Peter’s Declaration about JesusMark 8:27-9:8 (NRSV)
Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” And they answered him, “John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” He asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah.” And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him.
Jesus Foretells His Death and Resurrection
Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”
He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
And he said to them, “Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.”
Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.
Friends, today, just before the season of Lent begins, we celebrate Transfiguration Sunday. Now Transfiguration Sunday can be a little confusing for people, sometimes. But this story of Jesus’ transfiguration is written about in three of the gospels and referred to in the fourth. It’s also spoken of again in the book of 2 Peter, so we know that it is something that was considered very important by the ancient writers.
Well, the story tells us that Jesus went up onto a mountain, with Peter James and John to pray. But when we get close to the top, something happens and Jesus is transfigured. His appearance changes, and he begins to physically shine. Scripture says, “his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them.” Kind of a strange story, isn’t it? But wait, it gets even more strange, because then the prophets Moses and Elijah appear, and they speak to Jesus. Finally, a voice from heaven comes and says something very similar to what we heard at Jesus baptism, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!”
Okay, so what does this all mean? And why do we talk about it every year? Well, actually, this is a pivotal point in our faith story because it is where our human nature truly meets God. The meeting place is on a high mountain, possibly implying that Jesus is to be the bridge between heaven and earth, that Jesus is not only an earthly teacher but that he is part of something so much more. And we hear this story each year just before we enter the season of lent and get ready for holy week, as we begin to understand more not only about the simple teacher and preacher of Jesus, but also the divinity of Christ. Now that is all well and good, but it sounds awful heady and educational, doesn’t it?
So what does that all mean to our everyday lives? Well, this week, though we heard the story of the transfiguration of Jesus, we also heard a little more. We heard about Jesus facing conflict with his disciples and the story of what was to come for Jesus’ journey. He told of great suffering and rejection and his coming death and resurrection.
Could you imagine knowing that all of that was going to happen? Could you imagine facing such a difficult situation? Well, my friends, the fact is we all face difficulty in our lives, maybe not the same things that Jesus faced, but we face pain and struggle in our lives all the time. We struggle with work or family or finances. We face tough diagnoses for family members, or friends, or even for ourselves. We see brokenness and hurt in the world all around us, and we sometimes wonder what we are supposed to do and where we are supposed to turn.
At the heart of this week’s scripture passage are Jesus’ strength and courage and bravery. He is fully aware that his actions are upsetting those in power, and that they will likely put him to death. Even when Peter tries to dissuade him, Jesus knows the truth: “those who want to save their life… will lose it.” Jesus knows that he needs to be brave enough to risk his own life, to spread the Good News of God’s love. He needs to speak up and speak out, even if people will hurt him for it.
Friends, we don’t often talk about bravery here in Oldtown. We talk about unconditional love and compassion and grace, but bravery somehow sounds different. But to tell you the truth, it’s not really. It’s just having the courage to continue to share the unconditional love and compassion and the grace of God with yourself and others, even in the midst of difficult times.
In our storybook today, When You are Brave, we heard about situations that can seem intimidating for a child: learning to swim, the first day of school, performing in front of a crowd. The book talks about finding inner courage, like a light that glows from within. As the story said, the light may be small at first, but we can help it to grow into a flame that radiates out, giving us strength and encouraging us. Folks, the truth is we all have a light that burns within us. Sometimes it burns brightly, lighting the way for us and others. Other times, it’s barely a flicker. But the good news is that no matter how frustrating the world around us gets, no matter how much we struggle with our lives and sometimes even our faith, when we tend to the light inside of us, it will grow, helping us to be brave in the work that we have to do and giving us the courage to be the people that God created us to be.
Friends, Jesus’ story of the transfiguration and the way that he shined on the mountaintop remind us that we too have a light inside of us, a light that fills us with warmth and faith and hope and courage. But it only shines brightly when we care for it, when we take care of ourselves and focus on our faith.
The good news today is that Transfiguration Sunday reminds us of the light that God placed inside of each of us. It reminds us of the divine connection that Jesus has in our lives, and it ushers us into the season of Lent when we can take some time to reset and refocus our lives, fanning the flame that strengthens our faith and gives us the courage and bravery to face whatever the world might bring.
This Wednesday, we celebrate Ash Wednesday, when we are reminded that from dust we have all come and to dust we shall all return. We are reminded that death is a part of lives and that Jesus never leaves us, no matter what, along our entire journey. Folks, during the season of Lent this year, we are going to be giving ourselves a soul reset. We’ll be following a book titled Soul Reset: breakdown, breakthrough and the journey to wholeness as we rekindle the light that is within all of us. During Lent, we are going to be learning how to live freely and lightly even in the face of depression, stress, busyness, burnout, grief, and shame. We will also be given a spiritual practice each day to help us step away from the busyness of the world and tend the light that is within us.
It’s my hope and my prayer that this Easter when we shout our Alleluias, the light inside of each you will be burning brightly as you begin to live freely and lightly having the strength and the courage to face the future not only unafraid but with joy!
So, brothers and sisters in Christ, as you go out into your busy week ahead, pay attention to the light inside of you. Is it burning brightly, or could it use a little help? Remember that it’s okay to struggle sometimes, but it’s also okay to take the time you need to take care of you. Blessings to all of you on your journey through lent this year. May it be a time that you truly get to rest, reflect, and reset your soul.
My friends, may it be so thanks be to God, Amen!