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The Wonder of Wonder -- Matthew 17:1-9 (Transfiguration Sunday)

Updated: Mar 2, 2020

This is a strange story. The disciples are traveling along with Jesus, as Jesus teaches, and feeds the crowds, and argues with the Pharisees. And then one day, Jesus takes three of the disciples – Peter, James, and John – up onto a high mountain. And Jesus is transfiguredthere – it’s the Greek word metamorphosis– he is changed. His face begins to shine like the sun – his clothes become a dazzling white – “white like the light” – it’s as if Jesus is lit from within. And then, suddenly they see Moses and Elijah – talking with Jesus. Jesus and Moses and Elijah. And then, a bright cloud overshadows them, and a voice out of the cloud says, “This is my son, the Beloved One. Listen to him.” The disciples fall to the ground terrified – and when they look up – all the bright lights are gone – the dazzling cloud, Moses, and Elijah, and the Voice – all gone – just Jesus himself alone. And as they walk down the mountain together, after all this, Jesus says, “Don’t tell anyone about this until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.” It is a strange story.

And it makes you wonder – why this story? Of all the stories – why this one – with its bright lights, and visions of prophets, and heavenly voices. Why write this story down?

Especially in those first days, and then months after Resurrection, The disciples – the early Christians – must have been unpacking a lot.

So much had happened. They had experienced the whole life of Jesus – with Jesus – Jesus in their midst – but not for long – Jesus was among them teaching and healing with urgency, almost as if he was running out of time. And then they experienced the trauma of crucifixion; Jesus was tried, tortured, and then publicly executed. Then three days later, they experienced him again, in Resurrection. And then, they experienced the Spirit of Christ at Pentecost – with tongues as of fire and a mighty wind and everyone speaking in languages not their own, but yet understanding. And then, as they moved out into the world, they found Jesus’ words in their voices – his healing touch in their hands.

Each experience of Jesus was an epiphany – an experience of God made manifest in the midst of us – each was an experience of wonder. And epiphanies take some time to unpack. One writer says, “Epiphanies are rarely confined to the moment of their original occurrence,” by their very extraordinary nature, “they require significant time for contemplation.”[1] They shared these epiphanies, these moments of wonder, as they tried to figure out together how to live in the world without Jesus bodily in their midst.[2]

And so they told these stories to each other again and again – over the years – and they wrote them down:[3]Do you remember the time we were on a high mountain – and Jesus’ face shone like the sun – Moses – Elijah – that voice – and then Jesus himself alone. That experience of wonder, carried and then handed down over the years.

In the life of the church, Transfiguration culminates the season of Epiphany, as we tell our stories of wonder – God made manifest in the midst of us. Think about our own Epiphany journey these past 8 weeks. We started out with the Magi – just after Christmas. They saw a star in the sky – and they followed it – not sure where they were headed – and we followed our curiosity too into this new year – looking for “light enough for the next step.”

Then, even as we looked for the light for just the next step, we also thought about genealogies and the expanse of time and ancestors. And we placed our lives, our work, in a 200-year present: From the oldest person who held us when we were infants, through the lives of the infants we hold now – our lives have been held by and will touch 200 years of life.

And as we considered these experiences of God in the midst of us, big and small – we also entered into the big issues of our day – issues and challenges so much bigger than us. American structural racism still alive in our world – and God’s justice rolling down like a mighty stream. Rev. Yolanda Norton helped us think about how we might be participating in that, and h