It’s Transfiguration Sunday this week, so here’s my children’s sermon on Luke 9:28-36. (You can find my regular Monday Meditation on this passage here.)
The lectionary makes the next section of the chapter an optional extended version of the reading. I’m opting not to include it. Since it’s Transfiguration Sunday, the first part is crucial. The other section is really a different story altogether. (Though I love the way it shows how very human Jesus is–he’s so cranky, after his emphatically divine transfiguration.)
The challenge here is emphasizing to kids the central issue that the translations hide even from grown ups.
That is, the NRSV says Jesus, Moses, and Elijah were talking about Jesus upcoming “departure” in Jerusalem. That’s cryptic to the point of meaninglessness.
The Greek word translated “departure” is actually “exodus.” That should sound familiar: it’s the second book of the Bible, named specifically for the scene when Israel came out of slavery in Egypt through the parted waters of the Red Sea.
And, lo and behold, this helps explain why Elijah is there: he too miraculously parted the waters of the River Jordan and passed through. This was in his prophetic work of returning Israel to faithful life in the Covenant, you might say.
Now Jesus, the Messiah, will also have an exodus. No literal parting of waters—but the curtain in the Temple will be torn in two from top to bottom. And the people will be led out of slavery of another kind.
That’s pretty highfalutin’ stuff. We’ll see if it makes it into my children’s sermon on Luke 9:28-36.
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A Children’s Sermon on Luke 9:28-36
Good morning kids! I’m so glad you’re here today. Thanks for coming up to hear the children’s sermon.
Today is a very special Sunday in the church. This is the very last Sunday in the season of Epiphany.
For weeks and weeks we’ve heard stories about how Jesus started his work in the world.
- He got baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan.
- He did a miracle, turning water into wine.
- He told his hometown that he was the Messiah.
- He taught people and he healed people.
Well, in today’s story we see how Jesus showed his very best friends who he really was and what he really came to do.
This day is called “Transfiguration Sunday” because of what his friends saw. Here’s what happened.
Going for a Hike
One day, Jesus and his friends were camping at the bottom of a mountain.
Jesus said, “Hey Peter, James, John—come with me!”
“Where are we going?” Peter asked.
“We’re going for a hike together,” Jesus said. “Just the four of us. Up this mountain.”
“Oh man,” said Peter. “Do we have to? I was looking forward to just relaxing today.”
“Look, Peter,” Jesus said, “I want to go up there and have some good prayer time. It’ll be like a little retreat. And I want you three with me because you’re my closest friends. Okay?”
“Alright.” Peter said.
So they headed up the trail.
Time to Pray
After a while, when they were pretty high up on the mountain, Jesus said, “This looks like a good place. You guys wait over there while I pray, okay?”
James said, “Boy, I’m tired after hiking all the way up here. I think I’m going to take a nap while you pray.”
But Jesus said, “I’d rather you all stayed awake. Hey, I know: How about you pray too!”
“Okay,” James said. “But I don’t know much about praying.”
“Oh,” said Jesus. “Well, I’ll teach you more about praying another time. For today, just watch me.”
So, they all tried to stay awake and watch Jesus.
While they watched, some very surprising things started to happen.
First, Jesus seemed to shine with light. Then his clothes became blindingly bright. He was like a night light in a dark room! He was like the sun on a summer day!
Peter, James, and John shielded their eyes from the glare, but they kept watching.
Suddenly they saw that Jesus wasn’t alone. Two other men were standing there, talking with him.
“Who are those guys?” asked Peter.
“I don’t know!” said John. “Let’s listen and see if we can figure it out.”
They missed the start of the conversation, but one of the strangers said, “It will be kind of like the first Exodus—when I led the people of Israel out of slavery in Egypt.”
“Right!” said the other one. “You parted the waters of the Red Sea. Just like later, when I parted the waters of the River Jordan!”
“Hey you guys,” said Jesus. “You know it wasn’t really you parting the waters!”
“Okay, fine,” said the first guy. “God did the miracle. But I had to be there and raise my staff, and things the that.”
“Yeah,” said the second guy. “God parted the waters, but I had to smack the river with my cloak.”
“Hey!” said John. “That must be Moses and Elijah!”
“That’s right!” said James. “Moses led the Exodus of Israel through the Red Sea. And Elijah parted the River Jordan!”
“Shh!” said Peter. “I want to hear what they’re saying.”
“Okay,” said James. “But don’t be so bossy.”
A New Exodus
“The point,” Moses told Jesus, “is that you’re leading an exodus too–a NEW Exodus. what you do in Jerusalem will lead the people out of their slavery to sin.”
“Right,” said Elijah. “You’ll lead them through the waters to freedom.”
“Waters?” said Jesus. “Am I supposed to part the Sea of Galilee or something?”
“No,” said Moses. “They’ll all go through the waters of baptism.”
A Not-So-Good Idea
Just about then Peter stood up and said, “Wow Jesus! this is so cool! You know what we should do? We should build three little houses, you know? One for each of you. Then you could live up here, and the people could come up and talk to you about their problems! If they get sick, you could heal them. Or if they don’t understand the law they could ask Moses! I mean, he wrote it, right? And if they’re worried about the future thy could ask Elijah, because, you know, he’s a prophet!”
John started tugging Peter’s sleeve. “Peter! Sit down!” he said.
And honestly Peter didn’t know what he was talking about.
But then a thick dark cloud rolled in on the mountain. Everything got so foggy that Peter, James, and John couldn’t see a thing.
And from the middle of the cloud came a voice:
What you should really do is listen to Jesus!
He’s my son!
Jesus is my chosen one!
But then the cloud cleared—and Moses and Elijah were gone. It was just Jesus. And Jesus looked normal again.
They went back down the mountain. But they didn’t tell anybody what they’d seen. Not for a long time.
- I wonder what it felt like to see Jesus shining with God’s glory?
- I wonder why Peter, James. and John didn’t tell anyone about what they saw?
- I wonder if they took God’s advice afterwards and listened to Jesus?
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