Sermon:         Transfigured Scripture:       Mark 2:2-9 Preacher:       Rev. Michael Bodger Location:        First Presbyterian Church, DeLand Date:               February 11, 2018 Today as a church we lift up and celebrate a ministry within our midst, that being Stephen Ministry. As an aside, it is named after Stephen in the book of Acts. Stephen was chosen to provide caring ministry to those in need and so it continues today. Your Stephen Leaders and Ministers have been involved in putting together and leading our worship today in all three services. It’s a ministry that is a very important aspect of being church and as we within this church move forward it will increase in its importance as we make sense together of what it ultimately means to be a one pastor church. Last year, when we selected the date of this particular Sunday, no thought was given with respect to what the lectionary texts of the day would be and we celebrate it today on what just happens, well I know the Spirit knew this, it just happens to be Transfiguration Sunday.  Our text comes from Mark’s Gospel and as we come to this last Sunday before Lent, it is a time we acknowledge that in Jesus’ ministry, it is the point at which he sets his sights towards Jerusalem and the cross.   We have already spoken about the urgent, fast paced, immediate nature of Mark’s Gospel and in Chapter 8 alone Jesus fed the 4 thousand, locked horns with the Pharisees on their demand for a sign, which occurred ironically immediately after he fed the 4 thousand, warned the people about the yeast of the Pharisees, healed a blind man, had Peter pronounce him as Messiah, and Jesus foretelling the disciples about his death and resurrection. Phew…Then we come to our text of today!   So open your bibles today at Mark’s Gospel, Chapter 9:2-9 or open the pew bibles and listen to what the Spirit is telling the church this day.   Jesus takes the three disciples who are considered across the corporate content of scripture to be the ones closest to him, Peter, James and John. They are the three who witness the healing of Jairus’s daughter when she is brought back to life, they are the ones who will go on with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, here Jesus takes them and they climb a high mountain. Mark sees no reason to give this mountain a name, and later in the New Testament Peter will recall this event in 2 Peter 1:16-18 and refer to it as the holy mountain. It was high, reaching up towards the heavens and there on the top, there was no one else around and without warning we are told,   he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them.   This was not an earthly event! There are many images of this event painted and portrayed over the sands of time, created to try and capture this moment as it is described and yet we cannot fully fathom the experience as it was divinely created.   Jesus was transfigured – we have to try and make sense of what that actually meant. The Greek word is actually metamorphoo.   We immediately turn it into the word metamorphosis and we explain it away by translating it, to change or to transform or yes to transfigure. In Strong’s description, Strong’s is a Hebrew/Greek concordance that addresses every word in the bible and in it, it states “Christ appearance was changed and was resplendent with divine brightness on the mount of transfiguration.” Hope that’s helpful!   There is another way to understand this event. Yes, Jesus’ appearance was transfigured, changed or transformed, but what is accomplished in doing so, is the true revelation of what was already manifested in Jesus being brought to light. The Transfiguration was an unveiling of Jesus in the midst of the three he had brought with him and in the midst of us, the readers of the gospel story, to show us all who Jesus truly is, divine.   On cue, Moses and Elijah appear in order to cement this true revelation of Jesus.   Moses comes as the ultimate representative of the Old Testament and the Law, which finds its fulfillment in Jesus – Moses and the Law then point towards Jesus. Elijah comes as the ultimate representative of all the prophets who have been sent throughout time to point towards Jesus.   In Matthew’s Gospel Jesus tells us in Chapter 5:17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill them.   Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment of the law and the prophets and in the Transfiguration, this is all revealed to us.   Meanwhile, just as we are trying to wrap our heads around all that is going on, Peter, James and John who are witnessing all of this in real time, are trying to do the same thing. Talk about confusion and wonder and fear at all that is going on around them and then Peter pipes up,   “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He did not know what to say, for they were terrified.   Jesus, we have no earthly idea of what is going on right now in our lives, but I need to speak up and try and make sense of it. Peter spoke for himself and for the other two, who remain silent throughout. Let us do something rather than leave us in this terrified state of ‘what is going on?’ You know what, let’s build – that’ll keep us occupied – let us build three dwellings, let us do something.   He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. Life, right there and then for the three was overwhelming.   But there was no time for the expected response. Instead,   right then, God spoke into their midst. Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!”   If there was any doubt remaining at this point who Jesus truly was, truly is, it was erased by the words, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!”   The law, the prophets, the voice all point towards who? Jesus. Jesus that’s right, the true revelation of Jesus! And then it was all over. Jesus’ true self is revealed and then,   Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus. As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.   Jesus was the one left walking alongside them. He said to them, “don’t tell anyone what you have seen.” They still have no comprehension of what this all means, but when you do understand, after the Son of Man had risen from the dead – then you can go tell the story, and we know they did.   