A Homily for the Last Sunday After Epiphany, Being the Feast of the Transfiguration According to the Revised Common Lectionary
Text: St. Mark 9:2-9
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son, the Beloved. Listen to him. Amen.
There’s something just so relatable about Simon Peter. He’s eager and zealous, ready to jump in to action, convinced that he knows what’s going on in the moment. Consider his calling from just a few weeks ago: he’s sitting in his boat with his dad and brother, mending his equipment, going about his work, when Christ wanders along the lakeshore and calls to him. He drops his nets and everything else – as we learn later, he leaves behind a wife and his mother-in-law – to follow Christ.
Or, in Saint Matthew’s Gospel, when Jesus walks across the water? Peter hops out of the boat and goes strolling along the waves. But then – in the very midst of this miracle, the only time anyone would ever have reason to believe they could stride along the surface of the deep – he becomes frightened and begins to sink.
Or what about his confession, just a chapter before today’s reading? He boldly declares that Jesus is the Messiah; such faith! Too bad he immediately follows it up with by rebuking the Christ: “What are you talking about Jesus? You’re wrong! How could you say such things!” To which Christ responds with, “Get behind me Satan.”
Over and over again, Peter steps up only to make a fool of himself in the process. He’s so much like us; he wants to do well, but he manages to get in his own way.
Six days after Peter’s confession and rebuke, Jesus took some of his first disciples, Peter along with the sons of Zebedee, up to the mountain top. They reach the summit when suddenly, everything changed.
Imagine what it must have been like: the world so much brighter, the sky bluer, the grass greener, the sun warmer, the air fresher. As if somehow the world had instantly been made new. And at the center of it, Jesus, shining as a second sun, his clothes whiter than white and contrasting with his radiant dark olive skin. He’s more piercing than the noonday sun but not a painful, glaring light. Rather, a perfect light: bright and true, as if somehow the veil between the natural and supernatural had been lifted for just a moment.
And on either side of Christ, Elijah and Moses, the great prophet and the liberating lawgiver, the ones who have delivered God’s people.
Picture being in the disciples’ place, seeing Jesus suddenly look so different. Feel the sense of awe washing over the scene, the power and majesty of it. Imagine how suddenly the disciples must have felt so humbled to see such a sublime moment, but at the same time as though they were intimately known and cared for that Christ had invited them to witness such a scene as this.
The disciples are awe-struck, unable to speak and unsure what they would say even if they could. They just stand and stare.
For a while.
And a little while longer.
Not sure if it’s been just a brief moment or hours.
And then Peter manages a few words: “Lord, it is good for us to be here.” Let me build shelters for the prophets and for you. Let us stay here and bask in this this experience.
The Gospels say that Peter was in a short of shock, not really sure what to say, “for they were terrified” – but who can blame him for what he said?
But I have to admit, Peter’s reaction makes complete sense to me. Who wouldn’t want to stay on the mountain top in the presence of the Transfigured Christ and the heroes of the faith? Peter knows what’s coming – he’s just heard “that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering…and be killed.”
The Transfiguration is a much more pleasant alternative. This could be it – the big reveal at the end of history. This one single, momentous glorious event full of unblemished divine majesty.
But we know that they have to come off the mountain. Christ is slowly moving toward Jerusalem, toward the cross. Peter knows what’s coming.
And it’s not really about Peter, is it?
A cloud comes over them and a voice cries out: “This is my Son, the Beloved. Listen to him.”
It’s a voice we’ve heard before, just weeks ago as Jesus emerged from the waters of the Jordan. In Baptism, and now again, just around halfway through the Gospel, Christ is still being revealed to the world. But this time, there is an imperative: “Listen to him.”
Listen to him, Peter. What has he been telling you? What has the Christ been revealing to you? You know what’s coming. Take this moment and treasure it. Ponder it in your heart. Let it strengthen you for the hard times ahead.
Beloved ones, what has Jesus been revealing to us over the past few weeks? What has he been calling us to?
This is the Christ who calls us to repent and believe the Good News, who proclaims that the Kingdom has come near, who casts out demons and heals the sick, who teaches with authority,who travels from place to place proclaiming his message – for this is what he came to do.
This is the Christ who calls us to be disciples, to follow him and to the life-sustaining work of fishing for people.
This is the Christ who sends us out to proclaim the Gospel and to continue the ministry of healing a world broken by sin.
So come, sisters and brothers, to the Transfigured Christ. Come witness his divine majesty revealed to the world. It is good for us to be here.
Come, hear the Good News proclaimed through Sacred Scripture – the story of God at work in the world. It is good for us to be here.
Come, beloved, and be made new through Christ’s gracious sacraments. Be made new in the waters of Baptism. Be nourished by Christ’s Body and Blood given for you in the Eucharist. It is good for us to be hear.
Come, be transfigured through the proclamation of the Gospel and the celebration of the Sacraments. It is most certainly good for us to be here.
Come, but do not stay.
Come and listen to Christ as he sends us out.
Listen to Christ as he sends us out to proclaim repentance and the Kingdom of God.
Listen to Christ as he sends us out to fish for people.
Listen to Christ as he sends us out to drive out the demonic forces that plague our world.
Listen to Christ as he sends us out to heal a world broken by sin and death.
Listen to Christ as he sends us out to transfigure the world through divine grace and love.