Transfiguration is confusing and tricky. Mostly sermons on Transfiguration Sunday have to do with “mountain top” experiences fueling us for work in the “valleys.” What if there is more to it than that? What if witnessing or experiencing some sort of Transfiguration is what allows us to do the work of bringing Divine Love into the world?
At this moment, there is all out war in Ukraine as Putin seeks to obliterate Ukraine’s sovereignty. There’s a variant of Omicron that is both more contagious and more severe than the Omicron itself threatening another surge in COVID numbers. The Texas governor is trying to criminalize being Trans* or providing treatment for Trans* children and youth. Here in the Twin Cities teachers are poised for strike. These are just a few of the stressors in life right now. I’ve made no mention of the stress any one of us might be facing from grief to health concerns to financial difficulties to addictions and on down the list. What on earth can Transfiguration mean amidst all of this?
Given the wider context in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus’ disciples were a bit weary at this point. They had been out teaching and healing. They had witnessed Jesus feeding 5000+ people with very little food. They were seriously thinking that Jesus was, indeed, the long-awaited Messiah. They were always surrounded by crowds. Perhaps Peter, James, and John were starting to show a bit of exhaustion at this point, more than the others. For reasons known only to Jesus, he took these three with him when he went up the mountain to pray.
That’s when it happened. Jesus became dazzlingly bright and appeared with two others, also dazzling. Peter was certain that the appropriate thing was to build an altar so they could hang out and wait for God to show up again. Then came the cloud and the voice proclaiming Jesus as God’s Chosen, one to whom they should listen. Terror silenced them for the night, and maybe for quite a while after.
The next day they came down off the mountain to discover that the other disciples weren’t doing very well. They, too, were flagging in energy and maybe in faith as well. They couldn’t heal the boy brought to them. Yet, Jesus did and made his disappointment known. We don’t know why the disciples failed. I suspect it had something to do with recognizing the “greatness of God.”
There is no doubt that there is much in need of healing in the world around us today, just as there was in Jesus’ day. And we are often overcome with weariness, if not outright despair. Our prayers alone won’t be enough to stop Putin, prevent another surge in COVID numbers, change the heart of the Texas governor, avoid a teachers’ strike, or protect us from any of the other stressors we are negotiating. However, I do wonder how long it has been since any of us have gone off to a quiet place to seek out the glory of God. How long has it been since you have sat still or quiet for more than a few minutes? How long as it been since you recognized God moving in your life or in the world around you?
My theory is that Transfiguration isn’t as uncommon as we think; we just fail to notice. We are so busy staving off stress, that we forget that the world is filled with the glory of God, that we are filled with the glory of God. I don’t suspect that many of us have witnessed the kind of Transfiguration recorded in the Gospels. This doesn’t mean that we haven’t witnessed or experienced Transfiguration at all.
Have you ever had to do a double-take because you caught a glimpse of something in someone that you hadn’t seen before – a sparkle, a shine, a touch of dazzle? Instead of dismissing these moments as figments of our imaginations, perhaps we’d be better served by giving thanks for a glimpse of glory, a trickle of Transfiguration. Then, maybe, a bit of our weariness will be lifted and we will have the energy, the faith, the hope needed to continue the works of healing in the world.
There’s a connection between our capacity to recognize Transfiguration and be awed by it, and our ability to bring Divine Love into the world. Imagine how different the world could be if we stopped giving in to ego-driven fear and hatred and started to seek out Spirit-driven dazzle?