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Sermon for Transfiguration Sunday 2017

S. Transfiguration.17 “Something Just Like This” Matt. 17:1-9

What’s a superhero look like? I think this is what Peter, James, and John were thinking, or maybe I just read too many comic books (it’s not all heavy theology with me, actually), but I think the Apostles had been [apologies to Chris Martin/Coldplay/Chainsmokers] “reading books of old/ the legends and the myths/ Moses and the plagues/ Elijah and his tricks/ Spiderman’s control/ And Batman with his fists/ But they just can’t see Jesus on that list…” They expected more. OK, water into wine is a cool trick and with Jesus you didn’t need Obamacare if you’re sick, and if you forgot your lunch or were facing headwinds on the sea, He could be helpful with that too, but still… it wasn’t quite the superhero stuff they expected.

Moses was more the old-fashioned superhero, rivers of blood, fire from heaven, darkness at noon, killing all the bad guys’ firstborn, water from rocks, and a crevasse opening up in the desert to swallow the recalcitrants. Wish Jesus would do stuff like that! Like Elijah! Now, there’s a superhero!: he wagers with 900 pagan priests, sacrificing bulls on mountains, fire from heaven burning up his offering, killing the losers with his own sword, trash talking, cake that never runs out, fire from heaven burning up squads of enemy troops, and no dying with this guy, just a fiery chariot to take him straight to heaven when he’s done. If only they could have been around then, seen those guys, that would have been something. Hey, even David with his slingshot, killing some giants, would be way better than this, right? I mean, “Superman unrolls a suit before he lifts, but Jesus doesn’t seem the kind of person that it fits…”

And almost like He reads their minds, Jesus, out of the blue, takes Peter, James, and John and says “Hey, let’s go climb that mountain over there…” It’s not like El Capitan or anything, you don’t need any gear, it’s more of a big hike, but still, OK, they’re game. It’s a high mountain, a little of the adventure that they are seeking. And on top of the mountain, Jesus is transfigured before them (literally the Greek is “metamorphosis” and we’ll get back to that in a second). His face shone like the sun; His clothes became white as light. And—Look! See! Moses! Elijah! They’re here, the two guys the disciples really admire(!), their legendary heroes of old, standing right there next to Jesus in the flesh, alive and well, tanned, fit, rested, ready for action. OK! Now we’re talking, Jesus! This is more like it!

Peter goes: “it is good Lord, that we are here. Let’s make three tents, one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah. We can sit down, hang out, and get the straight scoop on things from these true superheroes. Maybe they can teach You a thing or two about the superhero gig, and You can drop all this cross and suffering and loss and dying talk like You’ve been on about the last week, especially, hard. Maybe we can find a superhero suit that will fit.”

And while Peter is still talking, spinning his grand plans, the light shining from Jesus ramps up to a disturbing, and even blinding degree, uncomfortable-like; and a bright cloud overshadows them, and a Voice from the cloud thunders “This is My Beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased. LISTEN TO HIM!!” And at that, the disciples fall on their faces and were terrified…(!)

We were wondering in bible class last Tuesday: “do you really want to see God’s glory?” Most people are like “Well, duh! Dumb question! Of course you want to see God’s glory. Isn’t that what the whole Christian thing is about? Seeing, sharing, basking in the glory?” It’s obviously what the first disciples thought. And it led to a lot of disappoint for them when the Apostle Gig didn’t turn out to be all that glorious and dramatic and awesome. A lot of hobo-ing around, hiking with Jesus, and it was great to be with Him, and all, but they were waiting impatiently for the athleticism to ramp up and the superhero stuff to start like it did with the legendary ones of old. Enough forgiving of sins, and preaching of death and crosses, Jesus! Let’s get on with the judging and wacking of enemies and the power and the glory, and making America great again, OK?

And Jesus is like “OK. You want glory? Lights? Camera? Action? You got it!” And be careful what you wish for, right? On that mountain, they got to meet their boyhood superheroes Batman and Spiderman, uh, er… Moses and Elijah, I mean, in the flesh. They saw the light, the power and the glory, heard the Voice of God Himself. Only it wasn’t quite exactly what they expected. It was scary, and not in a good way. It was terrifying, scare-the-beejeebers-out-of-you scary! And Jesus wasn’t bowing down to Moses and Elijah, getting tips. It was the other way around! They were all subservient and wanting to talk to Him—like He’s God or something(!). And you know what they talked about when they talked with Jesus? Luke says: they only wanted to talk about His exodus, the cross thing He was about to pull off. Just that. So, do you want to see God’s glory? Moses and Elijah would have said: “Uh, well son…” But Peter, James, and John have to learn the lesson for themselves. The answer, clearly, is “not the way you are right now, you don’t.”

Jesus tried to tell them this, the day He met them fishing, and called them to follow. He isn’t Prof. Xavier, seeking mutant X-men. He wasn’t looking for somebody with some superhuman gifts—no, no. Nothing so grandiose. He wanted something like, well, what?… someones like Peter, James, and John: ordinary, working-class guys, flawed, sinful, silly sometimes, cocky for no good reason, slow to learn, quick to talk, utterly human. He tried to tell them they should be looking for the same—no superhero, no fairytale bliss, just something they could turn to, somebody they could miss; well, you know, like…

Like Jesus, only.

It took a metamorphosis for them to get that. I wish we’d call this “Metamorphosis Sunday” like the Greek says it is. The Kafka-esque edge to that would be super, I think! More literal too. Because that’s what Jesus does: a metamorphosis. He did it at the start: though He is the Son of God, in every way equal with the Father and the Spirit, One God, He emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant; He laid aside the power and the glory, the gold and the jewels, and, befitting a carpenter’s son from Galilee, He’ll do His best work on wood, now. He lived the most humble and ordinary hobo existence imaginable. He became what we are, a little bit lost, so we’d become what He is, share the divine life with Him.

See, real deity isn’t about the power and the glory, the bright light and the thunder. Moses and Elijah—they’re really just sidekicks. The Real Hero is dying, poor and lonely on a cross, giving it all away for a world of sinners that doesn’t really get IT. In the darkness at 3 pm on a Friday on a cross outside Jerusalem—there, the real power and glory shine brightest…

And only after this vision—Batman and Spiderman united on the mountain, the Bright Lights, Big God Voice—drives them to their knees in terror, do they look up and see Jesus only; and only then, maybe for the first time, they get it and are glad. For the first time, like ever, they’re over their superheroes, their fairytale bliss; now, finally and forever, they want something just like this: Jesus only, all glory metamorphed into Someone we can hang with, in someplace just like this: where Peace, surpassing understanding, guards heart and mind in Christ Jesus. Amen.





Advent Vespers –

Wednesday, 15 December 7:00 p.m.

17  December 2017

3rd Sunday Advent

8:30 Matins

11:00 Divine Service with Communion

9:45 – Sunday School and Adult Bible class

Classes for ages 3 and up

Advent Vespers – Wednesdays – 7:00 p.m.

December 6, 13, 20

Christmas Eve Candlelight Service – DS w/Comm

7:00 p.m  24 December 2017

Christmas Day Service – DS w/Communion

11:00 a.m.  25 Christmas 2017


Our Savior Lutheran Church is a confessional Lutheran church in Raleigh, North Carolina, belonging to the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.

We are located at: 1500 Glenwood Avenue, Raleigh, NC 27608.

For directions, use 742 Nash Street, Raleigh.