30 Aug Last Sunday before Lent, February 23rd, 2020
Holy Gospel: xxx
O God of the covenant, the cloud of your splendour and the fire of your love revealed your Son on the mountain heights. Transform our lives in his image, write your law of love on our hearts, and make us prophets of your glory, that we may lead others into your presence. Amen
Today, the last Sunday before Lent, is designated in the Lectionary of the Episcopal Church as “Transfiguration Sunday” – the day that we commemorate when our Lord Jesus Christ went up to the mountain with Peter, James, and John and was transfigured before their eyes.
This is the second time where God has spoken out of the cloud to acknowledge that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Beloved. The first time being at the river Jordan at Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist which we heard on the first Sunday of the Epiphany Season. It seems appropriate then that, on this LAST Sunday of the Epiphany Season we hear again God affirming that Jesus is the Son of God.
This time is different though. First, Jesus is himself transfigured – his face is said to have shined like the sun and his clothing became dazzling white. Second, Moses and Elijah appear with Jesus and talk to him. Third, three of Jesus’ disciples are with him this time and they are witness to these events. In other words, they saw him for who he really is. Love in the flesh. Secure in being God’s beloved and unhesitatingly loving. Love poured down into him from God and poured out to others from within him. The Beloved and the Lover.
In the Epistle Reading from 2nd Peter, we have what sounds like a first-hand account of that event, coming from an eyewitness who affirms that the prophecy from Isaiah has, in fact, come to being. Peter goes further though to say that those to whom he is speaking should pay attention to that confirmation, in his words, as to a lamp shining in a dark place until the day dawns and the morning star rises in their hearts.
This sounds to be a call to those being addressed to have faith. How would that call be reflected in our own lives today? To hold on to belief in Christ, in his resurrection and by that glorious resurrection, in our own salvation? We can hold on to that faith, that lamp and, at the same time, allow the light to go forth from us into our world, our lives, our surroundings because, as St. Matthew wrote in Chapter 5 which we heard two weeks ago, No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
And yet strangely, Jesus wants that light hidden for now. He tells his companions to tell no one about the vision, at least not until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead. Imagine, if we ourselves were in that place and in that time, would we have been able to hold this great secret, this great news to ourselves? The disciples knew, by Jesus’ works and teachings, who he was. The Transfiguration and God’s proclamation were just the final proof, the cherry on top if you will. But Jesus doesn’t want this news to be leaked, especially prematurely. We can only guess at his reasoning but I think that it is safe to say that, on that night, he knew towards what and to where his path was leading; to Jerusalem, to the cross, to death and to the resurrection.
There is more though to transfiguration than shining skin and dazzling clothing. What Peter, James, and John witnessed on that mountain was a physical manifestation of the Holy Spirit made visible to mortal eyes. Not only in the visual transformation but also in the Word of God coming to them. And their reaction to that voice, that Word? Matthew tells us that they fell to the ground in fear. They were afraid.
Where are we, in our lives, witness to transfiguration? I don’t mean like the disciples witnessed with shining skin, dazzling clothing and booming voices from the clouds but in our modern day lives and context. More importantly, are we then afraid? Do we feel fear? Or do we even notice?
I used some of these examples in my last sermon too but, isn’t taking time to listen to someone when they need an ear a moment of transfiguration? How about that person that holds the door open when we are entering or leaving a store? That smile at a stranger as you pass on the street? While some might say these are just examples of positive human nature at work, what IS “positive human nature” if not the momentary transfiguration into a Christ-like existence which, in itself, is fully human?
God, through the Son, lives in us and in our world. Right here, right now. Today. And God is capable of transforming and transfiguring each and every one of us, filling US with the Holy Spirit.
Maybe then it is a matter of perspective. Maybe, if instead of taking acts of kindness for granted or even dismissively, we look at them as moments of transfiguration, where the real and living God comes to humanity through Jesus Christ and acts out in our world . Maybe then we can accept these moments with gratitude and thanks. In living these moments in gratitude, thanksgiving, and praise, we can see the transfiguration of the world around us. We are bombarded with negative and horrible news on a daily basis, from political scandals to war to famine to forecasts of our own impending doom as a species and the destruction of our planet. That can make the world seem to be a very dark place. But each moment of kindness, each moment of grace that we encounter is like a candle, a lamp, driving some of that darkness away.
What would happen then if we take that idea forward and were to view those acts of kindness that WE do for others as moments of transfiguration? Because that IS what they are. Those are the moments when the Holy Spirit is working through us into the world around us. Imagine that! WE, as vessels filled with the Holy Spirit, the light of Christ, being active and present in the world. Not only do we see the light of Christ in others, we become “lamps” in our own right, shining with Christ’s light into the lives of those we encounter. We, my friends, become one with Christ. We too begin to shine with the light of the Holy Spirit and lighten the world in which we live.
We are all here today because we share a common faith – that Jesus Christ was and is the Son of God, that he lived, died, and rose again from the dead, that through him and his sacrifice for us, we are reconciled in Love to God. Part of that reconciliation is the ability, the privilege, yes the responsibility and duty even, to live into Christ and have Christ live in us. That means that we too are transformed, transfigured by the love of God. When we allow Christ’s light to shine into us, allow Christ’s love to work through us, we are living out God’s love for humanity. We are transfigured, filled with the Holy Spirit, and are living as the hands and feet of God in our world.
There is a pop culture phrase or meme says one can either be a candle in the darkness or a mirror to reflect the light of another candle. I would like to challenge all of us to be a candle because, you see, light is additive, the more candles that are lighted, the brighter the light becomes. That is the light of Jesus Christ shining forth in the world and that light, the light of the transfigured and Risen Christ, is a light like no other.