Sermon for Transfiguration Sunday

Location: Hosanna Lutheran Church, Rochester
Gospel: Luke 9:28-36
Good news: When we stay awake and listen to Jesus, we are transformed.

Today we find ourselves on the top of a mountain between two significant seasons of the church year. We’ve journeyed through Advent, Christmas and Epiphany - and before us is Ash Wednesday, Lent, Holy Week and Easter. But first - we climb a mountain with Jesus and a few of his disciples, and we stand in awe.

Today we honor Transfiguration Sunday.

It’s a Gospel reading filled with mystery. There’s Peter, John and James - some of Jesus’ closest friends and disciples. Jesus takes them up a mountain to pray. And then there’s Jesus standing with Moses and Elijah…two Old Testament heroes representing the law and the prophets. Both Moses and Elijah had mountain experiences…and here there are on a mountain again. Moses received the 10 commandments. Elijah encountered God in a whisper. And then, in today’s reading, there’s also cloud. After that, we hear the actual voice of God.

The surroundings of the Gospel reading are significant. Throughout the Bible, mountains are more than places of beauty. They are places of prayer and transcendent spiritual experiences. Clouds are important, too. In the Bible, clouds represent mystery.

Right from the start of this Gospel, we know something really special is happening…we know God is doing something new in Jesus. Jesus brings people with him. Peter, James and John are with him for the transfiguration. This is different that Moses and Elijah…and other biblical heroes. Oftentimes their encounters with God happen individually, and then they bring a message back to the people. Jesus expands the table and invites more people to encounter God’s presence.


While they’re with Jesus, they experience the importance of staying awake. Luke, the author of the story, tells us that they were weighed down with sleep. We don’t know exactly what time Jesus invited them out to the mountain to pray…maybe it was late at night. We’ve all been really sleepy before. Heavy eyelids. Pinching ourselves to stay awake.

Somehow, Peter James and John do figure out a way to stay alert. Luke writes, “But since they had stayed awake, they saw Jesus’ glory.” This detail invites us all to reflect on the power of spiritually staying awake. If their sleepiness had overcome them, they would’ve missed it all.

I don’t think the Gospel writer, Luke, is advocating getting less than 8 hours of sleep…or that we give up sleeping altogether. On the contrary, rest is a really good and important thing. Instead, I think he’s inviting us to think about what it means to remain awake emotionally and spiritually.

As Jesus’ followers today, are we awake? Alert? Paying attention to God’s movement around us? Do we slow down enough to practice awareness of the present moment? I wonder if we, like the disciples, are often weighed down with sleepiness, too - literally and metaphorically. We fill our days and nights. We fill up our attention in so many ways. When our time and energies are so full, it’s hard to stay awake and aware of what God is doing in our midst.

But what a wonder it is when we are alert and aware and paying attention. We witness the Holy Spirit in so many ways!
*Last time and the sound system…people ready to solve problems and respond
*On an airplane and met a chemistry teacher from North Carolina
*Denver Public Library: Dr. Seuss Birthday Party
*When and where have you witnessed God's presence?

So what can we do as Hosanna Lutheran Church…individually and collectively to encourage each other to stay alert and aware and awake?

-Engage in spiritual practices…prayer, meditation, slowing down, sharing meals
-Serving…inside and outside the walls of the church
-Reading the Bible and other spiritually enriching literature

All of these are ways we can be awake and aware…tuned into Spirit’s guidance. This is really what any kind of Lenten discipline is about…to empower us to remain aware of God’s nearness.

In staying awake, Peter, James and John experience something profound and astounding. Even terrifying. They see Jesus’ glory and transfiguration. They hear God’s voice in a cloud! And what does God say to Peter, James, and John?

“This is my Son, my Chosen, listen to him.”

Of everything God could say, this is what God chooses. It’s powerful. And brief.

Imagine what the experience was like for Peter, James and John. They were already Jesus’ disciples…and certainly they were already incredibly inspired by him and in awe of his words and deeds. But now they were actually hearing God…and God said, “listen to Jesus.”

This is God’s same guidance to us today. Listen to Jesus.

In the church, we’re really good at listening about Jesus. We listen to stories about Jesus…we read stories about Jesus….we hear people talk about Jesus.

But God doesn’t say, “Listen to stories about Jesus.” God says, “Listen to Jesus.” And that means that Jesus has impactful things to say…and we, as his followers, are equipped to listen!

How are we listening? Is there a mutuality in our communicating with Jesus…or does it tend to be one-sided? Where might we take a step toward listening more deeply? How do we shift from hearing about Jesus…to actually hearing Jesus?

As we transition into the season of Lent, may the Spirit empower us to be awake and aware. May we listen to Jesus. And may travel through these 40 days ahead trusting that the Spirit will guide us along the way. Amen.

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