“Shining Faces”

 

The text for this sermon is Luke 9:29a, “And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed.”  Pastor Jim Kniseley presented this sermon at Resurrection on Transfiguration Sunday, February 18, 2007.

 

Dear Friends in Christ,

 

Today is Transfiguration Sunday in the calendar of the Church, the last Sunday in the Season of Light called Epiphany.  It is also the last Sunday before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the Season of Lent, a time of preparation for Holy Week and Easter.

 

After today, we take down the Star.  But today, for Christians, this star shines even brighter than usual as we remember what it represents.

 

We read in the Bible that whenever God wanted to reveal himself to people, a special light or glow appeared.  The Hebrew word for this light is “shekinah.”  The people of Israel were led through the wilderness by a flame in the sky.  Moses spoke to God in a burning bush.  The star over Bethlehem led the Wisemen to the Christ Child. An intense light blinded Saul on his journey to persecute Christians in Damascus.

 

Today our Bible readings are about a couple of  incidents when God’s shekinah touched two very special individuals, Moses and Jesus.  I hope that we can learn something from their stories that will help us in our faith journeys today.

 

Moses was up on Mt. Sinai, speaking with God.  When he came back down the mountain with the tablets containing the Ten Commandments, his face was “shining” because he had been speaking with God.  God’s shekinah, God’s glory, was still evident on the face of Moses.

 

Our Exodus passage tells us that every time Moses came back from speaking with God, his face had this special glow.  At first it scared the people, but after awhile, they came to recognize that Moses was the mediator between God and them,  and Moses was the chosen messenger. 

 

Now let’s skip ahead about 1300 years to the time of Jesus and his disciples.  We hear the story of the Transfiguration of Jesus.  “Transfiguration” is a fancy word that means “changed.”  Jesus face “changed” and his clothes became dazzling white.  Three gospel writers give us an account of this event (Matthew, Mark and Luke), so we know it was very important for early Christians to remember.  Jesus took his inner circle of disciples, his “executive team”, to witness something out of the ordinary.  This was a moment of grace for them.  Eventually they were to tell to everyone what they saw and heard.

 

It was another time of God’s shekinah being seen and God’s message being given.  Peter, James and John would always be able to remember that God had shown them something so special that they would not doubt that Jesus was truly the Son of God.

 

What really interests me about the Transfiguration and the story of Moses is what happened to their faces.  Moses face “shined” and Jesus face “changed.”  I believe that we are hearing about God’s shekinah radiating out of these two because they had been in the presence of God.  And others saw it.

 

Today Moses and Jesus are not walking around this good old earth as they once did.  Today God’s shekinah must be revealed in the faces of others.  As followers of Jesus Christ, it is important that our faces today are a mirror of God’s light, this shekinah.  God chooses to reveal himself through us for the sake of the world.

 

So, dear Christian, what is the message of God that can be seen in your face today? 

 

After the Transfiguration, the disciples and Jesus come down from the mountain and are immediately confronted by people and their needs.  A father comes to Jesus, pleading for his son to be healed. Then the disciples get into an argument about who will be greatest in the New Kingdom. Then Jesus talks about the cost of following him.  And then Jesus appoints 72 folks to witness for him and sends them out two by two. 

 

In our Lenten Study book, Reclaiming the “C” Word, Daring to be Church Again, Kelly Fryer reminds us that today the Church, you and I, need to regain this sense of getting “off the mountain”, getting “out of the church building” and go out to where the people with needs are.  Kelly pleads for us becoming a “missional” church.  That is, a church whose purpose is to participate in God’s mission.

 

We go to the Mt. of Transfiguration, we come together as the  Body of Christ weekly to get re-fueled, have an encounter with the Living God through worship, and hear God’s Word, and receive the Sacrament.  But then we go out into the community.  The goal is not to remain here feeling all cuddly and warm.  Jesus wouldn’t allow Peter and James and John to stay up on that mountain like they wanted.  Instead he led them down to where they people were.

 

I conclude this sermon with our Resurrection Lutheran Mission Statement.  How close do you think this is to the mission Jesus wants for His Church?

 

            “Marked with the cross of Christ forever,

            we are claimed, gathered, and sent –

            for the sake of the world.”

 

Amen.