And all were astounded at the greatness of God... - Luke 9:43
Last night at dinner, friends of ours were telling us about the movie “The Bill Murray Stories: Life Lessons Learned From A Mythical Man.” From what understand, it’s a documentary that follows the great comic actor as he engages with ordinary people in ordinary situations. Recognizing that he had the power to help on a macro-level, Murray sets out to change people lives simply by showing up and listening to them. I can’t wait to see how he does it.
But first, we have the gospel of Luke, which gives us this story about Jesus who changes both himself and those who are with him. Luke 9:28-43.
Writing on this text, Joshua Wood makes this bold declaration, “To see God is to be changed.” I couldn’t agree more. Looking back on all the scripture we’ve studied since Epiphany, we have seen Jesus through the eyes of those who first came to the realization that he is actually the Christ, the Messiah.
We stood on the banks of the Jordan River as heaven opened and a voice proclaimed, “This is my Son.” We sat in on a worship service where Jesus declared that in him the scripture had been fulfilled. We went with him as he taught along the seaside. And witnessed what happened to those who obeyed him when he told them to go out and cast their nets in the deep water. When he said, “Love your enemies” and “Do to others as you would have them do to you,” Some were amazed, others angry. But each one changed. How could they not be? To see God is to be changed.
The Bible is filled with stories of people whose lives would never be the same after their encounter with the divine. Noah, Abraham and Sarah, and of course Moses, who appeared on the mountain top with Elijah. His first encounter with God was on a mountain in a burning bush. It was there he was called to lead God’s people out of bondage and into the Promised Land.
Out on the plains of the wilderness…Moses would climb up another mountain where he caught a glimpse of God’s backside. Yes…he saw God’s butt. When he came down from Mount Sinai, he not only had the tablets containing the Ten Commandments… but his face was shining so brightly because of that encounter they had to cover it with a veil. Moses saw God and he was changed. Not only in appearance, but deep down in the core of his being. To see God is to be changed.
Luke offers us another mountaintop encounter with God. Jesus took three of his closest disciples up the mountain to pray. These guys left everything to follow Jesus. They had heard his teaching, asked questions, and witnessed countless miracles. Yet it wasn’t until this particular time and place that their eyes were opened to see Jesus as the Christ transfigured before them. And just in case this point wasn’t clear to them the voice of God called out, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”
It’s right to think that when God speaks, we ought to listen. In Jesus, God is telling us something. So we ought to pay close attention. See what Jesus does and then go and do it. This is how the glory of God is transfigured in us. Peter, James and John got a glimpse of the Kingdom of God, there was no turning back. Once you see God’s glory, you can’t unsee it. Yet while they finally comprehended the importance of this event, the disciples did not immediately act on it. And for obvious reasons, they were human – afraid of what might happen.
As a young teenager, I had a similar experience that changed my life. I don’t often talk about it because I learned early on, that a vast majority of people, especially the so-called faithful Christians, don’t always believe someone who claims to have had visions of Christ. But what I saw and heard, I could not unsee or unknow. The feeling I felt in the deepest core of my being would forever change me.
The biggest change was knowing, without an iota of doubt, that God is real. This had a major impact on the way I fearlessly and stupidly approached life. Possessing this knowledge both a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because God’s promised grace is real. But it’s also a curse because if God is real, then all that stuff we were told to do is real as well. “This is my Son, the Chosen, listen to him.” Watch what he does, then do the same to others. That isn’t as easy as it sounds.
For a while I pretended it was all a dream. I tried to ignore it, bury my head in the sand so to speak. But no matter where I stuck my head, I kept running into God. Eventually I got tired of playing hide and seek. I knew God was real. Yet it wasn’t until I actually accepted this truth that I was able to truly see the Kingdom of God in all its beauty and depth. As you might imagine this was life changing for me.
When each of my children were born, I saw God in full glory. When we suffered the loss of someone we dearly loved, I knew God was there sharing our pain and anguish. Whenever I hike or play golf with Kevin, I can’t help but see God all around us. And every time I meet someone new, I have another new encounter with God that transforms the way I see the world. I have come to realize that wherever I am…God is there too. In Jesus, God opens our eyes to this divine revelation.
Once we accept this profound truth, we are able to see God’s Kingdom for the greatness that it is. And we can fully participate and thrive in it. Through Jesus , God opens our eyes and changes our perception, not just of ourselves but others as well. God says, “This is my Son, listen to him.” This is not so much a command, but an invitation to live and participate in the Kingdom of God. To see and do what Jesus does in order to learn and teach others of God’s grace and truth.
I like to think God has opened our eyes, not just to see the truth about Jesus, but the truth about us all. We are all beloved children of God. To see the face of Jesus changes us. But more importantly, to see that same face in others can change the world. Imagine if we put the face of Christ on a person we hate, then rage can be changed into love; war into peace; and weapons into plowshares. True transfiguration…from the human way to the Divine will of God.
Luke concludes this story with another life changing event. When they descended the mountain, they were immediately confronted by a man whose son had been seized by an evil spirit. The demon dramatically threw the child to the ground, but Jesus was unfazed. He rebuked the spirit, healed the young boy, and returned him to his father. Luke ends the passage stating, “And all were astounded at the greatness of God.” They were changed. How could they not be? How could we not be? To see God is to be forever changed.
The disciples had their mountain top experience with God. But it was down in the streets that they would begin to fully comprehend what God had invited to do…to participate in God’s Kingdom by being mirrors of the Christ throughout the world.
As you leave here today, I hope you will remember that every time you interact with others you encounter God. Think about how that might change the way you speak, or listen, or care for those around you. Through Jesus, God not only opens our eyes and our ears but our hearts and our hands as well. To see the Kingdom of God and to follow participate in its glory. Through Jesus, God speaks to us and invites us to be a mirror of the Christ transfigured…so others can have a life-changing encounter as well.
So my challenge to you is this: Go now and be God’s glory in the world; astounding all with the greatness of God in all that you do.
Wood, Joshuah. "episcopalchurch.org." The Episcopal Church. March 3, 2019. (accessed March 1, 2019).
has been blogging under the name: Jesus not Jesús: Looking for Christ in the face of strangers. You can read his posts and browse his archives by clicking here.
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