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Lectionary Sermons: Ordinary Time

The Glory of God: A Sermon for Transfiguration Sunday

By David Bennett

Exodus 34:29-35; 2 Peter 1:13-21; Luke 9:28-36

Today's texts all involve the glory of God revealed to humankind in a real and powerful way. These are some of the rare times in the Bible where the tremendous glory of the Trinity was revealed directly to human beings. Most of the time God's glory was revealed in more subtle ways, such as through miracles or wise teaching. Today's text from Luke involves God's glory revealed by Jesus. This text is traditionally referred to as "The Transfiguration."

The Eastern Orthodox Study Bible concisely describes the Transfiguration as, "the demonstration that Jesus is the Lord of glory despite the fact that he will later suffer and die on the cross." It is a foreshadowing of the Risen Lord. I guess you could say that the experience the apostles had on the mountain was a break from all the madness of the world. It was a brief, but important, encounter with God's glory, and God's plan for all people. The transfiguration of Jesus revealed to his closest disciples the heavenly transformation to glory that awaits all the saints of Christ. The text from 2nd Peter makes the point that the revelation of the Transfiguration proves that Christianity is more than just a novel superstition. Christianity is about the Power of the Son of God.

Perhaps we should take the time to examine the men who saw God's glory face to face. They were as human as can be. Moses, mentioned in today's OT text, while being a great man of God, and a hero to the Hebrews, wasn't even allowed to set foot in the Promised Land. Yet he still saw God face to face. Moses once told the Lord, "I have never been eloquent, neither now or in the past, for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue." This does not sound like the type of person God would choose to meet face to face. But despite Moses' failings as a human being, he experienced God's glory.

Peter, James, and John, who witnessed the transfiguration, all had their faults too. Peter denied Jesus when the going got rough. Let's face it; Peter wasn't the brightest star in the sky either. He was pretty dense. The Gospel authors seem to poke fun at Peter for his many mishaps. The truth is that any one of our names could be placed within the gospels in place of Peter's. It comes as a relief to me to find that even the future "rock" of the church was as plagued by confusion and doubt as we are, yet he was revealed God's glory.

James and John had their problems too. They woefully misunderstood the Kingdom when they asked to be Jesus' right and left hand men once the Kingdom came. They were probably just as thickheaded as poor Peter was. Yet they too saw the Glory of God in the most real way any human probably could. I guess my point is that you don't have to be perfect to experience God, just willing to follow.

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I believe there is great comfort in the story of the transfiguration. There is comfort in the future glory that the transfiguration has revealed to us. This glory is our hope. Peter probably died around 67 AD. According to church tradition he was crucified upside-down, as he was not worthy to be crucified the same way his Lord was. His life was probably neither fun nor productive by today's standards. He was poor and a member of an outcast religion. He was most likely either misunderstood or despised by the majority of people he came in contact with, both in the Jewish and Roman worlds. Yet he and many other followers of a Nazarene carpenter died for the belief they had in the Power of the Son of God. The mystical transfiguration experience probably sat in Peter's mind throughout all of the persecutions he endured; perhaps he could vividly recall it any time he wanted to. Maybe the exact details were becoming hazy, but I would bet that as he was hanging upside-down, he had a good vision of what awaited him after he took his final breath.

I don't think that anyone sitting here will see God's glory right now the way Peter did. (Though I have to add that since I believe in miracles I won't eliminate the possibility). However, through the power of the Holy Spirit, there are still many ways that we can witness and know the same Lord of glory written about in the book of Luke. We can do this through the mystery of the body and the blood, through prayer and meditation, through the weekly liturgy, through observing the church calendar, or by simply reading the Bible. I often see God's glory in nature, through his meticulous and colorful creation. Whenever I get too stressed a drive in the country helps me to get it together and remember how big the whole picture really is. A brisk hike or an intense run at the scenic State Park is a good way for me to see God's glory up close. Usually at the beginning of a run I am thanking God for the beautiful day, and at the end thanking Him I didn't collapse. I also see God's glory through other people, such as my amazing friends, family, professors, girlfriend, and church family. The great theologian C.S. Lewis suggested that we could get a glimpse of the eternal through fine music and that heart-warming feeling called "nostalgia." Many of you out there today have other ways you feel God's glory. I was just told today by a friend at Good Shepherd that she feels God's glory by praying in tongues.

I think the glory of God is all around us and available to us; I guess sometimes we just don't look for it, or maybe we've honestly forgotten how to look, or maybe we expect to see it directly as Peter did. Unfortunately we won't see it in full until we die. Until that day we can only get sneak previews, breaks from the madness of the world, much like Peter, James, and John got on a mountain over 1900 years ago.

As I end here, I want to pray that I will always live in the hope of glory that is due to God's faithful saints, and I hope that I will never cease to find previews of God's amazing glory in the strangest places.

This sermon was originally delivered to the Church of the Good Shepherd (Episcopal) in Athens, Ohio on Transfiguration Sunday, 2000. The Church of the Good Shepherd is not associated with Ancient and Future Catholics or Ancient-Future.Net. The author of this sermon has now joined the Catholic Church.

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