Posts Tagged ‘Transfiguration’

'the Light' photo (c) 2012, Rachel Titiriga - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Here’s a sermon about the Transfiguration:

Shining Faces
A Sermon on Exodus 34:27-35 and Luke 9:28-36

In the Gospel of Luke, things happen when people pray.  Remember Zechariah?  The news he got while he was praying in the Temple took his voice away: he and his wife Elizabeth, childless into old age were at last going to have a son, John, the forerunner of the Christ.

And in Luke, Jesus regularly takes time to pray. Often the place where he prays is a mountain.  That’s what he did when he was getting ready to appoint twelve apostles from among all his disciples.  He went to the mountain to pray.  The mountain is the place of prayer.

In our gospel lesson today, Luke shows us what happens when Jesus prays.  This time, Jesus took the inner circle of apostles, Peter, John and James with him, and they climbed the mountain together for prayer.  While Jesus was praying, his appearance began to change, and he shone.  Moses and Elijah came to speak with him about the mission Jesus would accomplish on another mountain, Calvary.  They talked together in a circle of light: Moses, who symbolized God’s law and Elijah, the greatest of God’s prophets, and Jesus God’s son who fulfills both the law and the prophets.  Heaven and earth touched on the mountaintop.  Heaven and earth touched during prayer.

We don’t know for certain which mountain Jesus chose for this time of prayer, but one tradition says that it was Mt. Tabor.  Mt. Tabor is a very high and steep mountain.  At its peak, you can watch the sun rise over the Sea of Galilee in the East in the morning, and in the evening you can watch the sun set over the Mediterranean Sea in the West.  (Basil Pennington, “Tabor: Icon of Contemplation” in Weavings (vol. XVI, no. 4, July/August 2001), p. 32.) All the world seems to lie at your feet.

It takes a great deal of effort to get to the top of Mt. Tabor.  Maybe that’s why Peter, John and James were so sleepy.  Tired from the climb, at first they didn’t notice the meeting of heaven and earth that was occurring as Jesus prayed.  They dozed while he prayed.  The disciples have a problem staying awake when Jesus asks them to watch and pray with him.  Later, on the night of his betrayal, they will fall asleep on him again.

Prayer certainly can be a steep climb for Jesus’ disciples now, and it doesn’t often seem like a meeting of heaven and earth.  There are a lot of reasons for that.  One that strikes me is that it’s easy for prayer to turn into a wish list like a letter to Santa Claus.  There’s not a whole lot of listening, watching, waiting, meditating.  Of course we need to make our wants and wishes known to God.  But God’s looking for more than that from prayer.  God wants it to be a two-way conversation.  No wonder a conversation is what happens when Jesus is praying in our lesson.

Then there are doubts about whether prayer is even worth it, and the difficulty of finding time to pray because it doesn’t seem to accomplish things the way “actually literally doing something” does.  Glenn Hinson writes about why it is so hard to be still and know that God is God.  He says it’s because most of us have a “captivity to activity” and a “bondage to busyness.”  (Glenn Hinson, “The Quantity Quotient Behind Busyness,” in Weavings (Vol. XXII, No. 1, January/February 2007).  What’s behind that, he suggests, is that so many people tie their worth to how much they can do and accomplish.  Prayer seems like wasted time.  These same people are devastated when they can’t physically or emotionally do what they once did.

In his commentary on this text, William Barclay says that Peter, John and James’ minds were asleep.  What puts minds to sleep?  (more…)

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