what God is doing. The work of God can be confusing.
We are like the disciples. Like Peter, we often do not know what we are saying. I say “we” here, because I feel comfortable in including others with me in this. Despite the degrees I have earned, the books I have (and haven’t read), and all the work I have done in ministry, I would be foolish to claim to truly understand God, or as my degree implies, be a “Master of Divinity.” Instead, all of us struggle at times to understand what God is doing, even when we stand face to face with Christ, revealed in glory.
Fortunately, I have a solution! From time to time we do something in the church called “Stump the Pastor.” In lieu of a sermon, I take the time to answer questions people have around matters of faith. I do not do it because I assume that I have all the answers. Instead I do it because I believe that questions are a part of our faith. Being a disciple of Jesus by definition means we do not understand Christ. If we did, Christ would have nothing to teach us. Instead we follow Christ because we are hoping to learn from him and because we believe that through him we can better come to know God.
Over and over I talk about how faith is an activity of the community. Through baptism we join a larger group of people who are all struggling on the same journey with us. We are never going to fully know and understand God. Instead we will spend a lifetime trying to get a little closer to that sense of understanding. Our faith in God’s grace and in the resurrection gives us the hope that in the next life we will be able to see God’s face, even if we fail to understand it in this life.
Let us walk together on the journey of faith. Let us ask the questions that are on our hearts. We have all heard the expression “there is no such thing as a stupid question.” Our lack of understanding is not a sign of our failing so much a sign of our desire to grow in knowledge. Through our questions and our doubts, we are able to learn even more about the God who goes before us and transforms us all from imperfect disciples into beloved Children of God.
Questions to Ponder:
When is a time you had a question but had no one to ask it off?
What is something about God you do not understand?
Who is someone you turn to in your faith journey for help and support?
How can you help others understand God through your own experiences?
Prayer: God, as we seek to follow you in this new year, give us the courage to ask the challenging questions and the strength to follow these simple rules you have us. Help us to take the time to learn about your will for us, and give us the patience as we struggle to follow it. Remind us always of your grace in our walk of discipleship. AMEN