March 3, 2019

Transfiguration Sunday

Scripture Reading: Luke 9:28-43a

The Transfiguration

28 About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray. 29 As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. 30 Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. 31 They spoke about his departure,[a] which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem. 32 Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. 33 As the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to him, “Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (He did not know what he was saying.)

34 While he was speaking, a cloud appeared and covered them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. 35 A voice came from the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.” 36 When the voice had spoken, they found that Jesus was alone. The disciples kept this to themselves and did not tell anyone at that time what they had seen.

Jesus Heals a Demon-Possessed Boy

37 The next day, when they came down from the mountain, a large crowd met him. 38 A man in the crowd called out, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son, for he is my only child. 39 A spirit seizes him and he suddenly screams; it throws him into convulsions so that he foams at the mouth. It scarcely ever leaves him and is destroying him. 40 I begged your disciples to drive it out, but they could not.”

41 “You unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you and put up with you? Bring your son here.”

42 Even while the boy was coming, the demon threw him to the ground in a convulsion. But Jesus rebuked the impure spirit, healed the boy and gave him back to his father. 43 And they were all amazed at the greatness of God.

Jesus Predicts His Death a Second Time

While everyone was marveling at all that Jesus did, he said to his disciples,


  1. Luke 9:31 Greek exodos

Sermon: “Inbetween Times

Some years back, we took a church trip to Giant City, stopping in Makanda, Illinois on the way home. While we were there, had we looked in the right place, we would have seen this monument to Boomer the dog.

The inscription reads:

In memory of Boomer the hound dog. Tradition says he dashed his life out against the iron abutment of the railroad bridge 300 feet south of this point on September 2, 1859, while running along on three legs trying to put out the flame in a hot box on the speeding train of his beloved fireman-master.

Boomer was the faithful companion of a fireman who worked for the Illinois Central Railroad. The railroad bosses wouldn’t let Boomer ride on the train with his master, so Boomer ran alongside it whenever it rolled through Makanda. Soon word spread that trains on the Illinois Central couldn’t outrun a dog.

Finally, the Illinois Central bosses had enough. They brought the fastest train they had to Makanda, then double-loaded wood and coal in the tender. The engineer and the fireman were ordered to heap on the fuel and go full speed ahead.

As the train flew down the tracks, people lined the route to see what would happen. Finally, the fireman shouted, “Saints be praised!” Sure enough, Boomer was chasing the train and keeping up with it.

The wheels of the train started to overheat, and the bearings lit their grease. Flames shot out of the bearing boxes. Boomer, seeing that the train and his master were in danger, quickly took charge. He pulled up alongside the bearing box, lifted his leg, and did what dogs do best while running on three legs, putting out the fire.

Poor Boomer couldn’t see or react in enough time to avoid running into a bridge hidden in the steam and dust and smoke. The town gave Boomer a hero’s funeral, and put up this monument in his memory and in honor of his sacrifice.

I think Boomer is a good example of how life often goes. We run as fast as we can doing whatever we can to put out as many fires as we can.

Sometimes, we crash headlong into obstacles or challenges we didn’t see coming.

Mostly, though, we just run, caught in an in-between time, making our way from one destination to the next.

I have a short video that describes the in-between time we all know so well.


Right now, we’re living in an in-between time. Spring is supposed be right around the corner, but the corner seems a long time coming. Sometimes it’s not just the seasons, but life.

We find ourselves in-between a relationship that’s over and whatever might come next. We find ourselves in-between a job that’s ended and a future that isn’t quite clear. We find ourselves in-between the place where we’ve lived for years and the new one that we’ll soon call home.

We find ourselves in-between illness and remission as chemo and radiation grind on, seemingly forever. Birthdays roll by, one after the other. We pass from not exactly young to middle-aged, from not exactly middle-aged to not yet old, from not yet old to a point where everyone seems younger than we are and insists on calling us, “Ma’am” or “Sir.”

What’s true in life is also true for faith. A writer in The Christian Century put it this way. “We spend a lot of our time in-between. Though we know that Good Friday gives way to Easter, we live our lives on holy Saturday, waiting for the fullness of the resurrection’s promise to unfold.”

God’s people spend a lot of time in-between.

  • Adam waits for a partner.
  • Noah and his family wait for the rains to end and dry land to reappear.
  • Abraham and Sarah wait for a son.
  • Jacob works long years to marry Rachel.
  • Hannah waits for the birth of Samuel.
  • The Israelites wait for deliverance from Egyptian slavery.
  • Mary waits for the birth of her miraculous child, who then in turn waits to begin his public ministry.

In-between times force us to slow down and listen. Eventually, we realize that God is wilder, less predictable, and not nearly as safe as we thought.

It was an unpredictable God who gave Jesus’ dozing disciples one heck of a wake-up call in today’s scripture.

Jesus took Peter, John, and James up onto a mountain to pray. While Jesus was praying, his face changed in appearance and the clothes he wore became dazzlingly white. Suddenly two people were there talking with Jesus—Moses and Elijah. They appeared in glory, and spoke of the prophecy that Jesus was about to fulfill in Jerusalem.


Peter and the others had fallen into a deep sleep. Awakening, they saw Jesus’ glory—and the two people standing with him. Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, how good it is for us to be here! Let’s set up three booths, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah!”


While Peter was speaking, a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Own, my Chosen One. Listen to him!”

Not long before this, Peter, when asked by Jesus who he thought he was, told him, “God’s Messiah.”

It was one thing to say it. It was another thing to see the reality of it shining before you while the voice of God thundered in your ears. Knowledge and experience are two different things.

These drawings are from cartoonist Hugh MacLeod. Over on the left, we have knowledge. Peter knew that Jesus was the Messiah. He had heard him teach and watched him heal. But he only started making connections between all those random dots when he stood on the Mount of Transfiguration with the glory of God shining around him.

Faith is like that. All our life we collect bits and pieces of ideas and knowledge and experience from the world around us. How we make connections between the dots fires our imagination and gives us new ideas. It also deepens and strengthens our faith.

Faith isn’t about putting up monuments, as Peter wanted to, hoping to freeze a moment in time and return to it over and over again. That might work for a heroic dog with a powerful bladder, but not for God.

Faith is about following. Faith is about following on in confidence that God is leading us, and that whatever lies ahead is even greater than what we’ve left behind.

Will we grow weary? You bet! Will we still go crashing into obstacles and walls? Of course we will, for human vision and understanding often fail.

There will be days when the only thing shining on our face is the tears running down it. There will be days when we’re stuck on holy Saturday and Easter seems far, far, away.

On days like that, it’s good for us to find ourselves with the disciples, slowly stumbling from vision to faith, painstakingly connecting the dots of all that we know and have gone through to discover a God who, were it not for the in-between time of waiting, wondering, and searching, we may never have seen.