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Cloaked In The Cloud

Luke 9:28-36

The Rev. Jon Roberts

6 August

2017

Calvary Episcopal Church

Indian Rocks Beach, FL

28 Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And as he was praying, the appearance of his countenance was altered, and his raiment became dazzling white. And behold, two men talked with him, Moses and Eli′jah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep, and when they wakened they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. And as the men were parting from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is well that we are here; let us make three booths, one for you and one for Moses and one for Eli′jah”—not knowing what he said. As he said this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silence and told no one in those days anything of what they had seen.

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The Transfiguration by Rafael, 1516

Cloaked in the Cloud,
The voice came to them.
“This is my Son, my Chosen. Listen to Him!”[1}

Peter, James, and John went up to Mt. Tabor in Israel with our Lord. The Transfiguration was an actual, memorable, accurate and real event where these disciples had a mountaintop experience. The painter Rafael illustrates the scene with our Lord gleaming in radiant white, hands outstretched and rising below. To his left was Moses and to his right was Elijah. It is glorious.

Origen, the 2nd Century theologian, would have agreed with this portrayal as he often related the Transfiguration to the Resurrection and Ascension of Christ. The placement of the event on the calendar shifted in the 15th Century. Many theologians believed that although it would historically occur before his final trip to Jerusalem, it felt like a continuation of Easter. For that reason, we have always gone by August 6th for its dating.

In the Rite I penitential order, the summary of the Law in our Prayer Book affirms the first, and only two commandments that Jesus gave. We are called to love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, and soul. We are called to love our neighbors as ourselves. “On these two commandments, hang all the law and the prophets.”[2] Moses (The Law) and Elijah (The Prophets), appear because this is God’s way of delivering on his promise. It is the Hebrew Shema, where we are one with God, from the Old Testament to the New.
God was calling all people, both Jew and Gentile to listen to His Son. He was preparing the world for the message of salvation in a way that had never been heard or seen before. Yet, God used a similar plan. Who in the Bible, did God call to be His messenger and deliver His people? Both Moses, in the people of the Exodus, delivering them from the hand of the Egyptians and Elijah who defended the Jewish God against the hand of the Canaanites. They both were given instructions by God on a mountain. They both witnessed God in a pillar of smoke, “Cloaked in a Cloud.” Moses went up to Mt. Sinai. Elijah went up to Mt. Carmel. Jesus went up to Mt. Tabor.

There is something significant about going up a mountain, away from the “others.” Jesus went up to a mountain to be transfigured. Transformation and Transfiguration are akin but not the same. We are transformed when something has influenced us so, that we want to make a change, a good change.{3} Transfiguration is when something is revealed in a new reality that was not seen before. It is not that the person changed their hair, their color, or their gender. Oh, no there is much interest these days in these things. Those are cosmetic and artificial. A transfiguration is when someone has been revealed in a new way, which was never comprehended before. Jesus was with his disciples all this time and yet they did not really know who he was. It took the examples of Moses and Elijah; It took a pillar of cloud; It took the voice from God saying, “This is my Son, My Chosen. Listen to Him?”

We, in the Church have been brought to this understanding through our sacred traditions. By Jesus being revealed to us in a new light, we are transformed; at our Baptism; at our Confirmation; at times of Unction, Matrimony, Ordination, and of course at the Eucharist. We are like Moses and Elijah, the disciples, Peter, James, and John; like the painter, Raphael or the theologian, Origen who are transformed by God’s voice when we are called by Him. In the Church Adults are called to be transformed by Christ by attending moments like Cursillo. Youth are called to be transformed by Christ by attending moments like the St. Michaels conference. We simply see Jesus in a new light. Somewhere, cloaked in the cloud of transfiguration, all these people knew who was in their midst. It was God. This morning many will see a holy procession filled with smoke. This cloud is meant to be like that of the experiences here told. We hear God’s voice, saying, “This is my Son, My Chosen. Listen to Him!” This is what Church is supposed to be like. Does not our Savior transfigure within the chalice and pall? Does not His Body become one with ours? We come to Church to be filled with good things, and we leave, ready to share this with others.

In just a week or two, many will have to return to their, “Jerusalem,” like Jesus and the disciples did after the Transfiguration. School will resume and the routine of work overrides the plans of vacation and time away. Church is that one opportunity in our week be filled with the Holy Spirit. All who returned from the St. Michaels Conference (W. Hartford, CT) will attest that they were on a mountaintop. It was an actual, memorable, accurate and real event for them. Many are crying today, overwhelmed by what they saw and heard. They yearn to return. Have you been on the top of a mountain and was there a time when you were “Cloaked in a Cloud?”

This day, God is calling you and He will be revealed in a new light. By Word and Sacrament? By Law or prophecy? But certainly, really, God is revealed in the figure of Jesus the Christ, exalted above all. Go therefore and be Cloaked in the Cloud as God is speaking to you. He says, “This is My Son, My Chosen. Listen to Him.” We are not called to build a booth. We are called to be mirrors, who reflect God’s glory. Here, at the top of the mountain, in the Church, Christ has been transfigured in order that we may be transformed.

[1] Luke 9:28-36
[2] Matthew 22:37-40
[3] 1 Corinthians 3:12-4:2

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