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Sermon Illustrations For Transfiguration Sunday (2020)

Exodus 24:12-18
Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida is a wonderful place to visit if you are a fan of the Harry Potter stories. They have two wonderfully intricate and detailed parts of the park dedicated to Diagon Alley and Hogwarts. I was able to visit recently and observed some hard-core Harry Potter fans who were seeing it for the first time. As they turned the corner of the park and entered Diagon Alley, they squealed in delight and were overcome with excitement. Their expectations were exceeded as they soaked in what they’d only imagined before. It is not a stretch to say they were awed.

I’ve seen that in a few other situations, too. I watched a video of a man who’d not seen color before, get a pair of glasses that allowed him to do so. He, too, was overwhelmed. I also saw a video of a baby who couldn’t hear. She was fitted with hearing aids at a Cincinnati hospital and heard her mom’s voice for the first time. It was a picture of utter joy and wonder.

I like these scenes. People are overcome by what they experience for the first time. As incredible as these scenes are, though, they pale in comparison to what we find in our text. Moses, Aaron and Hur went on top of Mt. Sinai and “the glory of the Lord” settled there (Exodus 24:16). Moses entered the cloud and was in a witness, first-hand, to the glory of God. Can you imagine that? How awesome is that? Can there be anything better?
Bill T.

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Exodus 24:12-18
I live in the Midwest, where things are mostly wet. Rain falls regularly. So, people burn things without any consideration for safety. Fires don’t get out of control – usually. The problem is that occasionally the weather is dry, dryer than normal or expected, and suddenly the fire consumes not only leaves and branches, but barns and houses.

I’ve also lived in the west, a drier climate, where it is always dangerous. People treat fire with respect. They don’t leave a fire burning but douse it totally. They don’t assume this dangerous phenomenon is a big deal.

In this passage the glory of the Lord is described as a “devouring fire.” As Moses ascends the mountain at the Lord’s command, the people are fearful and treat God’s presence with respect. None of this “me and the man upstairs have an understanding” which translates to “who is this God guy anyway? I’d rather play golf or stay at home with my feet elevated and fall asleep looking at the internet on my phone.” (In the old days we would have said “with the Sunday paper in my lap.”)

Most of all, remember that a “devouring fire” is not something we can control, any more than we can control God.
Frank R.

* * *

Exodus 24:12-18
Henry Lyte was a dedicated pastor, but asthma and tuberculous limited his ability to shepherd his flock. For the last twenty-three years of his life, he pastored a small parish among the fishing people of Lower Brixham, Devonshire, England. Because of his illness, he often had to periodically leave Devonshire to rest and recuperate in a warmer climate. Finally, his health became so severe that he made the decision to relocate in the warmer climate of Italy. Before departing, he was determined to preach his last sermon to the parishioners he loved, even though he could barely breathe and because of his frail health he had to nearly crawl to the pulpit. He was urged not to preach as his health was too bad, but he responded, in the now famous words, “It was better to wear out than to rust out.” In the evening of the same day he placed in the hands of a near and dear relative a little hymn he wrote a few weeks earlier titled Abide with Me. Several months later, Lyte began his journey to Italy. But before he could arrive at his given destination, he died in Nice, France on November 20, 1847.

The hymn that he wrote and shared on the day he preached his last sermon, September 4, 1847, is a solemn hymn as each verse ends in the plea “abide with me,” making the hymn a sustained call for God’s personal presence in every stage and condition of life. The last stanza reads:

Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies;
Heav’n’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.
Ron L.

* * *

2 Peter 1:16-21
Peter writes about his own life experience. He shares his transfiguration experience, reminding people that he, himself, heard the voice of God claim, "This is my Son, my Beloved, with whom I am well pleased." He urges us to listen to his words and understand the long-awaited Messiah has arrived, has been present with us. Peter warns us not to ignore the light of this awareness.

