“May the words from my lips and the meditations of our hearts always be pleasing to you O God.”
Today is transfiguration Sunday a festival day in our Church calendar and a hinge between the seasons of Advent, Christmas & Epiphany and Lent & Easter. This Sunday we celebrate the mystery of Christ.
Today’s readings all hang together and compliment one another. When considered together they give greater depth to the Gospel story of Jesus and his closest disciples on the mountain.
In scripture a mountain location often signals important doings. Moses is on a mountain, experiences the glory of God and is given the tablets that contain the commandments for how God’s people are to live. In 2 Peter as in Matthew, the story is about Jesus on a mountain and how he is changed. We have mountains and clouds and fire and voices and so we are well aware that the story is about a direct encounter with God.
In our Gospel the words from Jesus’ baptism are repeated with an additional command to the disciples to “listen to him”.
In our scripture today things change - people are changed because of an encounter with God. In Church land we use the term transfigured. We say that Jesus’ appearance was changed - that he was transfigured. We do not usually use that word in regular conversation! Perhaps a more familiar word for us is transformed.
But the Gospel tells us that for Jesus this encounter was more than a transformation. Jesus is transfigured - we are transformed with our encounters with Jesus, God, the Holy Spirit but our form does not change. We can only be transformed in our interior selves.
The story of what happened to Jesus on the mountain was all about revelation - a confirmation of Jesus’ status - divine.
It is tempting each year to try to explain the transfiguration. Tempting - but not really a good idea. It is impossible to explain. How could I explain the inexplicable? I realize each year that I struggle to explain alot of things - adequately to myself and others. Maybe this is part of Micah’s instruction to walk humbly with your God? Admitting that I do not know very much and that I am lacking answers to most of the big questions in life.
So my job is proclamation not explanation.
I can proclaim what the Gospel teaches - that Jesus was both human and divine and that his divinity was revealed in some way - some how to his closest friends.
And then it was back to work - proclaiming the kingdom of God, teaching, preaching and healing and in so doing coming up against religious and political authorities that feared social unrest.
They did not, could not stay on the mountain. The work was down below. The work of the disciples - our work is to get down the mountain and share the promise Jesus brought. A promise needed so desperately by a world in despair and looking for hope. We cannot know what “really” happened in this experience. We cannot know what the occasion was really like. We cannot and must not turn the biblical account of it into fact.
What is significant is not the “special effects”. What is significant is what it affirms about the early Church’s foundational beliefs about Jesus. They believed that he was not yet another exceptional human being, prophet or great teacher and example for all. They believed that he was the representation of the divine.
And so do we.
What about that word transformation or transformational? What does it mean for us to be changed? To re-orient ourselves to God. To follow the nudging of the Holy Spirit? It is a congregational thing and a personal thing.
For many years the future of Advent has been on our minds. To that end the past year has been spent looking at ourselves currently, dreaming of the future and creating a vision from which to begin. This has also included a nod to the past and the legacy that we have been given. We are the beneficiary of hard work and sacrifice and big dreams and a beautiful space to worship. Some practical steps have been taken with conversations and advice from people who have done this work and from people who look to the future and who help make dreams possible.
But to make the dreams possible - dreams like a vibrant community, a building that welcomes many people for many different reasons a place that has life and energy something has to change. Transformation - perhaps even transfiguration may be necessary.
We need to be able to see Advent differently. This means an openness to discernment. This means an openness to the guidance and nudging of the Holy Spirit. But it also means being faithful to God and the teachings of Jesus.
As we consider transformation or transfiguration our guidance comes from our traditions, our scripture and our sacraments. To work for the Kingdom here on earth. To do what we can to love our neighbour, to do justice and love kindness. To care for the lonely, the grieving, those suffering in anyway. To continue to ensure that this place - this space is a safe place. To ensure that all are welcome.
As we seek transformation or even transfiguration we can also be guided byJesus’ words to his friends on the mountain. The disciples saw a change in Jesus, they fell down in fear. And a human hand reached out and touched them and said do not be afraid. A divine hand reached out and touched them and said do not be afraid.