First Lesson: 2 Kings 2: 1-12
Responsive Reading: Psalm 50: 1-6
Second Lesson: 2 Corinthians 4: 3-6
Gospel Lesson: Mark 9: 2-9
Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
I want you this morning to picture a moment in your life? The moment that I want you to picture is the moment that you would deem to be the most special or unique. The moment could be the time in high school, when you hit the shot at the buzzer to win the game. The day, when you looked down at the scale to see a particular goal weight achieved. It could be a major life accomplishment in the day that you received the significant award or got offered the new job. For many people, this moment might be the moment that you saw your bride getting ready to come down the aisle, or the time that you held your child for the first time. Chances are these moments define your life. I want to tell you the story about one such moment for three men today in Peter, James, and John.
Peter, James, and John had been traveling with Jesus for about two years throughout all of Israel. They had heard Jesus give plenty of sermons. They had seen him walk on water, heal the sick, and even feed five thousand people with five loaves and two fish. For Peter, James, and John their minds could not fathom what they were about to see next. For one day, Jesus took Peter, James, and John on a hike. They could not quite figure what the purpose was for this hike, yet it would soon become apparent.
Once they reached, the top of the mountain, they saw a fireworks show like one could not imagine. Jesus’ appearance changed right before them “His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them.” Peter, James, and John knew the famous Old Testament story of God appearing before Moses in a Burning Bush and Moses’ life changing forever as he encountered the living God.
After overcoming the initial shock, of Jesus’ change in appearance, Peter, James, and John mind were further blown as appearing before them was Moses of said Burning Bush fame and Elijah the only man to ever ascend to Heaven in a whirlwind. There were not two more important figures in the history of Israel than Moses and Elijah. The whole Old Testament was summed up in these two men the Law and the Prophets. These men were Israel’s George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Here they were back to life, after, not having been seen for hundreds of years. Think if you could invite any three people living or dead to dinner who would you invite? This question had just become a reality for Peter, James, and John upon the Mount of Transfiguration.
So Peter’s reaction to this most incredible of scenes is expected. Peter wants the moment to last forever. Peter wanted to camp out at the Mount of Transfiguration for as long as possible. Peter figured this was the payoff to his faith. The scene to which they were witnesses was the completion of the years of getting ready for that one shining moment. Jesus quickly had to correct Peter’s imagination as soon as this moment came to end.
What are we to make of this story of Transfiguration today?
As many of you know, I’ve hiked the North Shore as much as anyone possibly could. You ask me about a hiking trail from Duluth to the Border, I could give you a description of nearly every trail’s difficulty, its scenery, and its logistics.
My favorite hike on the North Shore is Mount Josephine up in Grand Portage. Most of you have been to Palisade Head, many of you have been to Shovel Point, but what makes Mount Josephine, so spectacular is its climb. Mount Josephine is an ascent of 600 feet in about 6/10 of a mile. You will huff, and puff to get up to the top of Mount Josephine regardless of your fitness level. But the difficulty of the climb is what makes Mount Josephine so spectacular. The steep angle gives you an incredible view of Lake Superior where you can see out even as far as Isle Royale. Once you get to the top of Mount Josephine, you feel a sense of accomplishment as your breath gets taken away by the view. You vow to stay at the top of Mount Josephine for maybe a half-hour staring a site like you will never see again. Something happens though during your time on the top, the view from Mount Josephine becomes more ordinary. Eventually right before that one last look, you now know that it is time to descend the mountain.
Misunderstanding the moment is the problem with Peter’s mindset in our Gospel lesson for today. What people seemingly can’t grasp about life is the life is mostly spent down in the valley, not upon the mountain. For like Peter seeing Jesus transfiguration before his very eyes, this experience was going to be fleeting.
When I was in seventh grade, I had a science teacher named Mr. Collins. The benefit of being around science people is they tend to see the world not in terms of emotions and feelings, but rather how pieces fit together. Now Mr. Collins wasn’t much to look at he was short, he was bald, and he had put on a few pounds since high school. Mr. Collins though knew seventh graders quite well. He knew they were at the age where every single person was judged on the basis of physical appearance or “how hot they were?”
