Sermon for The Transfiguration of our Lord

Text: Luke 9:28-36

Jesus took Peter, John, and James with him and went up a hill to pray. While he was praying, his face changed its appearance, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly two men were there talking with him. They were Moses and Elijah, who appeared in heavenly glory and talked with Jesus about the way in which he would soon fulfill God's purpose by dying in Jerusalem. Ö A cloud appeared and covered them with its shadow; and the disciples were afraid as the cloud came over them. A voice said from the cloud, "This is my Son, whom I have chosen - listen to him!"

Listen to him!

There is no doubt that science is pushing back the boundaries. What was once regarded as being in the domain of science fiction is now unfolding as a reality Ė replacing organs in our bodies, cloning, computer technology, world travel, the disappearance of so many life threatening diseases, and we could go on and on. Where once it was thought that the world was flat and that the sun, moon and stars rotated around the earth, we know now that our planet is just a speck in the universe. Science is searching the question whether there is life beyond our world.

A program on the ABC called "Universe" focussed on the search for other forms of life.
Scientists have found microbes living deep in the earth, over 50 km below the surface, well beyond sunlight and normal nutrients.
Organic cells, frozen for millions of years in polar ice caps, have been revived.
Bacteria have been found living on the cooling rods of nuclear reactors.
All this means that anywhere, anytime that there is water, there can be some form of life. It follows then that scientists hope that life may exist on other planets within the solar system. Just as life evolved on this planet, it is feasible to suppose that there is life elsewhere in the universe. Scientists hope that by 2010 they will have definite proof.

Itís clear that there is little room for God in all of this and there are plenty of Christians who are upset by this. But suppose for a minute that in the year 2010 scientists do find that there is life out there in the universe somewhere. What will that do our understanding of God as the creator of all things? What will that kind of discovery do to our belief that the people of this world are Godís special and unique people?

The first thing that science has proven beyond doubt is that we are no more than infants who have almost learned to crawl when it comes to understanding our world and the universe. The more that is discovered, the more questions are opened up and the more we realise that our universe is something that completely blows our mind. It is beyond the grasp of any human to comprehend the beauty, complexities and vastness of what is in this world and beyond it.

The second thing that science has proven beyond doubt is that you cannot find God through a microscope or a telescope. Likewise humans can't find God on the golf course and in the most magnificent place on this earth Ė a place with a gentle waterfall, mossy banks, over-arching ferns and trees and the sound of the birds in the distance. It might be a oozing with coolness, peace and serenity Ė a sharp contrast to traffic snarls, bickering children, blaring TV and our scurrying here and there. As godlike as we might think this place is, we canít find God in the beauty of nature or the amazing discoveries of science. We might stand in awe of the universe or the wonders of nature but unless we know God, we will not realise that he is its creator and saviour and so give him the praise.

The third thing we realise is that all the discoveries of science increase our faith in God rather than remove our faith in the God of the Bible. The faith claims that God reveals himself through the Bible and especially through his Son, Jesus. Humans can scour the universe, have perfect knowledge and understanding, and still not know God. There is a lot more to our world and universe that what we can see, smell, hear and touch.

What has all this got to do with the transfiguration of Jesus? Our gospel reading today tells us how Jesusí appearance changed and his clothes became dazzling white. Two men appeared with him Ė Moses and Elijah Ė quite something, since both men had left life on this earth hundreds of years before. Then there was the divine cloud that descended on the hill and the voice that spoke from the cloud, "This is my Son, whom I have chosen Ė listen to him!" Is this some antiquated and irrelevant story that has been handed down to us but has little to say to people of the 21st century? Or can it be true that in these words we find the living God, the one whom the scientists have forgotten to include in explanations about the mystery of life.

God is not available to us in the universe, in nature, or even in the most astounding scientific discoveries. But the more we search and research the nature and universe the deeper the mysteries. You may see the traces of God's presence in science if you are tuned in for them, but you can't actually find out who God is, what kind of God he is and what he has done and is doing for all people.

It's like the oxygen you need to survive. With every breath of air you take in the oxygen that your body needs. Oxygen is also present in water, but you can't use it there. It's not available to you. God may be there in nature, in science, but heís not available there. Heís make himself known in his Word. That's why we are here to listen to him in his Word! Having said that, I can't prove that the Bible is God's Word. I canít prove to you that the account of Jesusí transfiguration is true and that it happened just as Luke tells us. I canít prove to you that Jesus rose from the dead. I canít prove to you that God is the creator of our world. Yes, you might tell me to look at the wonderful beauty of nature as proof that God is the Creator, but at the same time I can show you that there is just as much that is cruel, ugly, distorted and dangerous in nature.

At the heart of God's Word, which I canít prove but only believe, lies one event that stand above all others - God came to earth as Jesus Christ, and that this Jesus was crucified. This is the focus of Bible; it is God's most important word to you. It is through this Word that God shows himself to us. This is the God of the universe, whom science cannot find but who presented himself here on earth as a human being and suffered everything we humans suffer. It is through Godís Son that we see the heart of God Ė his love, his compassion, his grace and forgiveness.

The story of Jesusí changed appearance and his visit by Moses and Elijah tells us something that we can only believe through faith. That Jesus was more than a wandering teacher who met with a terrible end 2,000 years ago. We are being given a glimpse at Jesusí divine nature. In faith, we believe that Jesus was truly God and that he came to earth to bring forgiveness and eternal life. As much as I would like to, I canít prove any of this. The only proof that I have is the Bible and your faith which trusts that word to be Godís Word to you and me.

We are about to enter the season of Lent, and Lent is that time when we look really hard at our suffering Saviour, because that is who this great God really is. One would expect to find God on a throne, surrounded by royalty and richness but instead of looking up, we will look down again this Lent to a particular man on a cross on a hill in Palestine. He is God who came to save.

Today we hear of the disciples witnessing something out of this world on the top of that hill. They canít explain it, they just stand in awe of the moment in fact Peter doesnít want it to end and offers to erect three tents Ė one for Moses, one for Elijah and one for Jesus. They canít explain the phenomenon of the voice calling from the heavens, "This is my Son Ö listen to him." From this hill top they will enter the valley of suffering, pain and death, the valley that Jesus is determined to go through. He will climb another hill only this time it will be Calvary.

Why? Because we humans have made such a mess of things. We have spent centuries clearly showing how blind, how ignorant, and how persistent in evil we are, both as a part of all humanity and as individuals. Jesus went through so much in order to make us his recreated, new people.

It is the task of science to search for answers to the mysteries that surround us and it might happen one day that science will find life on other planets. That would be remarkable. But even more remarkable is the way we have been given life, not only our earthly life, but eternal life by the Giver of Life. We are more than lonely beings floating around in the universe on a lonely speck of rock. We are people who are loved by the Creator. We are people who have been saved from our destructiveness by a Saviour.

Sounds mysterious? Strange, even? Yes, I agree that it does. But all who God is and all that God does is something that can only be grasped by faith. This is something that God has revealed to us through his Word in the Bible. There is no other way, no better way, of knowing God. He will open our eyes and we too hear the words, "This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him."

And just as the disciples looked around and saw no one except Jesus, we too will see no one but Jesus. We will see his hand at work in creation. We will see his hands with nails driven through them for us, we will see his presence in the whole of the universe, in fact we will see him everywhere, for he fills the entire universe.

© Pastor Vince Gerhardy
25th February, 2001

More sermons

Except where otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are from the Good News Bible, © American Bible Society, revised Australian edition 1994.
All material written by Vince Gerhardy is copyright, but permission is freely given for limited use.
Please e-mail for permission, or with questions or comments about this web site.