The story of the true revelation of Jesus Christ not only on the mountaintop transfiguration, not only for Peter, James and John, though they did not understand it then, but in our lives too. Jesus was with them all along, is with us all along, they just couldn’t see who he truly was and we sometimes cannot see who Jesus truly is either. Which brings me back to what we are celebrating this Sunday – Stephen Ministry.   The Stephen Ministry program is the reason that I am up here speaking to you today – it was a ministry that was transfiguring for me in revealing who it was that God saw me to be. Elaine and I joined First Presbyterian in Peachtree City and within a year, I was asked to consider being a Stephen Minister, and I had signed up for the Stephen Ministry training program, six months after that training ended, I went to Leadership Training and became a Stephen Leader. As I worked with Stephen Minister’s and care receiver’s, God began to put it on my heart that there was more I should be reaching out to, but I didn’t back then understand what that meant. As I would drive along streets lined with houses, the Spirit would bring into my mind, that behind every closed door, without exception, there was someone hurting, someone hiding, someone frightened, someone grieving and one way to open the door was for me to be able to reach out to them – but how. Stephen Ministry is a one on one ministry. It allows a care receiver, someone who is struggling with life at the present time, to have someone walk alongside them, a Stephen Minister and in so doing, reveal the cure giver, Jesus Christ is a part of their life and can and will bring them to wholeness once again. I needed to move on from the One to One, that was just a start and not the ultimate way for me, and it would take a few years longer before God finally broke though and we ended up in Seminary, but it began, the door cracked open, with my involvement in Stephen Ministry.   The power of the Stephen Ministry program, in some ways parallel the The Transfiguration Story.   Christ is present in all our lives, whether we care to acknowledge it or not. Even if we do, Christ’s presence can be obscured through what we are going through, it might be a single crisis, it might be the culmination of many, but Christ’s true identity is hidden. A Stephen Minister simply walks with someone in whatever they are going through and they are there for them. It is not for them to give all the answers or to set things straight or cure all ills or even remove the circumstances that brought about the crisis. No, they are there to reveal that the real cure giver, Jesus Christ is in their life regardless of them feeling all alone. It is there in crisis, that Christ can be revealed.   Peter called out in trying to make sense of what was going on and it can be like a potential care receiver making a self referral and requesting a Stephen Minister or maybe it’s like Peter intervening for James and John, looking for answers for them, so the path to understanding can begin for someone else.   A Stephen Minister in being with someone, can bring to light the words spoken from out of the cloud - “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” The events of life are not just erased, how can they be. Instead the hope of Jesus Christ is breathed into them and they take a different form or a different path.   Jesus, is the light in all of our lives, but the world, crisis, anxiety, fear and many other things can all obscure Christ’s presence. The care receiver is like someone who is looking up at the stars from the inside of a baseball field and the bright lights of a crisis in their lives prevent them for seeing the stars. A Stephen Minister can afford the opportunity for a hurting person, to take a walk together with them into the countryside, and during their time together as they journey, they can look up and see all the stars and realize that the cure giver, Jesus Christ has been there all the time and they themselves can be transfigured as a result. It’s a powerful ministry. One of the images that’s used during the training of a Stephen Minister is of two figures and a tree. One figure is in, what the psalmist describes as the miry pit. The second figure is halfway in the pit with a hand outstretched holding onto the hand of the first figure. The second figure’s other hand is holding fast onto the roots of the tree, which is Jesus Christ, grounded and rooted in Jesus enables the Stephen Minister to lead the first figure out of the miry pit and it is only possible in and through Jesus Christ.   [1]Let’s now take a moment and watch a video of Care Receiver’s reflecting upon their experiences with Stephen Ministers.   Lives transfigured, Christ’s true identity revealed in broken lives. A Stephen Minister can help in particular circumstances, but that doesn’t mean that the rest of us don’t have any role to play. We can show care for others who are struggling and one way is by suggesting they get a Stephen Minister, we can even request a Stephen Minister for ourselves. We too in our lives as we go about living, can reveal, can transfigure who Jesus Christ is in the lives of others by what we do, by what we say, by proclaiming Jesus Christ and being His hands and feet to a broken and hurting world. This week we begin the season of Lent – some are in the habit of giving something up for Lent – for instance, I grew up giving up chocolate for Lent every year. This Lent, let us focus instead on doing something different, let us focus upon transfiguring our own lives and transfiguring others around us, it might just be by offering to another the gift of Stephen Ministry and so revealing who Jesus Christ truly is – our Lord and our Savior, and all of God’s people said Amen.     Michael D. Bodger, M.Div. Pastor & Teaching Elder First Presbyterian Church 724 North Woodland Blvd. DeLand, Florida 32720  © 2018 Michael D. Bodger. Sermon manuscripts are available for the edification of members and friends of First Presbyterian Church, DeLand, Florida and may not be altered, re-purposed, published or preached without permission. All rights reserved. [1] Stephen Ministry Video. Go – God is with you! 1:00 – 2:36 minutes.