When Heaven Speaks


Mark 9:2-9 (New Revised Standard Version)

2Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, 3and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. 4And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. 5Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 6He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. 7Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved, listen to him!” 8Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.
9As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.

Book of Faith Devotional Questions:

  1. What scares, confuses, or challenges me in this text?
  1. What delights me in this text?
  1. What stories or memories does this text stir up in me?
  1. What is God up to in this text?

This reading is the gospel reading for Transfiguration of Our Lord Sunday, the final Sunday after the Epiphany and before Lent begins on Ash Wednesday.  The season after Epiphany begins with Baptism of Our Lord Sunday.  I mention this because they make perfect bookends for the season; one helps to make sense of the other.

On Baptism of Our Lord Sunday, we celebrate the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry.  In the Gospel of Mark, he is baptized by John and then, just as he is coming up out of the water, he sees the Spirit like a dove and hears the voice saying, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:11b) Before he does anything, at the beginning of his ministry, Jesus is reminded by God himself of the love God bears for him.  He begins with these words of encouragement, and carries them through his ministry of preaching, teaching, and healing on earth.

On Transfiguration of Our Lord Sunday, we are near the end of Jesus’ earthy ministry.  He has called his disciples, and they have followed him as he preached, taught, healed, and worked miracles.  They have a front-row seat to witness Jesus’ power on earth.  And yet, it is still just a glimpse.  Then, near the end of the road which is leading to the cross, Jesus takes Peter, James, and John with him for a mountaintop experience.  They get to see Jesus transfigured, as he really is.  They get to witness his conversation with two other heavy hitters: Moses and Elijah, who served as prophets, miracle-workers, and followers of God in their own rite.  And then comes the big finale:  heaven descends and they hear a voice:  “This is my Son, the Beloved, listen to him!”  Do these words sound familiar?  Jesus hears them at the beginning, and the disciples hear them near the end.  They get to see and hear for themselves; Jesus really is who they think he is, God’s own Son, beloved, powerful, and willing to sacrifice everything for the world that he loves.  They are ordered to keep silent until after he was raised from the dead, but we know that they certainly shared this story after the fact (we are, after all, able to read all about it, right?)

What difference does it make to you that Jesus is God’s Son?  That he is the Beloved?  That he died for you and the whole world?  That he was raised so that we, too, might inherit the Kingdom of God and take our place at the table at the feast that never ends?  All the difference in the world, right?

As we end the season of Epiphany and begin the season of Lent this month, I challenge you to ponder these questions.  Who is Jesus?  Why does he make a difference in my life?  Who am I because of him?  You might want to try Praying in Color:  http://prayingincolor.com/examples   You might want to journal about these questions.  Or, for those contemplative pray-ers among you, perhaps you could pick a difference name for God each week or each day and say a breath prayer:  https://gravitycenter.com/practice/breath-prayer/

Whatever you choose, I am praying that you, beloved Children of God, may grow closer in your relationship the Beloved, our Lord Jesus in these seasons of light fading into darkness.

In Christ,

Pastor Breen Marie Sipes

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