Readings: Exodus 34:29-35; Psalm 99; 2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2; Luke 9:28-36, 37-43
The Scripture readings today focus on transfiguration experiences. The first is the account of Moses returning from the mountain. He is changed as he returns from his encounter with God. His face shines from the experience. Of course his face shone. He had seen God. In fact it shines so much that it causes fear in Aaron and the Israelites. In further encounters with God he finds it necessary to mask himself when he returns. The story reinforces the importance of Moses as the one called by God to act as mediator and convey to the Hebrew people the ongoing messages from God. The message coming from Moses is alive. It brings life and light to the people if they are willing to hear it.
Paul too finds that his encounter with the risen Christ transforms all who experience it. He finds himself unmasked when he turns to Jesus. There is a new relationship. There is a new freedom. He sees Christ in all of his risen glory. Paul knows that the more you look at the divine glow in Jesus the more your life carries that same glow. He sees it not in terms of ecstatic experiences but in terms of love and compassion.
And on the mountain of transfiguration, not only is our Lord changed, but also the disciples who share the experience. It radically changes their relationship with him. In that mountaintop experience they catch a glimpse of the glory to come. They experience a moment of rapture. They hear the voice of God calling Jesus “my chosen Son”. Reflected in that same glory they begin to know themselves. They see all that they are meant to be. They are transformed into God’s own likeness. It is for them a call to action, a call to change, a call to be.
There are times in our Christian journey when we ascend the mountain with Jesus. There on the mountaintop we come to know him in his glory. Reflected in that glory we begin to know ourselves, to know all that we are meant to be. We too are called to the heights, to greatness. We are called to be transformed into God's own likeness. We are called to know the glory of God and to see it in our lives. Jesus Christ lived human life in such a way as to show that it was capable of transformation. In the same way God will bring about such a transformation in the whole of creation. The guarantee of our faith is that it will be worth it despite all of the difficult and painful things that happen in our life journey.
The problem is we often fail to see the glory that surrounds us. And if we do, we don’t allow it to transform the dreariness of our lives, because to allow that transformation to take place would mean to change our perspective. All too easily we allow the problems in our lives, the fears, to take hold.
We live in troubling times. Our world is crying out for transformation. That is obvious when we consider how many of the world’s leaders can simply ignore climate change. It is even more obvious when we consider the terrible event that took place in Christchurch two days ago. What a tragedy it is when people of faith cannot worship God without facing hatred from those who do not agree with them!
It is in these troubling times that we most need to step aside for a while, to find a quiet space in which we can pour out our hearts to God, in which we can climb the mountain of transfiguration and know God's presence as we pray and listen.
It is at such times that we need to allow the ordinary bread and wine of our existence to be held up before God to be transformed by his love into the body and blood of Christ. It is the time to allow word and table to transform our hearts. It is the time to experience the glory of God that Jesus and the disciples experienced on the Mountain of Transfiguration. For we too are invited to climb the mountain, to experience the light of God shining in our lives and then to carry it out into the world where others may see it as well. We all have those experiences in our lives, times when we are transformed by the greatness of God.
There are such times scattered throughout my life. I was transformed by the greatness of God when I saw a double rainbow stretching across the sky. I was transformed by the greatness of God when I watched the northern lights dance, when I saw the world transformed by a fresh snowfall, when I viewed the glitter of the stars piercing through a dark wintry night. I was transformed by the greatness of God when I stood on a lookout in the Rockies surveying God's wonderful creation from the top of the world. I was transformed by the greatness of God when I sat in the sunshine at the lighthouse in Finisterre looking out over the Atlantic Ocean after completing the first part of my Camino.
I was transformed by the greatness of God at a moment of conversion when I realized the utter reality of God, through answered prayer, on the wonderful day when I was ordained.
I was transformed by the greatness of God when Alice shared her last moments of life with me, giving me a glimpse of the kingdom; when an elderly woman said, “Get out my brown shoes; I'm going dancing tonight”; when a child who was not expected to live past her first birthday came running up to the altar for a blessing; when an elderly man told me his childhood memories of his mother's words to him many years before as she lay dying, words that comforted him in his last moments of life.
I am transformed by the greatness of God when I listen to great music, when I hear the sweet voices of a children's choir, when I hear a great organ being played.
I am transformed by the greatness of God each time I offer bread and wine, inviting people to the table. I am transformed by the greatness of God when we all join together to pray, “Glory to God...” I am amazed because they are transformative moments in my life. They are glimpses of the glory of God, moments in my day in which the world is transfigured. They are moments when I know that God is reaching out to me.
Grace comes into our lives in so many unexpected ways. Our relationships with other people can be transformative experiences that break down the barriers between God and humankind. There are times of disclosure and vulnerability when we allow others to really see who we are. Those are the moments that most clearly shape our lives. Without such moments others would never really come to know who we are. We would never really come to know them. And we would miss out on great insights into the nature and essence of the God we worship.
There is a purpose to the Transfiguration event. It gives a glimpse of the glory of God, something that we humans find impossible to fully comprehend. It was a great and grand event, the mountaintop experience. In sharing in it, although we find ourselves back in the valley again, we do so holding on to the memory of the transfigured and resurrected Christ. That is a memory that transforms our lives and allows us to share the light of Christ with others on the journey.
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