Noticing on those other days
Luke 9:28-48


Every once in a while a day comes when you have an experience, a glorious experience, that is so amazing, that stands out in such an extraordinary way, that you realize and appreciate the presence and goodness and love of God with a very special excitement and joy.
On other days you just may not notice....
This text is about noticing ... on those other days.
The event at which Peter, James and John were privileged to witness this revelation of the nature of Jesus, the glory of Jesus – a transformation from the ordinary, day to day, just a person-who-looks-like-you-and-me Jesus into something dazzling, bright, glorious, and the voice of God proclaiming “This is my Son!” – they found it terrifying; they found it confronting; they found it bewildering; they found it attractive in a way that they didn’t want it to end – “Let’s stay here.  Let’s stay in this moment.  Let’s stay in this revelation, this insight, this understanding, this feeling!”  Here was Jesus affirmed by his Father.  Here was Jesus linked with the great prophets and the great moments of Israel’s life and history.  Here was Jesus glorious and powerful, on the top of the world!  Peter, James and John, weighed down with the weariness of life, are very awake and very alive and very focussed on the presence and glory of God.
And then, in a way that appears to be as abrupt as it’s beginning, the end comes with silence, and Jesus.  Only Jesus.  Jesus, with them, having gone up the mountain to pray.
And back to “the real world”....
It is important for us to recognize “the real world” in this story.  In the Church year the Gospel reading of The Transfiguration marks, every year, the final Sunday of the season of “Epiphany” – the season of revealing God, revealing the glory of God, revealing God to the nations – that’s what epiphany means, “revelation”.  This Sunday, celebrating this event, this “transfiguration”, gives a climax to the season of revelation.
And then the bright lights and the thundering voice have past, and the disciples see only Jesus.  Only Jesus.
When they go down the mountain, Luke tells us, a crowd soon gathers and a man in that crowd, a father, a hurting father, worried about his son, his only son, cries out to Jesus for help.  Luke tells us Jesus “healed the boy, and gave him back to his father.   And all were astounded at the greatness of God.” 
Then Jesus tells the crowd, the amazed crowd, the crowd who have witnessed the healing love of God in the person of Jesus – Jesus tells them that he is going to be handed over to ‘human hands’, a reference to his nearing crucifixion. 
Shortly after an argument develops among the disciples as to who among them would be the greatest.  Jesus takes a child:  “Whoever welcomes this child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me; for the least among all of you is the greatest.”
There is a wonderful thread that runs here from the mountain-top epiphany to the affirmation of ministry to a small child, and a particularly apt thread for us for whom ministry is often focussed on the child in our midst (or on the distressed parent who frantically looks for help for his son).  Our tendency – certainly in public worship – is to hear the story of the great moment and then, as the bright light and booming voice in the cloud dissipate, we stop the reading at that point.  That was the glory!  And it is easy enough then to let the glorious moment dissipate.  Or let it rest on the mountain.
It doesn’t.  God’s glory doesn’t dissipate.  God’s glory doesn’t rest on the mountain.
You ask the distressed father where the moment of glory is and he will say nothing of shining white on the mountain – he will point to Jesus’ presence with him and his son – the peace in his healed son, and the peace in his own exhausted heart.
You ask the mother where the moment of glory is and she will say nothing of shining white on the mountain – she will point to her child standing at Jesus’ side, in Jesus’ care, with Jesus’ arm securely around her child. 
Luke’s Gospel is full of this stuff.  You all know the parable, also in Luke, of the boy who rudely asks for his inheritance, leaves home, wastes it, ruins his life, and comes crawling back in sheer desperation.  The story ends up with a great party, a huge celebration, all the glorious riches of the household used to celebrate the boy’s return.  But ask the boy what was the most glorious moment ever in his life and he won’t point to the party – he will tell you about his father running, in a most undignified gesture, to meet him in his lostness, and take him in his arms, and smother him in kisses.
The name, ‘transfiguration’, or ‘metamorphosis’, which was the Greek word used in the text, has to do with a change:  a change that somehow reveals the glory of God.
Too easily and too quickly we identify that change:  it’s the moment that the very ‘earthly’ Jesus becomes shining bright, in the cloud on the mountain between the great prophets and beneath the booming voice of God!  Isn’t it?
Or is the transfiguration, the great change, that moment in the story when the disciples see only Jesus and, following him, are led into ministry, into the lives of those who need Jesus’ presence, Jesus’ blessing, Jesus’ teaching.
If you keep following this thread through Luke’s Gospel, through the coming season of Lent, you will end up on another mountain, another revelation, Jesus again between two men, not the great prophets this time but two ordinary sinners.  No bright lights; but deep darkness.  Of those who have hatefully driven Jesus to this mountain Luke tells us Jesus says these words, “Father, forgive them.”  To the sinner in distress who looks to Jesus for something Luke tells us Jesus says, “Today you will be with me ... in paradise.”  (Ask that man, when you see him in heaven, “Where did you see the glory of God?” and he will tell you with absolute certainty, “I saw God’s glory in the dying face of Jesus, with his arm stretched out to me in my deepest need; and his voice addressing me with compassion and forgiveness.”)
Where is the glory of God revealed?
You know as well as I that it is not an either/or choice that has to be made!  But it is important for you – every one of you who know Jesus – it is important for you to know that the great, powerful, life-changing revelation of the glory of God is to be found where the compassion and love of Jesus is shared with another –  whether that be on bright mountain-tops or in the darkest valleys of life.  What is the special moment and special calling for Peter, James and John on this day?  Does it lie in the fact that, for a moment, Jesus draws them out of the mundane and into the spectacular, the glorious?  Or that Jesus leads them, knowing the reality of the glorious, into the lives of those who don’t yet know him, who don’t yet know his love?  Jesus, himself, is very definite:  he is heading for the cross.  The only Son, the Chosen one, is heading for the cross.  The cross – X marks the spot – that’s where the world eventually gathers.  That’s where God goes.  The glory of God leads him to the suffering of humanity.  The glorious fellowship of the prophets and the affirming words of the Father lead him into the community and homes and lives of men and women and children who need to know God’s love.  The glorious Lord of all creation gives all, in love, for the sake of his loved creatures.
“Follow me,” Jesus says to his disciples.
Our own lives are changed when, out of the mist of everything going on, we see only Jesus, and see him in the midst of the lives of his children -- ordinary lives in ordinary places made glorious because Jesus is there.
Every once in a while a day comes when you have an experience, a glorious experience, that is so amazing, that stands out in such an extraordinary way, that you realize and appreciate the presence and goodness and love of God with a very special excitement and joy.
On other days you just may not notice....
This text is about noticing ... on those other days.