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Transfiguration Sunday

Dear Members and Friends of our ELS:

Rollercoasters and my stomach do not agree. Yielding to peer pressure as a teen to ride the curvy rails, I was thankful that no videotape documented my white-knuckled grip with eyes glued shut. You, on the other hand, could well have enjoyed such a thrill—at least you said you did!

Sometimes our religious or spiritual lives can seem like a rollercoaster ride. This type of ride is never fun. One moment you are at an uplifting church service; a day or two later you are hit with devastating news. One day you are sharing the love of Christ with a needy soul; on another, you might find yourself complaining as if God did not care.

Transfiguration Sunday, February 19, is a high point in our church year. But don’t forget the previous week, as explained in Matthew 16. St. Peter was on a spiritual rollercaster. At the peak, he made a great confession: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  Jesus commended this bold affirmation of faith and spoke of giving out the keys of the kingdom. Moments later, Jesus explained how He as Savior would need to suffer, die and rise again. Peter’s feelings took a serious dive. He objected to his Lord, “This shall never happen to you!” The coaster sank even deeper when Jesus said to him, “Get behind be me, Satan!” Peter wanted glory for Jesus, but did not fully grasp the mission of the cross and what this would mean for Him, for you and me, and for the whole world of sinners. Then, in just a matter of days, Peter’s soul coaster was at an apex. Peter, James and John witnessed the brillance of Jesus’ divine majesty on top of a high mountain. What a sight it must have been (Matthew 17:2)! Read what Peter later wrote in 2 Peter 1:16–21.

When we have our own up and down moments, let us not forget the critical juxtaposition of Jesus’ description of His death at Calvary—what Peter mistakenly saw as a low point—and the high mountian experience of glory. The One who goes to the cross on His resolute mission to pay in full the price of justice for our sins is the One who possesses the full power and majesty of the universe. If God goes to the cross and sheds blood for us, how can we fail to have forgiveness for every sin and the certainty of His everlasting love? This He did for Peter and for us!  This He did for all.  A Bible scholar classified the Transfiguration of Jesus as a “beacon- fire” moment. In Old Testament times, the Jews had a custom of lighting beacon-fires from hill to hill, announcing to those at a distance from Jerusalem the approaching day of a feast. Alfred Edersheim says, “So does the glory kindled on the Mount of Transfiguration shine through the darkness of the world and tell of the Resurrection Day.”

Can we engage others with Jesus, serving as beacon-fires?

John A. Moldstad