Transfiguration as Epiphany


Luke 9:28-43

Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and Lord, Jesus Christ.

There are times in our travels when we just put on the cruise control and let the road take care of itself. Or at least that is what we hope will happen. Sometimes it does not go quite that way though, does it? I recall a scene from National Lampoons Vacation where Clark Griswold is driving along the highway at night and the next thing you know he has his head laid back and is sleeping as the car takes the next exit. Surely, he is going to kill someone or is entire family. Miraculously the Griswold family ends up right in a motel parking lot after driving through neighborhoods and nearly causing a few accidents.

I remember a time when I went to school one morning, I believe this was after I was able to drive and I notice the passenger sideview mirror had been knocked off my father’s truck. He worked the third shift for the most part while I was growing up and apparently he dosed off and it took him hitting a mailbox to wake him up.

We cannot evade sleep when our body truly needs it. Just a couple of years ago, Kiefer and I were driving back to Michigan from a trip we made to Kansas City and I had been awake for nearly 24 hours when all of a sudden I notice some very bright lights flashing behind me. Now, The Illinois State Trooper that pulled us over was pretty nice; especially to startle me back to reality and ensure that my senses were heightened the rest of the trip.

Sometimes we slumber when it is not necessarily the best time. We end up running into mailboxes or startled back to reality by state troopers. Do you think the disciples of Jesus were any different? This morning we are pulled into a great sense of mystery. Peter, John, and James went along with Jesus as he hiked to the top of the mountain. After the efforts that they had to exert, the disciples were weighed down with sleep, yet they did not fall into a deep sleep, like they would later as Jesus was praying at the Mount of Olives before his arrest. I assume they were in a similar state as I was when I was pulled over by the state trooper. I was tired, and perhaps sleep deprived, but not really sleeping.

Peter, and his companions, were certainly tired, but fought the urge to let their eyes fall shut. It is a good thing that they did not. Much like the bright lights of a state trooper car, the disciples were caught in a dazzling array of light that emanated from their leader that they had been following around in ministry. What they were now experiencing could be seen as the Epiphany of Epiphanies! They were shocked and in awe of what they were witnessing, sleep would have to wait! The Transfiguration that we experience today is the revelation of Jesus’ divinity. Yes, Jesus is fully human with us in flesh and blood, and he is also God incarnate born fully of the Holy Spirit.

We have been journeying these past five weeks with Jesus in the season after Epiphany, yet being witness to the little epiphanies that take place all around Jesus and his disciples. It is in the cradle that we find the newborn Jesus, born incarnate of God, bringing a hope and promise to all that have been waiting. Even for three magicians from the East that felt called to follow a star.

It continues in the waters of baptism as Jesus wades into the water seeking his own baptism from John the Baptist. It is here that we hear the voice from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” Jesus’ ministry continues from baptism to the wedding at Cana where he performs the miracle of turning 6 large vessels of water into wine. An epiphany after epiphany. Just last week we heard how he returned to his hometown of Nazareth and announced the mission that he was called to and managed to ruffle some feathers of those in charge, but others were elated at the news which he had to share.

Jesus’ story is one of proclaiming life for the world, being rejected, and in the process inviting disciples to join in his mission. Luke shares his gospel exactly for this purpose. Luke writes for people who have heard the faith and come to believe but want, yearn and hunger to understand more deeply. He opens up his gospel with an address to Theophilus, “so that you may know the truth concerning the things about which you have been instructed.”

In a way, is this not what all of our journey in this life is all about. We want, yearn, and hunger for even more as we seek to become more knowledgable in our Christian faith and get to know Jesus on a deeper level.

This morning is a perfect example as we officially welcome new members into the community of Trinity Lutheran Church. These brothers and sisters have had their own epiphanies along the way and are seeking to continue to be in relationship with a caring community proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ. We have those that are inquiring what it means to walk along in the faith and are seeking your support and guidance as they walk towards baptism. We have a child, not quite a year old yet, which will be baptized with parents and sponsors whom will promise to raise her in a life of faith. We have an entire family baptized less than a year ago who is still hungry to learn more and willing to profess their faith in Christ and commit to being in community with all of us here. We also have three families who have walked along in the faith from the time they were young and have been welcomed into this loving and caring community over the past year.

Each one of these sisters and brothers have had their own epiphanies along the way which has led them here today. All of us most likely have fell asleep or into a deep slumber along the way, but Jesus is still with us. Jesus comes down the mountain to be with us in our own challenges and struggles, just as he is present with the boy with an unclean spirit.

It is in our baptism that we get a glimpse of the Transfiguration as Jesus comes to us in the cleansing water. It is our Epiphany to be transformed into a life of love and be surrounded by a community that cares for us. May you use the epiphanies that appear to you along this journey of life to keep you awake and open to the presence of God.

By Alex Steward

I am a husband, father, and pastor within the ELCA. I did not grow up in the church and thus come at this pastoring thing with an unique perspective.

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