Last Epiphany

The Rev. Mary Grambsch

Your Word, O Lord is a lantern for our feet and a light upon our path; in the Name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Today is the Last Sunday of the Season of Epiphany.  This coming Wednesday is Ash Wednesday which marks the beginning of the Season of Lent.  If you will remember back to the beginning of January, on the first Sunday of Epiphany we celebrated the presentation of the baby Jesus in the Temple in Jerusalem – he was there to be circumcised and, by Jewish custom, to receive his name.  That Sunday was all about the human baby boy, presented by proud parents, to have done for him what is proper in Jewish law.  The center panel of our Altarpiece depicts the scene in the Temple, with Jesus being held in the arms of St. Simeon with St. Anna looking over his shoulder.  Mary and Joseph are there too; Mary is kneeling and Joseph is looking on.  You should come forward after the service and look closely at the Altarpiece, the story it tells is a powerful and moving one.  It reminds us that God came to us a human being; to live along side us, to know what our griefs and joys, and ultimately to suffer death as we all will someday.

That story is how we began the Season of Epiphany and today, the Last Sunday of Epiphany, we hear the other half of the story.  For in today’s Gospel we hear the story of the Transfiguration of that baby boy in the Temple.  The Transfiguration is not about the humanity of Jesus, but the divinity of Jesus.  In the Transfiguration Jesus fully accepts and shows forth his divine nature.  The dazzling glory of God flows out of him, he is truly filled with light and Peter, James and John who witnessed this unveiling of Jesus divine nature fall to the ground, filled with awe and wonder at what they are seeing.
Jesus is not alone in this time of Transfiguration; Moses and Elijah are with him, talking with him.  The two of Israel’s greatest heroes, Moses representing the Law of God and Elijah representing the Prophets of God, are with Jesus in this crucial moment.  The People of Israel believed the Moses and Elijah would return when the Messiah comes and here they are talking with Jesus on the Holy Mountain. 

Not only do the disciples see these two great figures from Israel’s past, but they hear the voice of God saying, “This is my son, my Beloved, with whom I am well pleased, listen to him!”  If the disciples had any last doubts about who Jesus was, they were put to rest by what they saw and heard.  Jesus is not only the Anointed One, the Messiah, but he is God’s son as well.  Jesus divine nature is shining through his human nature – both are there equally human and divine in the full glory of God.  The baby boy of the Presentation in the Temple has grown up, but the human being is still there co-existing with God within him.

It is important that we hear this story of the Transfiguration now, at the end of Epiphany and just before the beginning of Lent, because we need to have that glimpse of the Glory of Jesus transfigured to carry us through Lent.  We will see Jesus again, at the end of Lent, in even greater Glory on the Cross, but we must endure the desert wandering of Lent first and we need a light to guide us.  It is hard to imagine that we will ever hear of a more dazzling moment than the Transfiguration on the mountain top, but the heart wrenching, painful suffering of Jesus on the cross is far more dazzling and glorious than the Transfiguration.  The Transfiguration revealed who Jesus was, but the Cross revealed why Jesus came to us.  Jesus came to break the bonds of sin and death and to lead us to God’s Kingdom – all things that we could not do on our own, God had to do these things for us.  Oops, I ‘m straying into an Easter sermon, but I don’t believe we can understand why the Transfiguration event is important without looking to the Cross; think of it as a little bit of Easter to help you through Lent!

Speaking of Lent….I hope you are planning to come to church on Ash Wednesday.  It’s important to begin the Season of Lent with a sign of repentance for our sins.  The ashes rubbed on your forehead are an outward and visible sign that you want to leave the things and ways of living that take you away from God.  There are other practices you can adopt for Lent; daily prayer, greater charity, putting aside a luxury and offering the time and money you save to God, engaging in special service to others, perhaps at a soup kitchen or in writing a notecard everyday of Lent to people in need of prayer.     

You have three days to think and pray about how this Lent will be a special time of growth and renewal for you.  So, come to church Ash Wednesday, to Our Savior at 6:00 o’clock in the evening, or to another church near where you work that is giving ashes, and make your Lenten dedication and offer to God your life and service this Lent.  The dazzling light of Jesus’ Transfiguration will be with you until it is lost in the greater dazzling glory and light of the Cross. 
I pray that you all will keep a holy Lent.  Amen.