The Transfiguration – August 6, 2023
Luke 9:28-36

         The Transfiguration is not just an event in our Christian history, it is not simply a beginning and an end story. It is a condition or way of being. The Transfiguration reveals a present reality. In other words, the transfiguration is already within us and the world.  But are we awake enough to be able to perceive it?

The spiritual journey is always a battle between falling asleep and staying awake, between absence and presence, between darkness and light. Sleepiness is not simply a physical matter, it is a spiritual issue and condition. Spiritual sleep is a form of blindness. It blinds us to the beauty and holiness of the world, of other people, and ourselves. Blindness to God’s presence in the world and the goodness of creation is what allows us to do violence to one another and ourselves.

Peter, John, and James experienced the transfiguration of Jesus because they stayed awake despite the weight of sleep. They saw for the first time what has always been. They perceived the reality that Jesus was both human and divine. They saw the light of divinity fully manifest in a human being.

Peter, though, misunderstood. “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” Humanity can never build a dwelling place for God. It is, instead, God who makes humanity the dwelling place of divinity. And this is most profoundly revealed in the Transfiguration of Jesus. Notice that the work of that trinity, Jesus, Moses and Elijah, shows us that when we are together, God’s radiance can light each other’s lives. Also, we can only make sense of ourselves if the people who came before us are present in our struggle. Our ancestors come to us to give us a thick sense of the present and to say that they survived under the name of God and we can do that too. Glory is only possible if shared and that means that we are to share the light of Christ to the world, especially those placed in the shadows of our society. The Feast of the Transfiguration invites us to wipe the sleep from our eyes, behold what we are, and become what we see.

After months of living with Jesus and serving in his company, their eyes finally became refined enough to see Jesus in his majesty. In seeing Moses and Elijah next to Jesus their eyes were becoming spiritually mature enough to see that in Jesus the law and the prophets are fulfilled.

The story of the Transfiguration is about opening our eyes to glory, allowing that glory to alter us, and becoming willing to walk where it leads us. The story urges us to trust that what we have seen, what we have known, will go with us. It assures us that the gifts received on the mountaintop will continue to illuminate us not only on level ground, in our common, everyday life, but even when we walk in the valley of the shadow.

Becca Stevens in her book Sanctuary: Unexpected Places Where God Found Me, writes:

“I heard a wildlife expert call a deer a squirrel, meaning that they were common and weren’t worthy of our attention. So this morning, when a deer crossed my path by a field of larkspur, I took no notice of it. The scene before me was just plain common: a common deer running through a common field of wildflowers on a common day.

We have several common wildflowers in our state: there is the common daisy, the common daffodil, and then the horribly common dandelion. A few weeks ago my third son, Moses, came upon a group of dandelions in a field. It was right before the rains came. The wind picked up, and the dandelions began to dance about, nodding their white feather caps in the wind. Moses, not knowing that dandelions are common, nodded his head and began to dance with them.

One of the most common things on earth is a human being. Last I heard there were 6.5 billion of us, and yet we celebrate when there is one birth, mourn the loss of one person, marvel when one woman stays clean and sober from drugs. What can be seen as common and ordinary to some can be special and wondrous to others. The difference is love. An ordinary lightning bolt was, to Saul, a revelation on the road to Damascus. Just another fishing trip became a holy encounter with Jesus.

Now I long to see the deer in the field of larkspur, but it has long since gone. I give thanks for the common deer; the common grass aflame with larkspur, the common person thinking common thoughts in the uncommon world that God has created.”

The Transfiguration of Christ shows us who we are. It reveals our origin, our purpose, and the end to which we must aim. The whole of creation participates in the glory of God. Humanity alone, however, is called to the Mount of Transfiguration. It is there that Christ reveals who we are and who, by grace, we are to become.

The Feast of the Transfiguration invites us to wipe the sleep from our eyes, behold what we are, and become what we see.