Summary: The transfiguration of Jesus moves around in the liturgical calendar but always appears before a great trial ahead for Jesus.
Transferable gospel - Well done my Son
Luke 9: 28-36
We have all heard of a transferable feast and the best example is Easter as it occurs at a different time each year.
Naturally Ash Wednesday, Palm Sunday and Good Friday also follow this pattern.
Today’s gospel reading about the transfiguration is recorded in all the 3 synoptic gospels and in terms of the liturgical year is a little like a transferable gospel as over the years it seems to pop up at different time in the liturgical year.
Going back many years to the Book of Common Prayer this gospel passage is the theme for the feast of the transfiguration of Jesus as it continues to this day on August 6th.
Then our Green book for the Church in Wales it is also used as the gospel for the theme for Passion Sunday which seemed appropriate at the time as the account in Matthew predicts Jesus’ forthcoming passion.
Now in the Revised Common Lectionary the Church in Wales uses the theme of the transfiguration each year from the appropriate gospel on the Sunday before Lent.
Why is that I wonder? I’m sure there’s a very good reason and I can only hypothesise.
In each case Jesus is facing a rough period in His life, a period of trial, tribulation and temptation.
When this gospel was used on Passion Sunday it was a trial that led to His death and the temptation must have been to get up and run.
Father if Thou art willing remove this cup from me; nevertheless not My will but Thine be done.
The agony in the garden.
When the gospel is used on the Sunday before Lent again Jesus faced a great challenge, fasting, hunger and temptation.
If you are the Son of God…
The temptation to give in and succumb.
But in the account of the transfiguration Jesus undergoes a transformation, He is strengthened in a very visible and dramatic way.
The words from the cloud are very similar to the account of His baptism in the river Jordan by John the Baptist but with a very significant difference.
At His baptism we are told, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with You I am well pleased’.
But in today’s gospel the words are: ‘This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to Him’
In each case God the Father is encouraging His Son to go on, to continue with the task that is set before Him.
If you like a well-earned pat on the back – well done my Son.
And what better encouragement can you have than that, but the message was also for the disciples as well as for us.
We are to listen to Him, listen to God’s Son as He speaks and teaches the very Word of God.
But for me it’s the words, ‘This is my Son, my Chosen’
A father’s words of encouragement to go on, to face the trials and tribulations to come.
There was a small boy who had a habit of patting his nursery teacher on the seat of his pants and he tried several things to make him stop, but nothing worked.
Finally, his father came to pick him up, the teacher quietly mentioned the problem, asking whether he had any insight on the situation.
Smiling, the father explained his son’s fascination with football--and his curiosity as to why the players "spanked" each other: He told his son that they were telling each other what a good job they were doing.
It seems the same applied to the teacher. Encouragement is a powerful motivator.
We all need a bit of encouragement don’t we?
All too often, we receive the opposite – criticism or no response at all.
Well done, You are my Son with You I am well pleased.