The Holy Gospel according to Luke the 9th Chapter.
28 Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus[a] took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. 29 And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. 30 Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. 31 They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. 32 Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake,[b] they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. 33 Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings,[c] one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah”—not knowing what he said. 34 While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. 35 Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen;[d]listen to him!” 36 When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.. The Gospel of the Lord…
Down the Mountain…
37 On the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, a great crowd met him. 38 Just then a man from the crowd shouted, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son; he is my only child. 39 Suddenly a spirit seizes him, and all at once he[e]shrieks. It convulses him until he foams at the mouth; it mauls him and will scarcely leave him. 40 I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.” 41 Jesus answered, “You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here.” 42 While he was coming, the demon dashed him to the ground in convulsions. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the boy, and gave him back to his father. 43 And all were astounded at the greatness of God.
Beloved: Pray. Listen. Be the People God made you to be.
Not all of you were here last Sunday – but it’s important that you know one thing before I read today’s Gospel. And for those who were here, I’ll remind you too because a lot has happened between last Sunday and this Sunday. So here’s my message from last Sunday: You are a beloved child of God. Could you turn to someone else and say, “You are a beloved child of God.” Now I want you to claim this for yourself. Please say: I am a beloved child of God. It’s important that you know this for today’s message.
Today we celebrate Jesus’ “transfiguration.” Although we celebrate it every year, this is probably the only day of the year that most of us hear this word. My dictionary defines “Transfiguration” as a complete change in appearance to a more beautiful or spiritual state. And that’s what Matthew, Mark and Luke report: Jesus’ face changes and his clothes become dazzling white. On top of that, the two most famous prophets –Moses and Elijah - from hundreds of years earlier – show up and begin talking to Jesus.
It must have been amazing. I mean… what would you say? How do you respond to the glory of God? Do you shout Glory! Halleluia?! Would you fall on your knees? Would you be full or joy or fear or both? Would you hide your face?
As we heard in our first lesson, when Moses came down the mountain after talking with God, his face reportedly glowed. The people asked him to hide his face with a veil – because they were afraid.
But Peter doesn’t seem afraid. Ever one to speak first and think afterwards, Peter says, “Let’s have a building campaign! We can build a tabernacle – one for each of you!” It was an awesome moment. And Peter didn’t quite know what to say. What would you say?
There was no time to respond because while Peter was talking, a cloud came and covered them. Having never flown in an airplane, being surrounding by a cloud was apparently more frightening than Jesus glowing or having old prophets walking around and talking to him. The disciples were terrified. And then… a voice from the cloud says, “Listen to him.” And when the cloud lifted… there was Jesus.
Listen to him. Listen to Jesus. That’s a pretty simple message – delivered in a pretty dramatic way. Listen to Jesus.
Jesus doesn't say anything in this part of the passage – but prior to this, Jesus had been doing quite a bit of talking. He was teaching his disciples that he had put his face to Jerusalem – that was his mission. He did not want distractions – even good, seemingly worthy ones. He was on his way to Jerusalem. He tells them: “The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” And then he says: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” Those would have been hard words to hear at the time – words the disciples would not have understood.
Peter, James and John had followed Jesus up the mountain to pray. I don’t know what the disciples were praying for – but they received much more than they had ever imagined. And now they hear the voice of God, speaking through the cloud, empower them with three simple words: Listen to him.
It must have been pretty amazing on that mountaintop. I can see why Peter wanted to stay – and to keep Jesus there too. But Jesus is on a mission. So Jesus goes down that mountain -- and he invites his disciples, and us, to follow.
Now I want to read what happened after they got down the mountain. It’s printed, so you can follow along if you wish. Or you can simply listen. But remember: You are God’s beloved child.
37 On the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, a great crowd met Jesus. Just then a man from the crowd shouted, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son; he is my only child. Suddenly a spirit seizes him, and all at once he shrieks. It convulses him until he foams at the mouth; it mauls him and will scarcely leave him. I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.” Jesus answered, “You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here.” While he was coming, the demon dashed him to the ground in convulsions. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the boy, and gave him back to his father. And all were astounded at the greatness of God.”
