Sunday is Transfiguration Sunday. My sermon files have one previous sermon on Matthew 17:1-9 (from three years ago) and two sermons on Mark 9:1-13. All three are about the Transfiguration of Jesus. They are all good sermons (at least I think they are), but they are woefully inadequate for this year’s Transfiguration Sunday.
It’s not that the story has changed. Jesus still goes up the mountain with three of his disciples. He is still transfigured – made shiny and bright and oh so white! – before his disciples. Moses and Elijah still show up. Peter still babbles before God and god still says, “Would you just be quiet and listen? That’s my boy you hanging out with down there!” The disciples are still afraid and Jesus still touches them. They still go back down the mountain and he still tells them to keep this to themselves … for now.
It’s not that my understanding of the text has changed. I still don’t know what the transfiguration did for Jesus. I still don’t know what it did for the disciples. I still don’t know what it does for us. I still don’t know how the disciples knew it was Elijah and Moses (were they wearing name tags?).
The liturgical calendar hasn’t changed. Transfiguration Sunday still stands as the final opportunity to hear who Jesus is – “My beloved Son, so listen to him!” – before we enter into Lent and make our way to the cross.
Perhaps what has changed is the preacher and the congregation, even if it is the same preacher and the same people. Perhaps the meaning of the transfiguration is not so much in the event itself as it is in the transfiguration that takes place in those who hear the story. Therein lies the problem with preaching old sermons – God has been at work since last it was preached!
As hopeful as I was to be able to preach an “old” sermon on Transfiguration I have discovered that God has been at work (perhaps even transfiguring) in the people who will hear my sermon. I must take that into account.