The Transfiguration of Our Lord – Feb. 14 & 15, 2015
“Do you notice anything different?” How do you react when someone asks you this question? If you’re like me it’s often a mild panic! I begin to search frantically, hoping to discover what I had obviously missed! Sometimes it becomes obvious that a tooth is missing from that big grin of the 1st grader; or it’s a new hair style or coloring; or a special engagement ring on the young lady’s finger; or something else. Whatever it might be, the person asks the question to guarantee that it is “a noticeable change.” I must admit, I don’t always “notice” the change!
This is the last Sunday after the Epiphany and we celebrate the Transfiguration of our Lord. Today’s Gospel reading records for us “the noticeable change” the three disciples saw in Jesus; and in today’s second reading (our text) we are reminded of “the noticeable change” that God works in us through growing faith in Jesus Christ.
Would those around us say there is a “noticeable change” in us? More than just growing taller or other physical changes, would they see “a noticeable change”–a Godly difference in our attitude and the way we live our lives? God’s Word to us today says: “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)
“Being transformed” – what does it mean? It means that when it comes to our relationship with God, we’re not satisfied with just maintaining the status quo. We’re not content to continue year after year, with the same ideas, attitudes, and habits that we’ve always had. On the contrary, we believe God wants to change us, that He has the power to change us, and that He is changing us. Yes, it’s true that God accepts us completely, just as we are. But it’s also true that He isn’t willing to leave us just as we are. He wants to change us, through and through, top to bottom. He wants us to “reflect the Lord’s glory.”
That process began at our infant baptism or the day when the Holy Spirit worked through God’s Word so that we first trusted in Christ, and it will continue throughout our lives. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17) Again Paul writes: “In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy . . . being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:4-6)
Transformation is what the Christian life is all about. It is what God intends for every believer: that we keep learning, and keep growing. We are all works in progress. As Paul wrote even of himself: “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me… I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:12-14)
But we don’t like change! The changes God wants to make in our lives are good ones. We know that. The problem is that even when we recognize our need for change, we are reluctant to actually make the change.
Positive change is not automatic. It’s not a matter of God doing everything while we just go along for the ride. Nor is it a matter of us taking matters into our own hands and doing it all ourselves. It’s God working the change in us and through us.
God’s Word tells us: “Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose.” (Philippians 2:12-13)
Now, when we see the words “work” and “salvation” in the same sentence, warning lights start to flash, because we know that we are saved by grace, and not by works. Yet God’s Word puts them together. Be certain that this is not saying that we need to earn forgiveness, or merit a right standing with God. We are changed; we are brought to life spiritually; we are made righteous and holy in God’s sight solely by what Christ completed for us. However, that’s not the end. The instant we come to faith, it’s the beginning of a “new life,” called “sanctification:” the lifelong process of transformation that God intends for each of us. And that phase does involve our work. We have to labor, and strive, and persevere; and while we are exerting our wills and acting, God is working in us to will and to act. But we can sabotage it. We can ignore God’s call; we can turn a deaf ear to His voice. And often, to our detriment, we choose to resist.
This transfiguration of Jesus was given for the benefit and change of the disciples; and it is recorded in the Gospel accounts also for you and for me! It was during this time that God allowed the disciples a glimpse of Jesus’ divine glory, that we once again hear the voice of the Father saying: “This is My Son, whom I love. Listen to Him!” (v.7) We read them again today in preparation for our celebration of the sacred season of Lent, beginning this week, with Ash Wednesday.
On the Mount of Transfiguration, the disciples saw with their eyes “the noticeable physical change” in Jesus. But the overwhelming emotional experience was not enough. That’s why “as they were coming down the mountain Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.” (v.9) The disciples needed to listen to Jesus much more before they could make sense out of what they had just seen and experienced! The REAL GLORY of Jesus is in His death and resurrection, as the disciples learned after being filled with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (50 days after Easter!) Prior to Pentecost, God’s Word tells us that the disciples were huddled together in fear “behind locked doors” (John 20:19, 26). Like frightened children they were in hiding; like CHAMELEONS they wanted to “blend in” with the surroundings. But on Pentecost we see these same disciples transformed – “transfigured” – from fear-filled chameleons to fearless, bold witnesses through whom God worked to bring the new life and light of the Gospel to the world!
The same is true for you and me! As baptized Christians, and through God’s Word, the Holy Spirit HAS come into our lives. Especially in Baptism, God the Father also SAYS, “You are My son / daughter… Listen to Jesus.” But our natural tendency like these first disciples is to keep our “Christianity” within these safe walls; to be “chameleon Christians,” blending in with our surroundings rather than displaying “a noticeable change.” That’s why God’s Word DIRECTS us: “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but BE TRANSFORMED (transfigured) by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2)
What a great joy again today to have Jesus present with us now, in His Word and His Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper! He blesses us so that not only is He present as we “listen to Him” in His Word, but we literally RECEIVE Him as He says, “Take eat, this is My body… take drink, this is My blood, given and shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins.”
Please join us this Wednesday, Ash Wednesday, to be “transformed” by hearing Jesus’ Word and receiving His true body and blood. And join us every weekend as Jesus gives His blessings!
To God be the glory as we are being transformed by the power of Jesus Christ living and working in us.
In Jesus’ name. Amen.