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Renew Me O Eternal Light

February 23, 2020 Pastor: Rev. Lloyd Gross

Verse: Matthew 17:1–17:9

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Christ Lutheran Church
Cleveland, Ohio
February 23, 2020
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras

Transfiguration
Renew Me O Eternal Light

Now after six days Jesus took Peter and James and John his brother and they ascended a very high mountain alone. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothing became white as light! And Behold! there appeared to them Moses and Elijah conversing with him [Jesus]. Then Peter spoke up and said to Jesus, "Lord! It is good for us to be here. If you wish I will build three tents here one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.

While he was still speaking Behold! A cloud of light over-shadowed them and Behold! a voice from inside the cloud was saying, "This is my Beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. Hear him!"

The disciples hearing this fell down on their faces filled with fear. But Jesus came and touched them and said, "Rise! Fear not!" And when they lifted up their eyes they saw no one but Jesus only. And as they were descending the mountain Jesus commanded them: "Tell no one the vision until the Son of Man should be raised from the dead." (Matthew 17:1-9)

Today the church marks the Transfiguration.

We heard a prophecy of it in today’s Old Testament lesson, the facts in today’s gospel, and an eyewitness report in today’s epistle by St. Peter who was present for the actual event. But what does it all mean?

In this very visual, visceral, dramatic event Moses and Elijah, who are the two greatest figures of the Old Testament, retire!

Like John the Baptist they say: “We must decrease and he must increase.” And so they pass the baton, as it were, to Jesus, because finally our Lord Christ is the fulfillment of all that was pre-figured, promised, preached and prophesied in the Old Testament.

We could say that Jesus is the “Terminal Tower” of the Old Testament.

All trains stop here! And beyond him there is nothing.

As there is no such thing as January 32, there is nothing beyond Jesus. No life. No light. No air. Not even a vacuum or a black hole, there is nothing less than nothing! And so our Lord Christ is “all in all,” (Eph. 1:23) the Alpha and the Omega; the First and the Last; the Beginning and the Ending.

This is what the Father broadcasts, and visually demonstrates to the world in the Transfiguration: “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. Hear him.”

This is my Beloved Son, O children of Abraham who await the promise! Hear him!

“This is my beloved Son” O Kings of the earth! The one in whom I am well pleased. The one whom I have inaugurated on Calvary my holy hill. Hear him. Love him. Worship him. Serve only him and “kiss the Son lest he be angry and you perish in the way.” (Psalm 2)

“This is my beloved Son,” O earth! O Man! O terminally proud, self-satisfied, self-righteous Man! O mad rebels who bounce about in the darkness of denial. O Prodigals who love to spend the gifts of God on your passions but will not worship him, or give thanks. O hearts and consciences turned upside down by sin, licking your wounds, “filled with fear” … This is my Beloved Son. Hear him and no other!

The next thing St. Matthew reports is that “Jesus came and touched them and said, ‘Arise! Fear not! And when they lifted up their eyes they saw no one but Jesus only.”

From this we learn that Transfiguration is more than a one-time, past event, but one that takes place in the Church every Sunday.

Today we have climbed a very high mountain with Jesus. Today we have left the world behind, the earth far below, and ascended the eye-popping heights of Mt. Tabor - the traditional site of Transfiguration – with Jesus.

Today a piece of God’s green earth that the world calls 13812 Bellaire Road is transfigured into a holy mountain. The place where heaven intersects with earth. The place where Jesus himself comes to intervene into the affairs of men, bringing his reward with him.

Today you are transfigured. You are made a little less earthy, and a little more heavenly. A little less sick with sin, and more alive with grace. Today dis-ease abates and ease returns. Here and now your sins are purged and you are clean! Bright and shining as Jesus himself. Today you are God’s beloved son in whom he is well pleased. Today you reverently fall on your face before Jesus in worship. Today you are transfigured.

There is another Transfiguration that takes place at each Holy Communion as well – here bread and wine are transfigured into the body and blood of Christ to “renew us with eternal light.” `

Like the boy with 5 loaves and 2 fish we bring our small Offerings to Jesus and he multiplies them. Multiplies them in quantity so that the church can NEVER run out of Holy Communion. And in quality! So that what is given as bread and wine, comes back to us as the most precious substance in heaven or earth – the exalted flesh and blood of Jesus containing all the glory that Christ is – now working its way throughout our bodies and souls! Life is good, O Beloved sons of God!

The Holy Eucharist is not just as a symbol, or a parallel, or a remembrance but “it is the Lord” Christ (Jn 21:7) who factually touches us here at the Mt. Tabor of the Christian altar, and says to us:

Arise!

And so arise O beloved sons!

No more groveling, no more cowering, no more shame, no more judgment. Your sins are forgiven, your demons expelled, go in peace.

Arise! Take up your bed and walk as a child of the Light – and go tell what great things the Lord has done for you!

He says to his worshipers today: “Fear not!” And now like Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu and the Seventy Elders of Israel we see Jesus the God of Israel with vision clear; who graciously meets with us in peace, and invites us to eat and drink with him on this Sapphire pavement clear as heaven itself.

And when they lifted their eyes St. Matthew reports they saw no one but Jesus. No Moses, no Elijah, no cloud, no thundering voice that frightened them into the ground – but only Jesus the Light of the World and the very Voice of the Father.

May we be so blessed that our eyes, too, might see only Jesus. In our minds and hearts, yes. But also with our eyes as we make this hill (this altar before us) our home.

For now that the Son of Man is raised from the dead we are not only free to tell the vision, but commanded to tell it in endless liturgy, here on this Mount of Transfiguration.