Summary: Today I want you all to see the glory of God, and to let that glory be reflected in your faces. With the vision of the resurrection of Jesus, and our resurrection in our baptism, we will let the new Spirit in us shine forth on our faces and we will jo
Transfiguration Sunday Let Your Face Shine Brightly
Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John,
and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them,3 and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them.4 And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus.5 Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”6 He did not know what to say, for they were terrified.7 Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!”8 Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus. 9 As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. St. Mark 9:2-9
Today I want you all to see the glory of God, and to let that glory be reflected in your faces. In the Gospel we heard that when Jesus was transfigured on the high mountain, his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. Matthew adds that the face of Jesus shown like the sun. And then Moses and Elijah showed up to talk things over with him. Peter said, "Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah." Have you ever wondered how Peter knew it was Moses and Elijah? I don’t think he had ever met them before. I don’t think there were any photographs available of those two. Were Moses and Elijah wearing name tags?
Moses was one of the people in the Old Testament who was permitted to see God face to face. You can read about his Transfiguration in Exodus 34. Following the episode of the golden calf, Moses went back up Mount Sinai and again received the two tables of the law. When God talked with him, the skin of his face began to shine. And when Moses came down from the mountain, the people saw it and were afraid to come near him. But he called to them and told them God’s will. Moses was the means by which the people had access to God and the brightness of the face of Moses reflected God’s glory. But when Moses finished speaking to the people he covered his face with a covering of some sort, a veil. From then on, whenever he went in to speak with God he took the veil off and then he would come out and speak with the people. But when he was done speaking, he would cover his face again with the veil. In our second lesson today, Paul tells us that the brightness of the glory of God shining on the face of Moses faded quickly after he left the presence of Yahweh and spoke with the people. So, rather than remind the people of the frailty of their means of access to God, Moses veils his face!
The other person on the mountain with Jesus was the great prophet Elijah. He was a man who had great faith in Yahweh and was totally and completely loyal to him. In the ninth century before Christ, Elijah was the leader in the struggle against the encroaching forces of Baalism that were fostered by Jezebel, the Phoenician queen of king Ahab. Perhaps you will recall the climatic scene in the contest on Mt. Carmel between Elijah and the 450 prophets of Baal. Sacrificial animals were placed upon the dry wood on two altars, one altar for Baal, and the another for Yahweh. The prophets of Baal and Elijah were to ask for fire from the deity, with the provision that whichever deity answered with fire must be accepted as God. All Israel was summoned to witness the ordeal.
All morning the prophets of Baal entreated their god, whirled around the altar in a grotesque, limping dance, and, in the final frenzy, cut themselves with lances and swords. But it was all in vain. In contrast, the dignity and serenity of Elijah was indicative of his profound trust in Yahweh. Upon Elijah’s command, water was poured upon the sacrificial animal on the altar of the Lord. Then Elijah prayed and the fire of Yahweh consumed the burnt offering. In the presence of this miracle, the people confessed that Yahweh was God. The Old Testament lesson today tells us of the last day of Elijah’s earthly life. As Elijah and his successor, Elisha, were talking, "a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them, and Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven." And obviously in heaven he was face to face with Yahweh and the glory of God must have shown on his face too.