Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Where do we see God?
Throughout the season of Epiphany we have seen many ways that Jesus is revealed to us as God.
We followed the star with the Wise Men. We heard God speak at Jesus’ Baptism. We saw the water turned to wine. We heard Jesus preach. We sang joyfully as God was revealed in a hymn.
Today is the last Sunday in Epiphany. Today we get another clear view of Jesus. It is a view that we must carry with us for a while. Wednesday begins the solemn time of Lent.
Today we hear the story of the Transfiguration. Jesus takes Peter, James, and John up the mountain to pray. While they are there, Jesus is transformed. His clothes became dazzling white. Moses and Elijah join them, representing the Law and the Prophets.
Then they are overshadowed by a cloud. From within the cloud, God speaks. “This is my Son, my Chosen, listen to him.”
So, where do we see God? The first place we see God today is on a mountain top. Anyone who has done any hiking in the mountains knows that the highlight of the trip is the view from the top.
You have heard of mountain top experiences. Today’s Bible stories are probably where that expression comes from. Moses mets God on Mount Sinai and receives the tablets of the law.
We usually think of a mountain top experience as a “spiritual high,” a time when we are very excited about the presence of God in our lives. Peter, James, and John had a great mountain top experience.
You may have had a mountain top experience yourself. Some people remember that time around the campfire at church camp, or that mission trip they went on.
Mountain tops are well known in the Bible as places to encounter God. Moses encountered God on Mount Sinai. After being in the presence of God, Moses had to wear a veil. His face shone because he had been talking with God.
We see God on the mountain. While we are there, we see God in the light. In the Transfiguration, that light comes from Jesus. He is the true light of the world. He is the light that no darkness can overcome.
When Moses talked with God, his face shone. He reflected the light of God. When Jesus is on the mountain, it is not just his face, but his clothing that shines dazzling white. Jesus is the light of God.
Mountain tops and light are obvious places to see God. We almost expect God to be present there.
The other two places we see God today are less obvious.
The next place we see God is in a cloud. Clouds are usually symbolic of gloomy things. When we say we have a cloud over our heads, we mean bad things keep happening to us.
Last Tuesday in the Breakfast Bible Study, one of the men said he saw a “friendly cloud” in the sky on his way there. We asked what that meant and he said it was in just the right place to keep the rising sun from getting in his eyes as he drove East.
We all would like to see other “friendly clouds” bring moisture to our dry earth this spring.
When Peter sees Moses and Elijah with Jesus, he wants to build three dwellings. While he is talking, a cloud overshadows them. God is present in the cloud.
Sometimes clouds block our vision and make it hard to see. Sometimes they are friendly and they block the sun and making it easier for us to see where we should be going.
Whether the cloud over your head is gloomy or friendly, God is present in the cloud. God is with us no matter what we can or cannot see.
It is in and through the cloud that God speaks to Peter, James, and John. This makes sense to us. We often experience the closeness of God when we are in our darkest times.
We know that our lives on this earth are not always mountain top experiences. We know that we do not feel like singing “alleluia” all the time. We all have our times of sadness and grief. As Paul tells us, “Since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart.”
It is in the cloudy times that God speaks to us. God tells us to listen to Jesus. We do listen. We listen to Jesus when we hear the stories of how he died on the cross for us and rose from the grave and opened the gates of heaven for us.
We listen to Jesus when we pray. We listen to Jesus when we share this wonderful sacrament of his body and blood given and shed for us. We know he is present with us.
God is on the mountain. God is in the light. God is in the clouds.
But we are not always on the mountain. We do not always see the light. Sometimes the clouds seem good, but sometimes they seem to overshadow the good.
Mountain top experiences are great, but we are not always on the mountain. We live on the plains.
As you heard last week, God is revealed to us in music. Listen to the words of the last verse of hymn 315:
“How good Lord to be here!
Yet we may not remain;
but since you bid us leave the mount,
come with us to the plain.” ELW 315 v. 5.
Jesus is present with us on the plain. He comes down the mountain. He meets us where we live. He rebukes our unclean spirits. He heals the sick. He forgives our sin. He walks with us through the plains and shows us God’s love every day.
Whether we see the light or we are in the clouds; whether we are on a mountain or on the plains, Jesus is with us. His face is the face of God. Alleluia. Amen.