2018-19 RCL-C Transfiguration Sunday (Last Sunday After Epiphany)
Additional Resources for Proclamation & Preaching
Transfiguration Sunday: March 3, 2019 • Gospel Text: Luke 9:28-36 [37-43]
We Know Them By Their Faces
Proclamation for Today
by Rev. Dr. Clint Schnekloth
So how did they know the two men walking with Jesus were Moses and Elijah? Nobody had photographs in that era. Perhaps some artists created representational icons or portraits. But it seems unlikely that the disciples would see Moses or Elijah walking down the street and think, “That must be Moses! Wow, that guy looks like Elijah!”
Of course, in another sense, it would have been crystal clear for anyone knowledgeable in the transitions in thinking around life after death that were taking place in this era. If Jesus is transfigured before his resurrection, and then the disciples are reminded of his transfiguration when he is resurrected, it would make sense to connect the two men seen at the transfiguration to men who hadn’t died… or at least not precisely.
So you have Elijah, who didn’t die but was carried up bodily into heaven in a chariot, and who most pious Jews believed would return some day on that same chariot at the end of days, bouncing the edge of a wheel off a specific stone in a field just outside of Jerusalem. Or at least, that’s one of the regional tales told about a big rock in the middle of a field near Jerusalem.
The other one is a bit more mystifying. There was an obscure text in the first century titled The Assumption of Moses. It’s referenced obliquely in Jude 9. Basically, it puts Moses in a special category relative to heaven and death, for although it is reported in the Old Testament that Moses died (Deuteronomy 34) there’s sufficient intra-canonical and extra-biblical evidence contrariwise. So Moses can appear at the Transfiguration together with Elijah.
This does beg the question why Enoch wasn’t walking around there with the other three. But no matter.
Returning to the face, we notice that the appearance of Jesus’ face changes at the transfiguration (v. 29). Now, we know from science (science!) that human facial recognition is nothing short of miraculous. So it could simply be that his face gets brighter at the transfiguration, like his clothes.
But what if? What if the transfiguration foreshadows the resurrection, the moment when we remain in our bodies, but gain resurrected bodies? Perhaps there is a shared life in this new life that shows up on our faces, so you can see the signs of life in God, life in Christ, in the face of the other. And perhaps we become mutually recognizable to each other, so at the resurrection, we’ll be able to readily say, “That’s Eric. That’s Melania. That’s Mohammad. That’s Rehema. Hey look, over there, the face of Enoch. Wow, he’s been here for a while!”
The following links and resources are not produced or maintained by RCL Worship Resources or Clergy Stuff. However, at the time of this posting, the links were active and considered to be good source material for proclamation for the text for this week. Please scroll down or click on the quick jump menu you find below. Click here for more free RCL worship resources & planning materials.
Historical Exegetical Resources
"Transfiguration of Jesus," The Jesus Database, an online annotated inventory of the traditions concerning the life and teachings of Jesus. Dr. Gregory C. Jenks, FaithFutures Foundation
World Wide Study Bible includes commentary & sermons.
Christ's Transfiguration (Luke 9:28-36): sermon by George Whitefield.
From The People's New Testament, B.W. Johnson, 1891.
"Worship Transfigured," David Lose, ... in the Meantime, 2016.
"We Have an Awe-Full God," Glenn Monson, Law & Gospel Everywhere, 2016.
Evangelio Comentario del San Lucas 9:28-36 [37-43a] por Francisco Javier Giotía Padilla, Working Preacher, 2016.
"Transfiguration," Frederick Buechner, Buechner Blog. (Great stuff)
"Hammering It Home," Ruth Everhart, The Hardest Question, 2013.
"Transfiguration," Gospel Analysis, Sermons from Seattle, Pastor Edward F. Markquart.
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Dramatic Reading of the Text
Readers: Narrator, Peter, Voice, [Man]
Narrator: Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus,
Peter: Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah
Narrator: – not knowing what he said. While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said,
Voice: This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!
Narrator: When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.
[Narrator: On the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, a great crowd met him. Just then a man from the crowd shouted,
Man: Teacher, I beg you to look at my son; he is my only child. Suddenly a spirit seizes him, and all at once he shrieks. It convulses him until he foams at the mouth; it mauls him and will scarcely leave him. I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.
Narrator: Jesus answered,
Jesus: You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here.
Narrator: While he was coming, the demon dashed him to the ground in convulsions. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the boy, and gave him back to his father. And all were astounded at the greatness of God.]