Thursday, February 16, 2012

Transfiguration and Beyond

Sunday, Feb. 19, is the last Sunday in the first cycle of the church year. That cycle is Advent-Christmas-Epiphany. The Sunday is Transfiguration Sunday when Jesus appears to Peter, James and John on the mountain. Jesus is “high and lifted up” and appears with Moses and Elijah. The next week the second cycle of the church year starts: Lent, Easter, Pentecost.

Transfiguration means to change forms. The Greek word for transfiguration is the word from which we get metamorphosis. Every school child learns about metamorphosis.

It’s interesting to me that Jesus does not invite all of his disciples into this experience, only his closest three. If this were the modern day, and we had been left out of this experience, we would say things like: “Why was I not included?” or “I have a right to be there.” Or “I’m as good as Peter, James and John.”

Maybe the same kinds of questions came up with the other disciples- we don’t know. All we know is that Peter, James and John are there, and Jesus appears with Moses and Elijah. It’s not hard to figure that out. Moses, the first Lawgiver, the one who met with God as a man with his friend, the one who gave Israel the Law, is there. Elijah, the first of the prophets is there, the one who was used by God in mighty ways and then take up to heaven in a chariot of fire.

There bathed in dazzling light is the whole history of Israel. The disciples see and experience the glory of God. And, it is so dazzling, so amazing, so overwhelming, that they fall on their faces. Fear? Awe?

Peter says: “Lord let’s build three booths.” Peter wanted to house it, to frame it. The experience was so moving that he wanted to put it in cement and keep it forever. That’s why we build churches, to house our experience of God. You can’t really house God, says Einstein. But, you can house the experience of God. You can mark the spot where God appeared. Our sacred buildings mark the sport where God has been met with.

But, like any experience, this experience is fleeting. It doesn’t last forever. Remember the last time when something so good happened to you and you wanted it to last forever. The older I get the more I want a point in time to last forever.

We don’t know how long it lasted. However long- it passed. And, says Mark, the disciples were there all alone with Jesus alone.

Jesus was doing most of his ministry in Northern Galilee, now with this experience he is moving south. He goes down the mountain and immediately gets back to his ministry, but now his ministry is going toward Jerusalem. Jesus sets his face to go to Jerusalem.

So, the church moves with Jesus to the season of Lent. We all know what happens next.

This experience was a confirmation of who Jesus was and is. It was a affirmation of Jesus as the Son of God indeed. Now, he is ready for what is ahead. Now, with the light of God piercing his being, Jesus is ready for the cross. The disciples? Are they ready? Hardly? Are we?

Look at that experience and get one more sight of Jesus in dazzling light. You’ll need that in the days ahead.

Dave Nichols

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