February 14, 2010
Text: Luke 9:28-36
About a hundred years ago, there was a boy who lived on a farm, way out in the country. This was in the days before people were saturated with entertainment media so at that time, one of the most exciting things a child could do was go to the circus. And this boy had never been to one. So you can imagine his excitement when he saw a poster announcing that a traveling circus was coming to a nearby town. He ran home with the glad news and asked his parents for permission to attend.
The family was poor, but the father sensed how important this was to his son, so he pulled out a dollar bill and gave it to him, sending him on his way.
The boy was so excited that his feet barely touched the ground all the way to the town. When he got there, he noticed people were lining the streets and he worked his way through the crowd until he could see what was going on.
There in the distance approached the spectacle of a circus parade. It was the grandest thing that he had ever witnessed. There were elephants and bands and horses and acrobats, and all that goes into making a great circus. He was thrilled.
After everything had passed by, a circus clown with floppy shoes and a brightly painted face, was bringing up the rear. As the clown approached, the boy reached into his pocket and got out that precious dollar bill. He handed the money to the clown and then turned around and went home. You see, the parade had been so wonderful that he thought that’s all there was. And so he ended up missing out on the main affair.
The mistake that the boy made is the same mistake we can make in our spiritual lives. We can end up settling for less than the real thing, for a portion, instead of for the whole, and all because we either do not believe in what God can do, or because we do not look at or understand what we have been given.
The Bible tells about a time when Jesus was on a mountaintop with three of his disciples: Peter, James and John. And while they were there, something incredible happened to Jesus. It says that while he “was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning.”
The disciples, naturally, were stunned. St. Peter was so amazed that he didn’t want it to ever end. He wanted to set up shelters to stay there and bask in God’s radiant glory. The text adds, however, that Peter did not understand what he was saying.
This event in the Bible is often called the transfiguration, because Jesus’ appearance was transfigured before their very eyes. Another word for that is metamorphosis. Jesus was metamorphosed temporarily to reveal to us that there is more to Him than meets the eye. Jesus is not just another religious leader like many others who have passed into history. Jesus is not just a holy man or someone really in touch with spirituality. He was literally God-in-the-flesh. And because He was a human being, His God-ness was obscured. Events such as this one remove the obstructions so that we can see Him clearly for what He truly is.
The Transfiguration is important because it clarifies whom we are dealing with. When we say that we are followers of Jesus Christ and when we confess that Jesus is our Lord, we are not saying something small or insignificant. We mean that we are on good terms with the Ruler of creation. Satan and his dragons are shaking in their boots right now, not because you or I intimidate them but because the Almighty King is here and we are in His favor.
Peter misunderstood. He was ready to camp out in that shining moment. He wanted to stay on the mountaintop where it was safe and happy and light. In fact, it wasn’t the time to stay in the light. Jesus still had his main work to do. The Transfiguration event was not their final destination. It was God’s way of strengthening the disciples for the difficulties that lay ahead of them.
Jesus did not come into the world in order to razzle dazzle us into becoming his followers. He came in order to become our substitute and to do what we are incapable of doing. He offered Himself as the sacrificial lamb on the cross to become the atonement for the sins of all people. He died for us and paid for our guilt. Since we have been pardoned by God, we have been released from captivity to death. And that is what it’s all about.
A lot of time, when it comes to what matters most, we can be looking right at something and still miss the point entirely. Do you remember a few years ago when those posters were so popular? Posters that looked like just a busy jumble of colors but if you stared at it long enough and squinted your eyes in just the right way, you were supposed to eventually see a picture. I could never get that to work for me. I never could see whatever I was supposed to see.
When you look at Jesus Christ, what do you see? Do you get the point? Christianity is not just information. It’s transformation. Christianity is not just a collection of rules and regulations. It’s a relationship with the Creator. I would like to point out to you that in the Transfiguration, our Lord is not just revealing a glimpse of whom He is. He is revealing a glimpse of whom we shall become. There will come a time for you when your mortality and weakness and pain will drop away like a husk. And your bodies, minds and spirits will be transformed into something as radiant as the sun.
This life can be compared to a circus parade. It has many wonderful moments, to be sure. And like every parade, there is plenty of manure to sweep up along the way. But the fun doesn’t end when the last clown passes by. Don’t live your life as if this is all there is or else you might miss the very best part. These 70 or 80 or maybe 90 years that we spend upon the earth are just the opening act. At best, this is just the parade before the show. But for those who are baptized into Christ and remain in Christ, there is indeed a light at the end of the tunnel.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.