the one about getting up...
February 27, 2017, 7:28 AM

Sermon from February 26, 2017 - Transfiguration Sunday

Text: Matthew 17:1-9

Grace and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord Jesus who is the Christ – will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer; amen!

So, this is another one of those Sundays where though the gospel might be ‘different’ each year, it still tells the same story. Whether you read from Matthew (like we do today) or Luke or Mark – you essentially get the same story. Sure, there are little differences between the three (note, this particular story does not appear in John’s gospel), but they essentially hold the same meaty parts.

It occurs on a mountain. Elijah and Moses appear. Something happens to Jesus. A cloud covers them all. The disciples present are scared. They walk down the mountain.

There is something distinct about the Matthew account that I hope that we cling to, but before we get there we need to have a little talk.

Listen y’all – I don’t know what happened to Jesus on that mountain. But, I know that something did happen. Jesus’ appearance changed before Peter, James, and John. They saw something. Something so astonishing and amazing, that they could not quite get everything the same as they apparently told this story. In the midst of that moment, they experienced something as well. A cloud covering them and their surroundings and a voice emerging from it. In that moment, I can only imagine their response being, “What in the world is going on…”

Things happen in our life that we don’t understand. Things happen within our life of faith that we can’t comprehend. The more we try to ‘explain’ them, the more we lose sight of what it is that has happened to and for us.

When those moments do happen in our life, we want to stay in them. Who wouldn’t? If you enjoy something you want to keep doing that and experiencing it. So, it is no wonder that these disciples feel an urge and draw to remain on that mountain – who wouldn’t!

The heroes of their faith Moses and Elijah are right there! The one whom they believe is the messiah is talking with them! They don’t know what is going on, but what they do know is that they want to be there. Always. The ground they are on now is indeed holy ground.

A cloud overshadows them and a voice bellows from it. And they become afraid – or are they overwhelmed with awe? We don’t really know. Depending on which translations you read, you’ll see both interpretations.

Today science tells us that our body itself reacts similarly to both of those emotions. Fear and awe/excitement are very, very similar to us. Our heart races, we might visibly shake, we have trouble forming words and thoughts, we sweat, we become flushed.

We react. We don’t know what’s going on.

I imagine those disciples felt much the same way in the midst of that cloud. They have been on a literal roller coaster of emotion in just a few short moments. Things they couldn’t possibly imagine are being made known right in front of their eyes. It – I’m sure – is more than they could possibly comprehend. None of us would be able to comprehend it.

When the cloud lifts and the silence and stillness of the mountain returns – where do you think the disciples find themselves? What do you think is rattling in their minds? What would you do?

Should they stay? Should they go? What happened? What’s happening? What does it all mean? Where do we go from here?

When we experience those moments we want to stay. Mostly because we don’t know what to do. Whether we are too excited to form coherent thoughts to make our brains fire the synapses that causes our limbs to move, or we feel too frightened to take a step for fear of what might happen.

We feel stuck.

What are we to do?

Like I said, I’d guess the disciples felt the same thing.

So, what are we to do? Where do we go? Who do we turn towards?

Here, my sisters and brothers is the part of this story of the Transfiguration that Matthew relays to us that the others do not.

Here, in that moment of excitement or fear – in that moment of utter confusion – Jesus reaches out to the disciples.

Get up, don’t be afraid.

Those are the words I need to hear when all the craziness seems to be compounding around me. Those are the words that I yearn for when I don’t know what to do going forward. Those are the words that I cry for when I cannot find the words for what is happening. Those are the words that move me to action when I feel compelled to stay in that moment.

Get up, don’t be afraid.

In our moments of fear or excitement, that steady hand that reaches out in reassurance. That calm confident voice that calls us into action. That’s what we need. That’s what we crave for.

Throughout the season of Epiphany, we have read stories from the words of scripture about where God is made known. Made known in the places we expect. Made known in those ways that stretch us that are uncomfortable. Made known in ways that speak directly and forcefully in ways in which the world lifts up.

Epiphany bombards us with those moments where God is made known to us. It all comes to a head on this Transfiguration Sunday where we read a story where something happens to and with Jesus our Lord. This story that we cannot explain, we can’t understand.

Where we are left to ponder and wonder. Where we might not know where to go from here.

And Jesus calls to us – get up, don’t be afraid.

Something has been made known to us. But, we don’t stay rooted in that spot. We don’t stay out of fear of what might come next. We don’t stay in hopes to recreate that experience again.

We get up. We are not afraid.

We’re able to do that because God has been made known to us. God is on the mountain, but God doesn’t stay there. Jesus walks down that mountain and tells us to go as well.

The disciples have received the ultimate ‘epiphany’ of God. God had literally been made known to them in the most direct way they could possibly imagine. Yet still, Jesus invites them to walk down the mountain.


If I were to be so bold to add an addendum to Jesus’ words this day.

Get up, don’t be afraid. We’ve got work to do.

What is that work? Making known to those down the mountain who God is. Making known to them whose God’s.

All those signs, teachings, and moments leading up to the transfiguration on the mountain? We’re going to make that known to all.

As we journey down the mountain of Transfiguration Sunday, we lead right into Lent. In a few short days, we will be thrust with the realization that we are not immortal, that one day we will die. Yet, we hear the assurance from Jesus.

Get up, don’t be afraid.

We journey through Lent from that day as we strive to live with and for God. Turning our hearts and ourselves away from those things that draw us from God. ‘Re-turning’ to the one who formed us, loves us, and guides us. That’s not easy – it never is. We hear the assurance again.

Get up, don’t be afraid.

We live out our lives of faith that at times appear counter cultural to the world around us. Some may listen, many may not. We become discouraged. Perhaps fixed in a spot of indecision or apathy. Again, and again – we hear Jesus’ comforting words of action.

Get up, don’t be afraid.

Get up, don’t be afraid. We’ve got work to do. Amen.

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