Jesus is back down the mountain and immediately a man asks him to heal his son because the disciples could not. And what happens? Jesus gets angry. Clearly, he’s not mad at the father – or the boy. He heals the boy and gives him back to his father. Perhaps Jesus is mad because he had empowered his disciple to heal – and they didn’t trust him or had been overwhelmed and couldn’t or wouldn’t do it. Or perhaps Jesus is irritated because he is on a mission and cannot heal every person in every town between Galilee and Jerusalem – no matter how worthy the cause. And yet…it is after this healing, that ALL were astounded at the greatness of God.
You are the beloved children of God – and, like the disciples, Jesus has empowered you and me to care for the neighbor. Because we can’t live on the mountaintop simply singing Jesus’ praises. Like the disciples, Jesus calls us, too, down to the valley into the places where life is not always easy and where we and our neighbors faces challenges of health, poverty, and injustice. We live in the land where demons dwell. And Jesus calls us to reflect the light of Christ to everyone – yes everyone – we meet.
The church – Christendom – is changing. It used to be that all a church had to do was to put up a sign and people would come. It’s not that way any more. And yet, this is not a time to wring our hand and worry about how many people are – or are not – in the pews. This is a time to pray; to Listen to Jesus; and go down the mountain – or in our case to go out into the neighborhood -- to see where God is at work and what God has empowered us to do and be in relationship with our neighbors.
A few years ago, a friend of mine, Pastor Deb Stehlen, was serving in a large church in Apple Valley, and yet felt called to start a new church. And so she prayed, and they prayed and long story short, the exurbs around Farmington were growing and the people there didn’t seem to be going to the churches in the area and so she was commissioned to plant a new church in Farmington. Now Pastor Deb had a vision of what that church would be. She had a vision of leading a social justice church in which people gathered together to make real change in their neighborhood. But before she started the church she listened. She met with people one-on-one in coffee shops, drank coffee and listened to their stories and to their needs and challenges. She drank a lot of coffee. But after listening to 200 people in the neighborhood and the new housing developments in Farmington, she discovered that 0% of the people she listened to in Farmington wanted to build a social justice church. Bot lots and lots of them were hungry for community. Many of them were spending 45 minutes to an hour commuting to work – and that was just one way. They didn’t know their neighbors. They yearned for a place to come and meet their neighbors, a place where their kids could come and be noisy – and where they could sit together and hear that they too were Beloved children of God.
Beloved children of God, God has called us to listen. Listen to Jesus. And then, like Pastor Deb, listen to our neighbors so that we can discern what God is up to in our neighborhood and how we can best engage with our neighbors.
A few years ago, we came up with a tag line that describes our mission. We gather to “Grow in Faith.” And like the disciples, we, as beloved children of God do that by praying and by listening to Jesus. Still praying and still listening to Jesus,
Our tag line describes our mission. We gather to “Grow in Faith” - by praying, listening to Jesus and remembering that we – and our neighbor - are beloved children of God. Then, filled with God’s love, and still praying and still listening to Jesus, we Go in Grace down the mountain, out of the church doors and into the neighborhoods where we live and work. And there we will find how we can Serve the Lord by serving our neighbor.
This is the mission into which God has called the people of Faith-Lilac and for which God has empowered us. But… the good news is that we are not alone. The other 7 ELCA Wildfire churches in the neighborhood are our partners. The Synod is partnering with us too. The pastors of our Wildfire churches have been praying and listening to God’s Word and we think that God has a mission for us in this neighborhood. After all, time and time again in the Bible and in the church throughout history, God has done a lot more with a lot less.
We live in an exciting time to be the people of God. It won’t necessarily be easy. But Jesus promised the Holy Spirit would walk with us. And that… makes all the difference. Beloved Child of God, the light of Christ is in you. Let your light shine! Amen.
Pastor Pam Stalheim Lane
Faith-Lilac Way Lutheran Mar 3, 2019