Looking Back

Text: Mark 9:2-9

Sunday Sermon

The Rev. Dr. D. William Faupel
Priest-in-Charge

February 15, 2015

Introduction

Tomorrow I am to die.  Today, I have spent my last hours looking back over my life.  So much has happened.  There are many things that I could tell you.  For some reason however one event stands out.   For years it has gripped me in its power, haunting me at first, but with the passage of time, I have remembered it with growing understanding. 

I

We stole softly up the mountainside.   In the dim light of daybreak, we saw the silhouetted figure of our leader climbing swiftly, deliberately, ahead of us.  In the twilight I stumbled on a loose stone stubbing my toe.   I cursed softly to myself breaking the stillness of the dawn.  “Where does He go when He leaves us?” asked my friend, John, mumbling more to himself than to me.  “Why does He leave so early in the morning?” his brother James wondered to himself.  So often He had stolen away while we were asleep and would then return as we prepared breakfast.

On this particular morning I had heard Him as He had left our camp.   Quickly, I had awakened my friends, James and John, and motioned for them to follow me in order to discover where our Master went on these early morning treks.

When He reached the top of the mountain, we saw Him kneel to pray, hands raised, eyes open, looking into heaven.   We kept our distance so as not to disturb Him.  Soon we became overcome with weariness and fell into a deep sleep.   I was not sure how much time had passed when we were awakened by the sound of voices.   By this time the sun had burst forth over the horizon bathing the mountainside in breathtaking beauty.

Our Master had arisen from prayer.   Two men stood with Him.   Who were they?  Ghosts? Angels?  We leaned forward straining to catch snatches of their conversation.   As our eyes fastened on these three, standing atop the mountain, the sun’s rays bounced off their clothing. It was as if their very countenance was undergoing transformation.   Their robes became dazzling white.   Their faces glowed as if they were radiating the very glory of God.

We stared in awe as we became aware that these were not ghosts, nor were they angels.  Rather, one was Moses, the giver of the law which our Lord had come to fulfill.  The other was Elijah, the prophet, who had proclaimed the coming of the Messiah.  Our minds raced with vivid imagination.  We thought of Moses coming down from Mt. Sinai, his face reflecting the glory of God.  We recalled Elijah swept away into heaven in a blazing chariot of fire!

Our wandering thoughts were brought back abruptly into the present as their voices floated melodiously to the place where we were standing.   We realized that they were speaking of our Master’s mission and of the fate which awaited Him in Jerusalem.   Our hearts froze as they spoke of His impending death.

I could not stand it any longer.   I stepped boldly forward seeking to change the subject.  “Lord,” I said, “this place is wonderful.  Let’s build three temples here: one for you; one for Elijah; and one for Moses.”  Even as I spoke the mountainside became engulfed in a cloud.   We fell back in fear.  A voice spoke from the cloud: “This is my Son, my Chosen.  Listen to Him.”

As suddenly as the cloud had come upon us, it disappeared.  Moses and Elijah were gone as well.  Our Lord stood alone before us.  Without a word He started down the mountain.   We followed in silence.  Our hearts were filled with wonder at what we had just witnessed.  Our minds raced with questions as what we had just heard.

II

My mind has returned to the Mount of Transfiguration over and over throughout my life.  The occasion has come to represent for me all of my fondest hopes.   At the same time it penetrates my deepest fears.   When I saw Him transformed, I wanted to stay there forever.   Away from the dirt, the grime, the constant hassle of everyday life.   To follow Him, to be with Him, that was my only desire.   I longed to be removed from the sorrow and the pain. 

But such was not to be.   He would have none of it.   Back down the mountain He went.  Back to the needs and cries of the people to crushed in on Him.  Back to the road that led to Jerusalem and the cross.   How I shrank from that.  Only much later would I understand why He had to die.   Only then would I come to realize why I must follow in His steps. 

In the years that have since passed ever so swiftly, I too, have faced much hardship and pain.  But I have never lost the image of that day when God’s glory shown upon His face.   I have been obedient to the Voice that spoke to me from the cloud.   I have listened to my Master.   I have followed him.

Tomorrow, I too, will face my cross.  My life is over.  My work is done.  But I know others will carry on proclaiming the message, until all have seen the image of God revealed in the face of Jesus Christ my Lord.   Amen.