How many of us have had an experience of seeing Jesus, hearing the voice of God? Not many, I’ll bet. That does not, however, preclude that some have. I have had a vision of Jesus, calling to me, encouraging me to be wrapped in his arms of forgiveness and reconciliation. The whole of the story is too long to share here, but I can still feel the warmth of that embrace, the love in Jesus’ eyes, the safety and hope I felt. Like Peter, when the days are hardest, when I struggle to have faith, I remember those moments. I reflect on my personal encounter with the Christ. Those of us who have had those experiences return to their memory again and again. Today, Peter gives us his own memory for us to cling to. For today that will be enough.
Bonnie B.

* * *

2 Peter 1:16-21
Transfiguration is about affirming the divinity of Jesus and His power and majestic glory over the universe. Martin Luther nicely described Christ’s Power:

Christ’s power consists in the fact that He is sovereign over all things, that everything must lie at His feet. It will endure as long as the world stands. (Luther’s Works, Vol.30, p.163)

In the same spirit, with a cosmic vision in view, famed modern Catholic theologian Pierre Teilhard de Chardin writes:

The Incarnation means the renewal, the restoration, of all the energies and powers of the universe; Christ is the instrument, the centre and the end of all creation. (Hymn of the Universe, p.144)

In view of the wonderful solace these insights about Christ’s Majesty provide, life is not as sweet without a sense of His Power. John Calvin nicely made that point when he wrote:

... the whole life of man, until he is converted to Christ, is a ruinous labyrinth of wanderings. (Calvin’s Commentaries, Vol.XXII/2, p.50)
Mark E.

* * *

Matthew 17:1-9
I’m originally from Kansas, so I’ve heard many times throughout my travels of being from the land of Oz, Dorothy and Toto. The Wizard of Oz, however, is a good story and one that’s stood the test of time. It’s also one instance where the movie might have eclipsed the popularity of the original story in the book. There’s a scene in The Wizard of Oz in which Dorothy, the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion encounter the “real” wizard. You remember, right? The giant screen has shown a powerful, larger-than-life person whose booming voice rings out across Emerald City. Toto pulls back the curtain, however, and everyone finds that the wizard is just a man. It’s all showbiz, lights and amplification. His cry of “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” falls on deaf ears. When the curtain is pulled back, he is seen for what he is.

In our text today, the curtain is pulled back and someone is seen for who he is, too. Unlike the wizard of Oz, though, this person is far more than just a man. Jesus was transfigured before Peter, James and John and “his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him” (vs. 2-3). These three apostles saw the curtain pulled back for Jesus and they were awed by his glory and power. It was so great they fell to the ground in fear.

Pulling back the curtain showed just who Jesus is. Have you seen him?
Bill T.

* * *

Matthew 17:1-9
The Greek word translated as “transfigured” in the NRSV is metamorphosis, which in English is, ah, metamorphosis. According to the Oxford English Dictionary this is “the action or process of changing in form, shape or substance; esp. transformation by magic or witchcraft.” But the metamorphosis, transformation, transfiguration of Jesus is not a change in form, shape, or substance, and is especially not transformation by magic or witchcraft. What we see in the transfiguration is the revelation of who Jesus was all along. The disciples see who Jesus really is! This is not a magic trick. It’s more a question of Jesus veiling himself most of the time. And of course, in Revelation, that Jesus is revealed again in the first chapter, and more importantly, in the Jesus revealed as the Lion of Judah who is really the Lamb bearing the marks of slaughter.
Frank R.

* * *

Matthew 17:1-9
John Bunyan was a Puritan pastor, who is best known to us for his book Pilgrim’s Progress. He preached his last sermon at Mr. Gamman’s meeting-house, near Whitechapel, on August 19, 1688. Twelve days after preaching this sermon John Bunyan died. The text for the sermon was John 1:13. The message of the sermon is that every man and woman must examine themselves in order to know if they are born again or not. In his last sermon, Bunyan described the signs of a new birth. In the sermon Bunyan asked his listeners, “Are you brought out of the dark dungeon of this world into Christ?” He went on to say that an individual “cannot you be quiet without you have a bellyful of the milk of God’s Word?” He went on to say, “When we see a king’s son play with a beggar, this is unbecoming; so if you be the king’s children, live like the king’s children; if you be risen with Christ, set your affections on things above, and not on things below…”
Ron L.
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