Transfiguration Day – August 04, 2023
This Sunday lands directly on Transfiguration Day, traditionally celebrated on August 6. We will be singing, reading, and reflecting on this amazing day in the life of Jesus and the disciples.
While praying on the mountain, Jesus’ whole countenance and even his clothing began to change. Luke 9 says:
29 And as he prayed, the fashion of his countenance was altered, and his raiment was white and glistering.
As always, there is much more to be said about this event than is allotted in our sermon time, so I want to give you a little prequel to the sermon to prepare your heart for worship.
In 2018 Christiane and I made a life-changing trip to Israel. We hit some of the highlights in the old city of Jerusalem, Bethlehem to the south, and Galilee on the north. It was awe inspiring to see the land where familiar biblical events took place.
Like most people who experience the Holy Land after a lifetime of studying the Scriptures, we were forever impacted, but soon found out there is so much uncertainty about the precise location of many events.
On the way back from the region of Galilee to Jerusalem, we drove up Mt Tabor, where the Church of the Transfiguration is located. There’s a debate amongst scholars regarding the actual location of the events that took place that day. Some argue that Mt. Hermon is the highest mountain in the whole region. There are reports though of church fathers, like Origen in the 3rd century, and Jerome in the 4th, considering Mt. Tabor as the most probable location. We even took a picture of a baptismal font from the 4th century.
Standing on Mt. Tabor that day, Christiane and I thought of other events that might have taken place there. We know for sure that was the place where Deborah and Barak led the Israelites to victory over the Canaanites (Judges 4). As the only woman judge we know of during that period, Deborah was led by God in every word she spoke. Tradition also has Mt. Tabor as the site where Abram met with Melchizedek, the Priestly-King pointing to Jesus, our eternal King and Priest (Hebrews 7:1).
There is a Catholic Church, an Eastern Orthodox Church, and we even heard of a Cave Church on some side of the mountain that celebrated Abraham’s encounter with Melchizedek.
The thing about the precise location of events is that it reveals something about our own need to “put our fingers on something real”. It is kind of like Thomas touching Jesus’s wounds (John 20:27-29). It is the reason why some people spend ridiculous amounts of money purchasing something that belonged to someone famous. We want to be as close as possible to the “real thing”.
The good news is that the Real One, the One and Only God of the Universe lives in us and we in Him. Christiane and I kept reflecting on this reality throughout our trip. Through all the beautiful, emotional, and spiritual encounters we had in Israel, we kept reminding ourselves of our calling today.
Peter, James, and John witnessed Jesus being transfigured before their eyes, they heard the Father’s voice declaring that Jesus was the Son of God, the Messiah they had been waiting for. We can only imagine what they must have felt. We know that, from all the things Peter witnessed, this supernatural event left an impression on him for the rest of his life.
In our epistle reading this week in 2 Peter, we see how he uses this event as evidence to the legitimacy of Christ, and his own ministry. He says:
…we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. 18 And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mountain.
2 Pe 1:16–18
We know that the Transfiguration was a glimpse of the glorified Jesus, and it was necessary for the preparation of the disciples, who would go on to change the world. Some even argue that the “keys” of the Kingdom were given to them (more on that on Sunday!). What a relief then, when we read in 2 Pe 1:1
“To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ”
Peter goes on in his letter to encourage us to confirm “our calling and election”, because he knows that is not the location or the event itself that qualifies us to carry on God’s work. It is what Jesus accomplished in His death, resurrection, and ascension that allows us to receive faith and knowledge that will change our lives and hopefully of those we are called to serve.
The Transfiguration happened as Jesus prayed. Let’s keep that in mind as we continue to grow as the praying Body of Christ.
I pray the collect we will pray together on Sunday over you. Would you pray it with me:
O God, who on the mount didst reveal to chosen witnesses thine only-begotten Son Wonderfully trasfigured, in raiment white and glistering; Mercifully grant that we, being delivered from the disquietude of this world, may be permitted to behold the King in his beauty, who with thee, O Father, and thee, O Holy Ghost, liveth and reigneth, on God, world without end. (1928 BCP p 247-248)
Blessings and Peace,