Sermon for the Last Sunday of the Epiphany
February 15, 2015
Calvary - St. George's Church
About 10 years ago, someone hurt me so badly that I thought I would never recover. I had experienced a terrible betrayal. I couldn’t believe that someone I trusted so much was capable of doing what what this person did. I felt like a victim and I was bitter.
A few years ago, the event long behind me, the scars fully healed, my indignation less dramatic, the same thing happened. There was hurt, there was betrayal, and there was a victim. Only this time the shoe was on the other foot. This time I was the one doing the hurting. This time I betrayed someone close to me. And it took me until it was all over to realize that I had done the very thing that I had so vehemently decried only a few years earlier. It was a moment of epiphany; a haunting that stopped me in my tracks. I felt awful and I never wanted to hurt someone like that ever again.
Today is the Last Sunday of Epiphany. In three days—on Ash Wednesday—the season of Lent begins. On this the final Sunday before Lent, the church celebrates the transfiguration of Jesus. Today, I’m here to tell you why the message of the transfiguration is good news for victimizers who are tired of hurting people.
Have any of you heard of the early 20th century Scottish evangelist Oswald Chambers? He’s the author of My Utmost for His Highest, a daily devotional that has sold tens of millions of copies, is available in 39 languages, and is still popular today. I thought that this was his only book, but earlier this week a friend of mine told me that Chambers had also written a much less popular but far more interesting book about the story of Adam and Eve in the garden. Chambers writes that in Eden Adam and Eve were clothed in dazzling light and their faces shone like the sun, but when they sinned, when they rebelled against God, the light left them and they felt naked.
As I read these words about this light that they had lost, I could not help but think of the bright light of transfiguration of Christ. This event, which we read about this morning, must have been remarkable to witness. In it the disciples see the light of Christ shine in dazzling white. They witness the Light in whom there is no darkness at all.
Having been confused in their understanding of Jesus as their Messiah with his earlier prediction of impending suffering and death, Peter, James, and John are put at ease. With Moses and Elijah appearing at his left and right, the disciples are reaffirmed in what they had already suspected, though doubted, in light of Jesus’ recent rebuke of Peter. They are shown that Jesus is of the same caliber as Moses and Elijah. The two most important figures in their Scriptures. The representatives of the Law and the Prophets. And as if to dispel any remaining doubts that they might have had, the voice from the cloud—the voice of God—makes it clear, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” The disciples earlier suspicions are confirmed: Jesus is the Messiah they’ve been waiting for; the one the Law and Prophets point to.
In this event we witness the God-man, in human form, shine like the sun. He does not transform into something he previously wasn’t. He does not leave his human body behind. Peter, James, and John see him in glorious light as one of us, and yet, as one of us in whom there is no darkness at all. They see a man without of the stains of this life. A human being free of victimization, betrayal, and sin. In the light of his transfiguration we see abundant life. We see the light that, as Oswald Chambers imagines it, had left Adam and Eve when they sinned in the garden.
The transfiguration is good news for you and for me because we can be confident Jesus will not keep this light to himself. We know this because in Luke’s account of the transfiguration, it is not only Jesus, but Moses and Elijah who share in this glorious light. These servants of God, these sons of Adam and Eve, shine with that original light that was once lost. Following the Christian imagination of Oswald Chambers, this means that we, the servants of Christ, sons and daughters of the same, will one day be clothed in this same light. We the victimizers, the betrayers, we who have and continue to cause great pain will one day be clothed in light: a light in which there is no darkness at all.
By virtue of his work done on the Cross on our behalf, Jesus Christ has won back the light we lost in the garden. The second Adam, Jesus of Nazareth, has undone the failure of the first. And this time the light will never go out.
Maybe you’re here this morning and you’re tired of living in darkness. You’re tired of hurting people. You’re haunted by your acts of betrayal.
Or maybe you’re here this morning and you’re mostly indifferent. You’ve become inoculated to the pain that you cause… it happens… but there’s still a part of you that longs for that elusive light that seems to have all but gone out.
The good news of the gospel is that forgiveness for victimizers was won with Christ’s own blood. By extension, the good news of the transfiguration is that there will be a day when you and I will shine like Christ. When you and I will hurt others no more. When you and I will keep our promises and love without agenda. When you and I will receive back our light that was lost so long ago. For there will be a day when you and I will be made perfect, and on that day we will not only be forever blessed, but we will forever bless.
One day we will be re-clothed in light, in us there will be no darkness at all, and this light will never go out.
And as the truth of this message sinks in, and we catch a glimpse of the light of Christ for ourselves, we might just find the occasional in-breaking of this light in the here and now.
Thanks be to God.