Mr. Collins one day addresses the class, where he points out that looks are a terrible reason to choose to marry. Mr. Collins reminded us that he didn’t think of his wife in the morning for how she looked, but rather he thought of her as his wife. The one to whom he was going to spend the rest of his life, long after both their looks had faded. The problem that Mr. Collins was addressing is that basing a marriage on its initial excitement or romance leads to the moment fading and the marriage not lasting. You can not create the same thrill on day in and day out basis. For as Jesus seeks to illustrate to Peter, mountaintop experiences don’t last.
Our question for today is ultimately “Where do we find God in the world?” Peter, James, and John in the rush of initial excitement believed that they had discovered God upon the Mount of Transfiguration. They believed there would never be any bigger moment in their lives than seeing Moses, Elijah, and Jesus standing together.
Often, I’ll hear people talk about grand spiritual life-changing experiences. When I was fourteen years old, I spend the week at Bible camp in South Dakota in the Black Hills. I made some new friends, had some cool counselors, had my faith challenged. This initial surge of the moment led me to believe that this was proof of God’s presence. I vowed that I was going to be a changed man from this day forward. I remember going home and apologizing to my parents for being such a brat in the months prior. Something happened after I got back from South Dakota called everyday life. I kept encountering the same friends, I got back into the same routines, and as the initial surge of South Dakota wore off, I reverted to being just as big an attention starved brat as ever. Just like as soon as Peter, James, and John traveled down from the Mount of Transfiguration, they were forced to encounter a boy begging to be healed of Epilepsy. The snap back to reality is often difficult for us to grasp. We want certain moments to last forever, only for us to be disappointed when they don’t. Disappointment can confuse us as to the realness of God’s presence.
What we must remember this morning is that God’s presence is not found merely in mountaintop experiences, we find God’s presence in the everyday world. When we say that we live by faith, what this means is that we live by promise. We live with the belief that even though we might not see Jesus at this moment, this doesn’t mean that he is not present in our lives.
Often, I’ll hear people say “I wish God’s presence could be clearer.”
As we begin Lent in a few days, we look towards the hope of Easter. We look towards the God, who at the world’s creation said, “Let there be light”, and we see this light in the light of the world who shone amongst us in Christ Jesus.
When I was working down in Lamberton, I took a Sunday off to go to California with my aunt and my grandma. I had a guy I knew from seminary pinch hit named Mark Lund. Mark was just getting a comfort level for speaking in front of others. Mark this Sunday is giving a Children’s sermon. The thing about Children’s sermons is that kids will blurt out just about anything at the most inopportune moments. So, after being asked a question that Mark was unsure how to answer, Mark just told the kid “Remember the correct answer is always Jesus.” So when I return to teach Confirmation, when the kids didn’t know an answer they just kept answering like Mark had taught them. The right answer is all spiritual questions, all spiritual doubt and despair is “Always Jesus”.
We will all have plenty of events and experiences in life that we won’t know their meaning. This much is true. What I also know is that Christ comes to us on this day in two ordinary forms (Word and Sacrament), the promises of our Gospel given to us in Bread and Wine.
Plenty of us can clamor that we wish that God would deal with us a bit differently than he does. The reason, that God deals with us as he does, is because we need to encounter God within humble means. If I was to call down fire from heaven, like Elijah this morning. People would go home amazed with me, or the fact that they were worthy enough to be part of this congregation, rather than to look towards the cross the reality of God’s work in the world.
In closing, one of the big news stories of the last few months has been the Charlie Hedbo massacres that took place in France where three armed gunmen stormed a newspaper office killing twelve people within the building. The reason for the attacks is the Muslim Gunmen were deeply offended by a series of satirical cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad that had been published a few years previously. One of the central tenants of Islam is that Muhammad cannot show any weakness, Muhammad cannot be humiliated. So the Gunmen inevitability react like they did. What separates Christianity from Islam is that Christianity is a religion of weakness rather than strength. Christianity grew through martyrdom rather than warfare. The whole central premise of Christianity is that God became weak. God entered into our sinful flesh. God suffered humiliation upon a cross to bring us salvation.
What Peter, James, and John were reminded on the mountain about the Transfiguration is that we as Christians are never defining God in the present, rather we are always looking ahead. We’re always looking towards Easter. We are always looking towards the Resurrection. Amen
 Let the record show that the Gospel text for this sermon is Mark’s account of the Transfiguration found in Mark 9:2-9.
 Matthew 14:22-33
 Matthew 14:13-21
 Mark 9:3
 Exodus 3
 2 Kings 1:1-18
 Matthew 17:14-20
 Genesis 1:3
 John 1