Glimpses of the Kin-Dom: Week 5
I pray you enjoy this message and God speaks to you through it. To listen to this message you can hear it on the Beech Grove United Methodist Church Podcast (podcast releases Monday mornings), or by clicking here.*
Also every week I offer sermon notes as an opportunity for folks in my congregation to have something to take with them for reflection on the sermon or to help in sharing with others. Check them out here!
*Note: Sermon audio does not match the manuscript…sometimes the Spirit moves
17 Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. 2 And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became bright as light. 3 Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. 4 Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will set up three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 5 While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him, I am well pleased; listen to him!” 6 When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. 7 But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.” 8 And when they raised their eyes, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone. 9 As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, “Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.” 1
So I cannot lie to y’all; yes, my sermon title was in fact inspired by the wonderful and beloved Toy Story line, “To Infinity and Beyond.”2
For this sermon series:
I have derived the base intentions and themes from a series that was created by the United Methodist Discipleship Ministries.3
Note on the Series from United Methodist Discipleship Ministries: They release a series that help and aid pastors in connection with the Revised Common Lectionary (Their title for this message was “Super Sunday,” a play on the Super Bowl from last week.)
However, the more that I read the scripture and reflected on the themes within (in conjunction with the ones shared by the commentary) my mind kept returning to worship, but not just worship in and of itself because this passage goes beyond worship.
When we reflect on the glimpse of the Kin-Dom we see in this passage it is that of the transformation that happens within the context of worship and what that means for us when we go beyond this worship context.
The thing that I love about when Buzz Lightyear often says “To Infinity and Beyond,” is that it is spoken in the context of the bounds that are possible. It is often said in the context and scope of whatever mission or endeavor he is on, knowing that there are no limits to what he can do, or where he is needed.
So too should we view the bounds of our faith thinking, to worship and beyond.
An opportunity in our practice of faith to gather together, to praise and worship God, and to receive what God offers freely to us through music, word, sacrament, and thanksgiving.
These are basic parts of worship throughout the history of the church, and even in our modern conception of church practice.
HOWEVER, worship is just a piece of our faith; there is a whole wide world out there we are called to help reflect the very glimpses of the Kin-Dom we experience in worship.
We are transformed through worship, and we go out to transform the world.
But transform isn’t the right word actually, or at least not the one I want to use today. I think I need a more complicated theological word to describe what happens in worship.
Maybe something like…TRANSFIGURATION.
Yes, that will do. Now you might be thinking why do I always have to make things complicated with big theological words I probably learned in seminary…well only part of that is genuine. It is a big theological word, but it is a theological word that is a part of our scriptural language that we have carried from the earliest times of Christianity, and it is from this story we read today that we derive it.
Transfiguration – a complete change of form or appearance into a more beautiful or spiritual state.4
Deeper Into the Scripture Passage
The scripture passage is titled the Transfiguration of Jesus.
Jesus experiences a physical transformation. As we read this Gospel’s account we hear,
“Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became bright as light.”5
Jesus becomes this spiritual-looking presence and (as we hear in the next verse, v. 3) is surrounded by the spiritual presences of Elijah and Moses, two stalwarts of the Jewish tradition. However, in diving deeper into this passage we can see transfiguration can be more than a physical change (while not a part of the traditional definition) and these disciples are about to get a spiritual transfiguration that will shape the ministry they do from this point forward.
This is because the disciples who are with Jesus (Peter, James, and John) have entered a moment of true worship.
With that in mind, what does Peter want to do?
“Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will set up three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”6
Now none of us can fault Peter for wanting to build something to commemorate this amazing event, and yet, it is almost as if Peter is trying to turn the spiritual into a physical. Peter seemingly wants the presence of these spiritual beings to be held within these tents (these makeshift temples), and to bring people to this spot for an experience of Jesus.
The remainder of Christ’s presence comes in the form of the voice of God, mimicking some of the words from Jesus’ baptism we explored at the beginning of this series, “This is my son the beloved.” Then it is added, “Listen to him.”7
I love this last bit that is added to this admonition, because not only does it reiterate power and authority in heaven and on earth to Jesus, but it directs the disciples present (in their fear) to know and trust this being that stands before them. While we do not receive a word against Peter’s desire for a “Temple of the Transfiguration” we can gather that the idea at least fell on deaf ears as they make their way back down the mountain and into the world. Jesus cautions them from sharing the logistics of this event until after the resurrection, but the transformation (dare I say inner transfiguration) that took place in these disciples would be carried with them for the rest of their ministry.
I think it is no secret that these three disciples played a large role in Jesus’ ministry and, in turn, were a large part of the early church, offering leadership and wisdom. I have to imagine that witnessing this event live plays a big part, because it was in this moment of worship that they were, themselves, transfigured. When they went beyond this moment of worship they would take at least the spirit of this event with them initially, and then after Jesus’ resurrection, they would share what in fact had made such an impact on them.
To Worship and Beyond!
You see if they had built the “tents” (temples) on the mountain, if those three had not been pushed to find how they had been transformed before describing what had transformed them if they had not gone beyond worship, what sense of Kin-Dom would there have been?
Our living out of the Kin-Dom is as much about what happens beyond the spaces of worship, as what happens within them.
Our fallacy can become, being so in love with worship that we wish it would just continue forever. We yearn for the retreats, conferences, or revivals that bring us into awe-inspiring experiences and sometimes we wish to just stay. We have concocted our own tents, our own temples, our own buildings that hold all of this value because it is where we met Christ, but we forget to take Christ and the nature of the Kin-Dom beyond the walls that we have erected.
We think everyone needs to come to where we are, and we have become like Peter, except we followed through with building the tents. Peter’s motivation and intention were good. Peter wanted people to experience Jesus and Moses and Elijah…and God in the manner these three had, but Jesus knew that it was more about what was taken with them at this moment that would be the greater lasting impact.
Remember this is Matthew 17:
Jesus has been in ministry for quite a bit at this point in the Gospel narrative.
They have watched this man perform miracles, teach about the Kin-Dom, tell stories, and offer the unconditional love of God to all persons who came by their path.
The Transfiguration is a reiteration of who Jesus truly is, the naming by God in this passage stands as an opportunity for the disciples gathered to hear for themselves. To have proclaimed that which they have known since they were called, this is a special man.
Where will disciples go once Jesus is no longer with them?
How will they share and spread his story?
The transfiguration reminds us that we have our moments where we come together, called by Christ.
We gather together with Christ around the waters of baptism and the table of Communion, encountering Christ, and experiencing the call that Christ places on our hearts. It is a call to do that Kin-Don work. Making the world a better place through our witness of grace and peace.
Yes, we return to the moment of worship, not necessarily the space, but the moment, to continue to learn at Christ’s feet. Then we depart, having been given good words of sending forth to do God’s work.
What has the image of Christ as Lord stirred up in you?
Where are you being called forward from this time we have spent glimpsing the Kin-Dom these past 7 weeks?
Matthew 17:1-9, New Revised Standard Version: updated edition (NRSVue)
Buzz Lightyear, Toy Story, 1995.
Sidenote: This is my son’s favorite movie. In fact the entire Toy Story franchise, including (and especially) the new Lightyear movie, because Buzz is his favorite!
https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/worship-planning/glimpses-of-the-kin-dom (Found Jan/Feb 2023)
You can check out the full series as developed by United Methodist Leadership here, but obviously I have made adaptations as the Spirit has led me in my ministry context.
Matthew 17:1-2, NRSVue
Matthew 17:4, NRSVue
Matthew 17:5, NRSVue