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Transfiguration B Sermon
Mark 9: 2-9, 2 Corinthians 4:3-6
11, 2018


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May the grace, mercy and peace of God our Father be with us, in the name of his risen son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; Amen.

This is my beloved son … listen to him. Since this is one of the few times that the very voice of God speaks to people in the New Testament, it must be an important message. It starts with the proclamation that Jesus is God’s beloved son. We readers have seen these words before, way back at Jesus’ baptism. But it isn’t clear if these four disciples have heard them. For one thing, they probably weren’t there themselves. And for another thing, the words spoken at Jesus’ baptism are in first person: You are my beloved son, with you I am well pleased. This makes us think that in the Jordan, Jesus was the only one who heard God’s words.

But if we hear the rest of this sentence, we know that God is speaking to more than just Jesus, because after the proclamation, God tells the other four to listen to him. Listen to him. Really listen to him. There is a difference between hearing something and listening to something. Igor Stravinsky once said, “To listen is an effort, and to hear is no merit. Even a duck hears.” Of course Stravinsky was talking about the effort that a person should put in to listening to music. If it is true of music, how much more does it speak to Jesus’ words? It is one thing to see or hear Jesus. We have Bibles at our fingertips everywhere, including on our smart phones to hear Jesus’ words. We can even put them in red ink so that they stand out more than the other words. But what does it take to actually listen to Jesus’ glory, to his teachings and to his leadership. So what in particular is God saying when he tells us and the four disciples on the mountain to listen to Jesus?

In its original context, God might be talking about Jesus’ three predictions of what will be happening as his life unfolds. Just before this transfiguration occurs, Jesus tells his disciples that he will be turned over to the religious leaders who will kill him on a cross and he will be raised from the dead. Peter rebukes Jesus, which leads to Jesus rebuking Peter back. Jesus then teaches about how his followers are to take up their crosses and follow him. I wonder if those who were present to hear those words really listened to them. I wonder if they listened to what the words really meant for each of them, because after the transfiguration, Jesus talks about his impending death two more times, and after each of those times the disciples still act like they didn’t really listen. After the next passion prediction, Jesus catches the disciples arguing over which of them will be considered the greatest in God’s kingdom. After the third one, James and John will ask Jesus to allow them to sit at his right and left hands in his glory. I am not sure if they ever really listen to Jesus!
Before we judge too quickly, when we consider Jesus’ words that God wants US to listen to, I wonder how good a job we do ourselves. Have we really listened to Jesus when he has told us to give food to the hungry? To not be afraid, but to have faith? That whoever wants to be first of all must be last and servant of all? That we are to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us? What does it mean to really listen to these words?

Well, our children helped us out with this in their song this morning. They sang, “This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine.” As we consider the brightly shining image of Jesus, transfigured on the mountaintop, we must think of how we are called to reflect that light in all that we do. In the passage from our second lesson, Paul tells the Corinthians that it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. God shone the light of Jesus into our hearts; God commands us to let that same light of Jesus shine in the darkness of the world.

If we are to understand Paul’s words in our short passage, we have to go back to the last verse of 2 Corinthians chapter 3: All of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as thought reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the spirit. But the Greek word for seeing in the sentence, “seeing the glory of the Lord,” in that passage, kataprizomai, can either mean to behold or to reflect. In other words when we behold the glory of Jesus like the disciples on the mountain did, we listen to him in such a way that we reflect the light that bathes us. This little light of mine is really the light of Jesus, and I’m going to let it shine … and when I do, the whole world is going to see the light of Jesus through me!
When we are told to listen to the glorified Jesus, we are not only being told to hear him; we are not only being told to behold him; we are not only being told to take him in with all of our senses. We are being told to take him in SO THAT we can reflect him back out into the darkness of the world. That is why they could not just stay on the mountaintop with Moses and Elijah and build booths there. It was not time for that. The time was for them to go down into the valleys and be lights in the darkness of sin, death and the devil.

When I heard this past week that little Angel Marie had died suddenly and unexpectedly, I was heartbroken. She was only two months and so tiny. We had barely welcomed her into our family a couple of times, and not yet by baptism. As we hear the story of Jesus’ transfiguration again this morning, we are called to listen to Jesus, really listen to him. How will we reflect Jesus’ light in the darkness of this little ones’ death? by showing Jesus’ love in many different ways. We don’t pretend to understand why things like this happen, but we somehow are able to share the love of Jesus with those hurting the most in ways that helps them in their grief. God has promised to wipe every tear from the eyes of those who mourn her death. Maybe that is how we are to reflect Jesus’ glory with Angel’s family – to help alleviate the grief by joining Angel’s family in this difficult time.
The glory of Jesus is evident today not only for us to experience in the dark times, but also for us to reflect when times are dark for others. Today we are encouraged by God and by our youngest members to let our light shine, let it shine, let it shine … because when we do, it is the really the glory of Jesus that is shining in this dark world. May it be so, in the name of Christ our Lord; Amen.