2 Kings 2:1-12; Mark 9:2-9
February 15, 2015
The first time we visited Niagara Falls we only had our two older sons. For me, the experience of the tunnel behind the Horseshoe (Canadian) Falls was awe-filled worship. Watching and hearing the power of the rushing water prompted an urge to lie prostrate and weep. Though I resisted prostration, I wept. I knew it could all be explained by geology, hydraulics and physics, but I’d been encountered by the holy. Transfiguration Sunday asks if we have space in our lives, our minds, our souls for what we can’t explain.
Just as the church’s calendar turns toward Lent, Jesus’ Transfiguration turns him toward the cross. All 3 synoptic Gospels report it, and today we will hear the story from Mark 9:2-9. Peter made his confession that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and Jesus announced that he would suffer, die and rise again, to which Peter objected and was rebuked by Jesus. Jesus called those who would follow him to take up their cross, and he said some there would see the power of the Kingdom of God.
Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, 3and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. 4And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. 5Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 6He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. 7Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” 8Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus. 9As 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.
Moses and Elijah also had inexplicable experiences. The pillar of cloud and fire accompanied Israel for 40 years in the wilderness. Moses’ face glowed after he came down from Mt. Sinai or met with God in the Tabernacle. (Exodus 34:29-35) Elijah was carried to heaven by a whirlwind accompanied by a chariot of fire. (2 Kings 2:1-12) Fire and cloud are often signs of God’s presence.
We can domesticate, diminish and dilute these familiar stories instead of standing in awe of the God who wants to transfigure us to be like Christ, radiating God’s glory.
Theologian Frederick Buechner has observed that once in a while a father walking with his child in the park, or a woman baking bread, or someone standing barefoot in the sand watching the waves is so touching, so alive, so incandescent it transfigures the human face almost beyond bearing.
I saw that in one of the mentally handicapped core members when we lived at Daybreak in Ontario. Though of limited ability, Dave was able to take a turn assisting in serving communion. When he put on the alb and distributed cup and bread, he knew he was handling the holy, and his face glowed. I said to Candy, “That must be what Moses looked like after being with God.”
The word translated “Transfigured” in Mark 9:2 and Matthew 17:2 is metamorphoo. Paul used the same word in Romans 12:2 to describe our transformation and connects us with Moses and Christ in 2 Corinthians 3:18. “All of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.”
As we meditate on Jesus’ Transfiguration, Paul invites, no urges, us to remove our protective veils that explain and obscure the glory of Christ and gaze unswervingly into his glory so the Spirit can transfigure us from one degree of Christ’s glory to another.
|C. H. Makoff|
The voice of Jesus’ Heavenly Father reprised the words from Jesus’ baptism, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” Our Heavenly Father tells us how we can be transfigured to become like Christ, radiating God’s glory.
“This is my Son.” Do you want to know God and see God’s glory? Gaze unswervingly at Jesus. This is not about theological assertions. It is watching him live.
“The Beloved.” From his Transfiguration on, Jesus relentlessly headed to the cross to deal with everything that shuts us off from God’s love. In Jesus, God identifies us with Christ, so in him, we too are the beloved.
“Listen to him.” Pay attention to how Jesus spoke to the people around him, especially from here to the cross. Listen to who he says they are and what God has done for them as well as the instructions he gave.
Paul wrote of “seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror.” To be sure, when we are transfigured “from one degree of glory to another,” it is Christ’s glory, not our own. But “being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” goes deeper than bouncing the glory of Christ off our shiny lives. It is more like spiritual phosphorescence. When glow in the dark novelties are exposed to light, they store the energy and release it gradually in the dark. Similarly, when we are exposed to the glory of Christ, we radiate it into the darkness around us.
Phosphorescent chemicals each have what is called a triplet lifetime that predicts how long they keep glowing after the light goes off. What is your spiritual triplet lifetime? How long will the glory of Christ glow from you since your last time of basking in his glory?
Lent is a season of spiritual renewal and refreshment. It starts on Wednesday, and I hope you will join us for Stone Soup Supper and Ash Wednesday worship to start the season under the bright light of Jesus’ glory.I wouldn’t presume to predict your spiritual triplet lifetime, but I know I need a pretty intense daily exposure to the light of Jesus’ glory every day. Though I read from the Hebrew Scriptures and the Epistles daily also, I make sure I’ve spent focused time with Jesus in one of the Gospels. I dare not let familiarity dilute the stringent wine of the Gospel.