I’m really struggling to find something new to say for the Sunday Next Before Lent this year. There are only so many ways to preach the Transfiguration, and I’m dragging my feet trying to find something clever, witty, or otherwise brilliant to say about it on Sunday. I could preach the moral approach: we cannot stay on the mountaintop, but must come down to do the work of ministry. I could preach the exodus approach: Jesus, as the new Moses, preceded by JBap, the new Elijah, came to set God’s people free. I could preach the commandment of God approach: Listen to Jesus! For some reason or another, these all feel dissatisfying this year.
Time is running short, it is already 2:55 on Thursday, and as I frantically look through my notes, while giving one ear to the heavens hoping for a sermon to appear before me (that’s how this works, isn’t it?), I’m realizing that perhaps I’ve missed the sermon that is right under my nose. The Collect for the Last Sunday in Epiphany, which, as far as I can tell, is a newly concocted prayer for the 1979 BCP, tells us exactly what the Church expects us to learn from the story of the Transfiguration.
O God, who before the passion of your only-begotten Son revealed his glory upon the holy mountain: Grant to us that we, beholding by faith the light of his countenance, may be strengthened to bear our cross, and be changed into his likeness from glory to glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Look at it closely and you will find all sorts of Christological statements that can be discerned by the story of Jesus and his disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration; any one of which the preacher could easily jump on and run with into a tidy, 45 minute diatribe.
- This occurs “before the passion,” and in Luke’s account is just ahead of Jesus “setting his face toward Jerusalem”
- Jesus is God’s only-begotten Son
- His glory is revealed upon the holy mountain – what is glory? what is holy?
- We may behold by faith the light of Jesus’ countenance
- We ask to be strengthened to bear our cross
- We hope to be changed into his likeness from glory to glory
Thanks be to the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music for such a tidy and theologically sound Collect. Too bad they don’t do that sort of thing anymore, it really is quite nice. I may be no closer to a sermon for Sunday than I was 30 minutes ago, but at least I fell like I’ve made some headway in my understanding of the Messiah.
You’re welcome. ;-p