The story of the transfiguration of Jesus is the halfway point of Luke’s Gospel. The stories before it introduce Jesus to the world & chronicle his rise in popularity through his healing miracles & compelling teaching. After the transfiguration, Jesus turns toward Jerusalem, & toward the passion of Holy Week.
Transfiguration Sunday is therefore the critical pivot of the liturgical year. It transitions the church away from the wonder of Advent & the bright hope of Epiphany into the sober, introspective journey through Lent. The mountaintop story is indeed a pinnacle moment, & our descent from this story immerses us more deeply into the call to obedience & surrender.
On many levels, the transfiguration is an intermission between 2 distinct acts of our spiritual journey. The first act is about getting to know Jesus, & the second is about following Jesus. The question each of us needs to answer today: Am I a first act Christian or a second act follower?
First act, or first half faith: (steps)
Acknowledges God may exist – maybe
God exists, but is like a heavenly clock-winder; not active in the world
Your name on a church role punches your ticket into heaven (true, but…)
Faith is important – especially on Sunday
God loves me – just as I am, with no need to change
Second act or second half faith:
Believes a relationship with the eternal God is possible & desired
Seeks to deepen this relationship each & every day.
Talks with God through prayer, & listens for God’s guidance
Reads Scripture & attempts to apply it in everyday life
First act teachings of Jesus:
Lk 4:33-35: A man in the synagogue had the spirit of an unclean demon. He screamed, “What have you to do with us? I know who you are. You are the holy one from God.” “Silence!” Jesus said.
Lk 5:12-13: There was a man covered in a skin disease. When he saw Jesus, he begged, “Lord, if you want, you can make me clean.” Jesus touched him, & said, “I do want to. Be clean.”
Lk 6:9: Jesus said to the legal experts & Pharisees, “Here’s a question for you: Is it legal on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?”
Lk 6:31: Treat people in the same way that you want them to treat you.
Second act teachings of Jesus:
Lk 9:57-58: Someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens & the birds in the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”
Lk 9:61-62: Someone else said to Jesus, “I will follow you, but first let me say good-bye to those in my house.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand on the plow & looks back is fit for God’s kingdom.”
Lk 10:3: Be warned, I’m sending you out as lambs among wolves.
Lk 10:16: Whoever listens to you listens to me. Whoever rejects you rejects me. Whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.
Lk 12:51: Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, I have come instead to bring division.
Lk 13:24: Make every effort to enter through the narrow gate. Many will try to enter & won’t be able to.
If the first act is about getting to know Jesus, the second act is about living his example, allowing Jesus to shape the way we live. If the first act of our faith is learning to call ourselves a Christian, then the second act of our faith is found in making Christ-like sacrifices. If the first act of our faith journey is about becoming a mere church supporter, then the second act is about allowing Jesus to shape every aspect of our lives. If the first act of your faith journey is about getting acquainted with this Jesus, the second act is about making him your Lord.
Holy God, you have given us your word to enlighten, to teach, to equip us for living our lives according to your will, & to sustain us in this world. Shower the Holy Spirit upon us to enable us to live the truth revealed in your word. In the name of the Father, the Son & the Holy Spirit. Amen.