Feast of the Transfiguration (tr.), 2019
The Epistle – 2 Peter 1:13-18
The Gospel – St. Luke 9:28-36
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.
Today on the feast of the Transfiguration, we have the event recorded by St. Luke and a sort of recap by St. Peter, who was there as a witness.
Peter uses this recap or recalling of this event to argue for something more detailed or precise.
He begins this letter reminding us as we were reminded last Sunday, of the importance of reckoning ourselves to be in a certain position and to have a certain status as Christians that separates us from the rest of the world.
Providentially, this same argument is found leading up to this week’s lessons that we focused on last week.
He says this. Perhaps hearing it from St. Peter we might be more fully persuaded of who we are.
Backing up a few verses from today’s lesson…writing to a Christian Church he says, Christ’s “…divine power has granted to us all….
…..things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,  by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them [we] may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.”
There is what is called again, the indicative. These are the facts about us.
As we are Christians, we now have been granted “…all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence.”
He has, “granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you [we] may become partakers of the divine nature.”
We have “escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.”
Sinful desire creates corruption. The world is full of sinful desire and corruption.
We have been saved from it.
We have been set apart from it.
Now here come the commands for
Now here is the imperative…the “what to do about it.”
“For this very reason, [or because of all of this] we are to …. “make every effort to supplement our faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.”
Then…here again is a promise added in.
“For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Then a warning… “…whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.”
Now back to a command with a promise…
“Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.”
“For in this way [For living this way] there will be richly provided for [us] an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
Then he says also what was emphasized last week, “Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have.”
Reminders. Reminding again and again. I know you know this, he says, but I remind you again.
He is setting up the model for conversation we are to have among ourselves as we lift one another up and encourage one another with words like these.
So, he keeps going with where we pick up today.
“I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder,  since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me.  And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.”
So, he is doing precisely what we are to be doing constantly with one another. Reminding one another of these things.
This is the way by which we endure in this life.
This is the way we persevere through hard times and hard things.
These are the things we are to recall when we are faced with health problems, financial problems, relationship problems, decision making problems, lack of faith problems. ..
Then here is what St. Peter tell us. Here is now his apologetic that he uses to encourage us.
This is why we are to believe him…why we are to believe Peter.
He says, “For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.”
He is referring to his encounter with Christ on the day of the Transfiguration. Peter, James and John were selected by Jesus to come with Him to a place without the others.
We just heard it read in the Gospel lesson.
This is why his words are trustworthy. He encountered the living God in a new way on the mount.
God the Father speaks from the cloud that appears.
Christ is transformed and
His clothing becomes dazzling white.
They are seeing His divine glory. They are getting a glimpse of the second person of the Trinity, the Son of God, we call the Christ, in His purest and most true form.
This is a confirming moment for the disciples. This is a moment that goes a long way to solidify their understanding of who Jesus truly is.
Matthew adds to His account that “…as they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Tell no one the vision, until the Son of Man is raised from the dead.”
Peter says, “…we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain.”
This is why all of the aforementioned things are true and trustworthy. This was a unique miracle on the part of Jesus…with the added element of God the Father, speaking from the Glory Cloud.
The taking of three witnesses, Peter, James and John is very Jewish. Very ancient.
The testimony of multiple witnesses only adds to the credibility of the telling of the event.
So, these elements are purposely added even for our benefit…so that we would be encouraged by the event and encouraged by what Peter is telling us.
These lessons have far-reaching implications for us as well.
Peter was of course writing as a Jewish man, to a Jewish (although converted to Christianity) audience.
He emphasizes for both them and us the transitory nature of our life…and at the same time to remain encouraged for what is to come.
This is also why the Old Testament is just as important to us as the New.
This audience of Peter’s understood the nature of being transient. Not only as human beings but as Jews.
From the very beginning, mankind in general and the Jewish people in particular have been transient.
God removed Adam and Eve from the Garden after they sinned.
Israel as a people were quite nomadic. They wandered in the wilderness looking for a place to put down roots.
They never really lived permanently and stable. ..an image certainly we can understand if we view it from the perspective of our life here. …as strangers and aliens in the world.
In totality the Jewish people perhaps had about 100 years of rest and stability. Peace was not in their lives for long.
So, Peter in today’s passage telling them how aware he was of his impending death, rightly or fittingly used the concept of putting off his body.
He says, “…I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me.” (ESV)
We have it translated as body – and that is what he meant – but recall our lesson today, from the KJV translation, Peter says, “I know that the putting off of my tabernacle will be soon.”
His use of this word is important. The word he uses to describe his body is “dwelling” or “tent”. “Tabernacle also falls into this category.
And a Tabernacle is certainly going to be understood by Jewish ears.
When people in the Old Testament moved from place to place, they encamped according to tribe in a circle, and at the center of that circle was the tabernacle, the meeting place where they would encounter God.
But when it was time to move on, the Glory Cloud of God would move and so the Israelites would pull up stakes and pack up and move on with the cloud.
These people knew what living in tents was all about. The very nature of a tent tells us that it is temporary.
Peter calling his body a tent, or a tabernacle is indicating to us that we too live in like manner.
The body that houses the soul is not permanent. It is transient. The soul will one day leave the body and the tent we lived in, our body will be placed in the ground.
Peter is saying to them at the time that he knew his death was soon. He was prepared to also pack up his tabernacle and move on.
Yet this was not packing up and moving out of existence. He was rather meaning that he was about to pack up and move to another place. …which is what we all do as well.
We all should view it as Peter did, that we will all one day leave our tent, our body behind and finally go home to be with the Lord….or course knowing that we will once again at some later time re-inhabit our bodies but with some profound differences.
We look forward, as did Peter, to the resurrection of the body and the receiving of it back again.
St. Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:1–5 writes of this very thing in full harmony with St. Peter.
“For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.  For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling,  if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked.  For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.
 He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.” (ESV)
There is no doubt here that the purpose of the Transfiguration of Jesus on the mountain was at least in part to show His true nature and glory to those three disciples, and to encourage them in their understanding of who He is. …so that later, as Peter did, use that event as an opportunity for encouragement to other Christians.
Up to this point they had only known Jesus in His human body. They had seen His glory in a different way in the miracles. But this is different.
Now that Jesus’ deity was shown in greater degree to them, even if they did not fully understand all that took place, it gave them an assurance, as we see, again, from Peter here today, that this Jesus was the Son of the Living God, who spoke out of the cloud.
Peter, and we can be sure, James and John were moved greatly by this event. Peter retells it as his defense of why Christians should be brave amidst as cruel and hostile world and even in the face of death.
And we too should look to The Transfiguration in the same way.
An event that further shows us the glory of Christ and His ability to take us safely from these earthly tabernacles that we live in and will one day lay aside…
…and bring us to that final resting place, the eternal dwelling in the Kingdom of God.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.