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Old Testament:                  2 Kings 2:1-12
Psalm                                   50
Epistle:                                2 Corinthians 4:3-6
Gospel:                                Mark 9:2-9

Hello friends, my name is Dr. Mark Hobson, and welcome to this homily on the readings for the Last Sunday after Epiphany, known as the Transfiguration of Jesus. In the Episcopal Church, Epiphany, a word meaning manifestation, is the season after Christmas and before Lent. Each week of the season in the Gospel, we see another manifestation of the identity of Jesus in Scripture. Today, we will review how the readings fit with the Transfiguration event of Jesus where the disciples see a complete change of form or appearance into a heavenly state of being. We also note the transfiguration appears in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke yet not John. We begin our video teaching today with the proclamation of the Gospel.

A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Saint Mark + (May the Word of the Lord be in my mind, on my lips, and in my heart).

Six 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, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Then 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.” He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them anymore, but only Jesus.

As 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.

+The Gospel of the Lord
Praise to you, Lord Christ.

Our first reading today from the Second Book of Kings is about the greatest Hebrew prophet, Elijah, and his protégé, Elisha. Elijah first appears in Scripture in the first book of Kings chapter 17 as he prophesied a great drought in Israel. Elijah is a larger-than-life figure in old Israel who performed many miracles including raising a widow’s son from death. Interestingly, Elijah did not die yet was brought to heaven, alive, in a chariot of fire. His protégé Elijah received a double portion of Elijah’s spirit and indeed performed more miracles than his teacher. The important points for our teaching today are that Elijah is viewed as the greatest prophet of Israel and did not experience human death.

Psalm 50 reinforces the message of God’s revelation in glory in creation, and in His covenant with the ancient Hebrew people including the prophets and teachers like Moses.  We read, “Our God will come and will not keep silence; before him there is a consuming flame, and round about him a raging storm,” reflecting the whirlwind that brought Elijah to heaven.

In Saint Paul’s second letter to the people of Corinth, Paul tells us Jesus is the light that shines in the darkness, reflecting the words of Jesus in Saint John’s Gospel where Jesus says, “I am the light of the world.” Paul proclaims, Jesus Christ “as Lord and light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” Paul’s writing interestingly often reinforces the Gospel message of Saint John, or perhaps Saint John reinforced Saint Paul’s teachings. One or both seemed to have each other’s writing.

Now we come to the powerful story of Saint Mark and the Transfiguration. As usual, Jesus takes His inner circle of disciples, Peter, James, and John with him in the significant events of His life, this time up a mountain for the transfiguration of his body where he appears a dazzling white, and with Jesus is Elijah, who we know is alive in heaven, and represents the great prophets of the covenant. Appearing also is Moses, the greatest teacher of the law of the covenant yet somehow Moses is in bodily form as if he too lives in heaven. In the book of Deuteronomy, we read that Moses died at 120 years old on a mountain. Yet in the book of Numbers, Moses supposedly died on a mountain, yet his body was not found. The writer leaves us wondering if God took him, body and soul, to heaven.  Without too much of a stretch, the transfiguration story appears to tell us that Elijah and Moses are alive in heaven and that is why they both could appear to the disciples with Jesus. Interestingly, the only other person in the Scriptures whose appearance is transfigured is Moses when he saw God’s glory on Mount Sinai. Their appearance with Jesus seems to reinforce that Jesus is the fulfillment of all the Old Testament, or first covenant, prophecies, and teachings, of the Hebrew writings. Then the Voice of God comes from a cloud saying in an imperative voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved. Listen to Him!” Scripture even has an exclamation point reinforcing this message is not a suggestion but a commandment.

Allow me to provide a little context of this story in Mark’s Gospel. In Mark, chapter 8, the mid-point of the Gospel, Jesus creates a great miracle feeding thousands with seven loaves of bread and a few fish. He chastises the Pharisees because they do not understand the symbolism of the feeding miracle. Then he heals a blind man. Next, Peter declares that Jesus is the Messiah, and Jesus predicts his suffering and death. Finally, He teaches the disciples “to take up their cross and follow Me.” Then after waiting six days, Jesus is transfigured. The six days are significant in Scripture for in Exodus 26:14, when Moses saw God, he was on Mount Sinai for six days. On the seventh day, Moses came down the mountain.

What does this story mean for us today? How does the miracle of the transfiguration edify our knowledge and strengthen our faith? The Episcopal faith, like most mainstream Christian Churches, has three pillars in our belief system: Scripture, Sacrament, and Reason.  Clearly, the Scripture message of today is Jesus is the Son of God. He was empowered by God to teach, to perform miracles, and to rise from death. In Sacrament, we are reborn to new life in Jesus through our baptism, and we receive His power, His Body and Blood, through the Eucharist. And in reason, we must acknowledge that no one else in human history is declared the Son of God and rose from death after three days to save humanity from sin and death. This story should reinforce our knowledge of the power of Jesus as someone who was fully human like us, yet also, fully God. This knowledge should help to strengthen our faith that we have chosen wisely to believe in the teachings and life of Jesus Christ. Again, no one in history comes close to His complete humanity and total Divinity. Having a personal relationship with Jesus, declaring our love, faith and devotion to Him in a community of believers is life changing and world altering. In my view of faith, there is not a time of miracles, there is a God of miracles, and that God is Jesus Christ.

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