Transfiguration | Bob Reid

The Transfiguration

 “While he was speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the clouds a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him.”-Matthew 17

“I would do anything humanly possible to have you leave this service knowing that you are implicated in the transfiguration of Jesus.”

The Transfiguration of Jesus refers to the occasion on which Jesus climbs to the top of a mountain with Peter, James, and John. While they are at the top of the mountain, Jesus’ appearance is transfigured into a dazzling vision and Elijah and Moses appear alongside of him. The disciples hear the voice of God affirm who Jesus is. It is an odd scene-dramatic and fantastic. It is not a story that I (or most people, I assume) feel personally implicated in. So, when Bob leaned forward and said in earnest, that he hopes that we leave feeling implicated, he had my interest peaked.

What does this bright episode of light and sound mean for me? Bob began by pointing out that for Peter (as evidenced in 2 Peter 1), the Transfiguration was a moment of clarity about Jesus’ identity that gave the disciples and assurance of who Jesus was. In this moment on the mountain, the veil is pulled back on Jesus’ identity and he is revealed in his glory. The event occurs on the Sabbath day in three gospels and on the 8th day (the day of the resurrection) in Luke. The point being that in this moment of transfiguration, things are the way they were meant to be. Alongside of Moses Christ is revealed as the fulfillment of the law. Alongside of Elijah he is the great prophet.

We are invited to participate in transfiguration as well. From glory to glory, Paul says. In Jesus’ transfiguration, the veil is pulled back. For a moment things are the way they are supposed to be. The New Testament talks about our own transfiguration as we are united to Christ. Our union with him transforms us so that it is “no longer I who live, but Christ in me.” There are moments in our lives where the veil is pulled back and we can behold the glory of God in a brother, sister, or enemy. We can see them as they really are. Perhaps there are times when we look in the mirror and realize that the promise spoken over Jesus, “This is my beloved with whom I am well pleased,” is spoken over us.

Prayers of the People

Lord God, We are in need of a glimpse of Jesus who is the truth – the truth that love is stronger than hate; peace is possible; and life can emerge even in the midst of devastation. We pray for that truth to be known:

We are in need of a glimpse of Jesus who is the life; inviting us to follow in his footsteps as he trod the way of love and justice, inviting us to follow him in prayer as he lived out his faith and made You known.

We give thanks for the good news that unfolds in the world as people dream your dreams, follow your nudging, and seek you in the faces they meet each day. Perhaps, O God, it is the only Transfiguration we really need.

Lord God, Renew and restore a vision of care for your creation. Remind us to take what we need and no more. Encourage us in a counter-cultural faithfulness that is not about consumerism. Spur us with new insight and deeper understanding that we may live mindfully each day, conscious of the impact of we do and fail to do.

Draw us to the rhythm of Lent as it unfolds in our midst; a sacred invitation to explore the corners of our soul. Open us to your light that we might see ourselves clearly, with all our fears and faults and faith, with all our desires and dreams and duties. Help us to see our journey as a place of your appearing – that like Peter, James, and John we may come down from the mountain and set one foot in front of the other in your name and for your sake.

Lord in your mercy....Hear our Prayer

Moses? February 7

By Bob Reid

Texts in view: 2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2; Luke 9:28-36

How to explain Jesus to the world? This is the question that the authors of the New Testament faced as they wrote their gospels and letters. Often, they turned to the story of Israel, looking for metaphors that would be adequate to the task of setting forth the meaning of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. On Transfiguration Sunday the lectionary brought us to two passages of scripture where two of the most powerful metaphors of Israel’s story are applied to Jesus: TheExodus and the giving of the law on Mount Sinai.

In the mysterious transfiguration of Jesus we encounter Jesus in the company of Elijah and Moses, who are mysteriously brought by the Holy Spirit back into this world just for this moment. Luke tells us that “they appeared in glory and were speaking of his <Jesus’> departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem”. The word used for departure is literally, exodus. And with the use of that word we are transported back to God’s emancipation of Israel in the great Exodus from Egypt; and to Moses’ own mountaintop experience when God gives him the Law, Holy Torah, for the well being of the people. The experience of Moses’ in God’s presence during the receiving of the Torah is just about as mysterious as what happens to Jesus during his transfiguration. Moses’ multiple encounters with God around the giving of Torah cause his face to shine so brightly, radiating God’s glory, that he has to cover his face with a veil whenever he talks to the Israelites.

Here is snippet from Exodus 34: “When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, the skin of his face was shining, and they were afraid to come near him…. but whenever Moses went in before the Lord to speak with him, he would take the veil off, until he came out; and when he came out, and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, the Israelites would see the face of Moses, that the skin of his face was shining; and Moses would put the veil on his face again, until he went in to speak with him.”.

Poignantly, the glory that Moses brought with the giving of the Torah fades more that in shines in Israel’s history and the Old Testament ends with this promise: “I will send you the prophet Elijah before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of parents to their children and the hearts of children to their parents, so that I will not come and strike the land with a curse.”

Fast forward to Jesus’ transfiguration. Elijah has already come figuratively in John the Baptist (Mark 9:13) but he comes literally at Jesus’ transfiguration. Together with Moses he speaks of the New Exodus, Jesus’ death on the cross, his “departure” (Luke 9:31). The torch has been passed and the events in Jerusalem will be the fulfillment of God’s promise to bring a lasting peace and reconciliation: there will be no curse because Jesus will have bear the curse on the cross. The glory of the cross will be a lasting glory and available to everyone. No veils anymore. St. Paul was not present at the Transfiguration of Jesus and yet the glory of Jesus that burned hot in the form of love for Paul knocked him off his horse and transformed his life (Acts 9).

Previously bent on destroying the church, Paul became its most fervent missionary. And about two decades later he will write the following words to the church at Corinth: “Since, then, we have such a hope, we act with great boldness, not like Moses, who put a veil over his face to keep the people of Israel from gazing at the end of the glory that was being set aside. But their minds were hardened. Indeed, to this very day, when they hear the reading of the old covenant, that same veil is still there, since only in Christ is it set aside. Indeed, to this very day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their minds; but when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And 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.”

Caleb wrapped up his homily by urging us to receive the truth that now, because of Jesus, we can each carry around the glory of Jesus on our faces! - as we embody the same self-giving love that enacted Jesus’ “exodus” in Jerusalem. Our faces carry Jesus’ glory as we love and serve others in his name; our faces shine forth his glory when we receive God’s forgiveness and depend on God’s grace to enable us to live in conformity with what is good for us, good for others, and pleasing to God. Jesus’ glory is on our face when we take communion, when we love our children, and when we make a plate of food for those in need. Jesus’ glory is everywhere now! May we become better and better at drawing attention to it!

Caleb urged us to see the mystery in the passages in Luke and Corinthians as wonderful examples of Jesus’ followers straining to find metaphors that do justice to the wonder of Jesus and all that they had experienced with him and from him. Pregnant and palpable in Caleb’s words were the exhortation to each of us to strain until we find words and symbols that explain Jesus to those with whom we have to do. May God give us the grace to do just that.