First Presbyterian Church of Blackwood
21 E. Church Street
Blackwood, NJ 08012
Sermon Notes (Sunday, February 14, 2021)
Rev. Dr. Mouris A. Yousef, Pastor
“The Transfiguration of our Lord!”
Over the years, I have come to appreciate Church liturgical seasons and their theological and Biblical emphases. I love the liturgical cycle and the different taste of each season. This being said, you may know that today is “Transfiguration Sunday.” Transfiguration Sunday concludes the Epiphany season of the Church’s Year. In the Epiphany season, the Church gets to focus on the manifestation and the revelation of Christ to the entire world. Jesus of Nazareth is God appearing in a human form.
So in Epiphany, stories like the Magi’s story and the baptism of Jesus with its affirmation of the identity and mission of Christ are important Epiphany stories. Epiphany reveals to us that Jesus of Nazareth is God’s most precious gift to humanity and that His love transcends all boundaries. It includes Jews and Gentiles; it welcomes religious and non-religious folk. Transfiguration Sunday concludes the season of Epiphany. Today is Epiphany’s most glorious proof.
In today’s Scripture passage from Matthew 17:1-9, Jesus took Peter, James and John and led them up a high mountain. On the top of the mountain, Jesus was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly there appeared Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus. Matthew doesn’t mention, but Luke says they spoke of Jesus’ exodus – His death and resurrection.
There are so many ways to look at and to understand the transfiguration of our Lord. One way to look at it as a disclosure of the divinity of Christ. During His earthly life, from His conception by the Holy Spirit until His death, Jesus was always God and man, but He didn’t always fully disclose and make use of His Divine power. On the Mount of Transfiguration, like nowhere else, Jesus lets Peter, James and John and us see that this man is what we confess of Him in the creed: “God of God, light of light, very God of very God, begotten, not made.”
But I would like to look at the transfiguration of Christ and approach it from a different angel this morning. I would like to define the transfiguration and then, explain what it means to us today.
First: What is Transfiguration?
The gospel writers used the Greek word “metamorphosis” to describe what happens to Jesus on the mountaintop with Peter, James and John. “Metamorphosis,” is one of the words most of us are probably familiar with from high school biology. In high school biology, that word was used to describe how an organism undergoes a transformation into a new shape. The classic example of this is how a caterpillar forms a cocoon and becomes a butterfly.
Jesus’ metamorphosis, His transformation and transfiguration, is pretty cool! His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became dazzling white, like the clothing of angels. And of course, there is the voice from heaven that bears witness to who Jesus really is. It was quite a metamorphosis! The disciples had never seen anything like this with Jesus before. And probably, they didn’t ever again. But it clearly made an impression on those disciples. So, if this is what happened on the Mount of Transfiguration, what does it mean to us today?
Second: What Does Transfiguration Mean to us Today?
What is the point of Christ’s transfiguration? Of course, we cannot dismiss the importance of the heavenly voice and the presence of Moses and Elijah as Jesus made His last journey to Jerusalem. But I truly believe that Jesus needed neither the show nor the voice. Jesus knows whose he is.
The real point of this story is not the transfiguration, metamorphosis, of Jesus. Instead, it’s about the transformation of the disciples into new people – people who follow Jesus and can be witnesses to the living presence of Jesus in their lives.
That transformation, that metamorphosis, doesn’t take place in an instant. It happens gradually through the journey of following Jesus. It includes mountaintop experiences as well as valley experiences. In the ups and downs of life, we get to know the presence of our faithful Lord. In our strengthens and weaknesses, in our victories and our defeats, we get to feel the loving kindness of our Lord.
Beginning with that vision on the mountain, Peter, James, John and the other disciples began a journey with Jesus to Jerusalem, to the cross and the empty tomb. And that journey was transformative.
I like how our liturgical calendar places the story of Christ’s transfiguration the Sunday before Lent begins. Lent is often described as a journey to Easter. And for us too, this journey is supposed to be a time of special focus in following Jesus so that through our journey with Jesus, we can be changed and transformed.
Like those first disciples, Jesus loves us and calls us just as we are. But Jesus doesn’t want to leave us this way. Instead, he seeks to transform us – to call us to metamorphosis – so that we can live more fully as children of God. It’s a transformation of our hearts, visions, and attitudes.
So, friends, as we prepare to enter the journey of Lent together, watch for the ways in which Jesus is working in your life to call you to metamorphosis, to transformation. Be open to the possibility that God is using new experiences in the journey of your life, even the ones that scare you, to call you to transformation. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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