2 Kings 2:1-12, Psalm 50: 1-6; 2 Corinthians 4:3-12, Mark 9:2-9 ©Archdeacon Emeritus Valerie Hoare
And Jesus was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. Mark 9: 2-3.
Light, dazzling, bright – not a light from some outside source but the divine light of God’s very presence, the essence of Jesus’ true nature shining through and there on the mountain Peter, James and John saw his glory.
Jesus was transfigured, not transformed as when we see change from one form of being to another like a tadpole into a frog. It’s not that Jesus changes he was the eternal Christ before the Transfiguration – but now the disciples see him in his always and already reality.
The Gospel – the good news of Jesus is no longer veiled – the light has shone out of darkness to (as Paul writes) to ‘give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.’
No wonder this event has been recounted by the three synoptic gospels – this could never be a neutral moment in an ordinary day.
The revelation of God – be it a whisper, a shout, a moment of prayer or a dazzling light – always pulls us up short, opening us to the living, saving, life-giving presence of Emmanuel – God with us in our lives and in the lives of those we encounter day by day.
I reckon most of us are familiar with Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s words from Aurora Leigh:
“Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God,
But only those who see take off their shoes;
The rest sit round and pluck blackberries.”
Let me tell you about such a shoe removing moment in my life a few weeks ago.
Each Monday and Friday we go and have lunch with my 98 year old Dad, who lives independently in the house where he’s lived for almost 50 years oh, and he still has a current driving licence. After Monday’s lunch we drove up to Caloundra, planning to return home on Thursday, ready to take up the pattern for Friday’s lunch.
Mid afternoon on Wednesday Dad rang my phone I’ve done a silly thing.
He’d backed his car down the steep driveway and into the brick pillar of the garage – leaving the car, stuck in the wall, back wheels in the air, the house pillar twisted off its axis.
OK Dad. Sit down, make yourself a cup of tea, we’ll be there in 2 hours. What chaos would meet us? What steps needed to be taken?
By the time we’d arrived the neighbours had taken over. The bloke next door brought over props and used them to support the lintel above the garage door, the one across the road was just finishing making the house as secure as possible with noggings and 5ply surrounding the car sticking out on to the driveway – others were checking on Dad, supporting him making sure he was OK.
But only those who see take off their shoes, the rest sit around and pluck blackberries.
I was overwhelmed; amazed by awesomeness, silenced by the sublime – the light that shone from this caring group of neighbours shone into the darkness of my anxiety and uncertainty.
We know God as love, self-giving, caring, compassionate love. The scene shone with the glory of God’s presence. The veil was indeed lifted from the world.
I name it a moment of transfiguration. – as well as giving me an opportunity to segue and wish you all Happy Valentine’s Day – I pray that the energy of the love of God that is inside each of us is so strong that the life of Jesus is made visible in our mortal flesh, so God’s realm is indeed here on earth and Jesus’ promise of life in abundance is fulfilled as we choose to live the best life God has for us.
In the sermon Rowan Williams preached after being enthroned Abp of Canterbury, he said We need to be confident that we are being transfigured: touched by God’s Holy Spirit, we have been decisively changed and endowed with something of God’s liberty. In this confidence we know that we are not prisoners of the world, we can make a difference by God’s grace, and can share in the work of uncovering afresh the hidden face, the life-giving secret.
“This is my son, the Beloved, listen to him!” said the voice from the cloud. While the voice at Jesus’ baptism spoke directly to Jesus – You are my son, the beloved, these words are directed to Jesus’ disciples – to Peter, James, John and also to us, to you and to me.
Listening to Jesus is challenging, it becomes hard as we descend with him from the mountain and journey to Jerusalem where he shows us what it really takes to live as God’s people. But we are people who have been caught by the truth that we are in touch with something utterly beyond ourselves that calls us to take our part in unveiling the transfiguring light of Jesus to the world that he loves through our faith and our acts of unconditional love and acceptance.
Walter Wink (Modern scripture scholar and theologian) says:
“Transfiguration is living by vision: standing foursquare in the midst of a broken, tortured, oppressed, starving, dehumanizing reality yet ‘seeing the invisible,’ calling to it, importuning it to come, behaving as if it is on the way, sustained by elements of it that have come already, within and among us.
In those moments when people are healed, transformed, freed from addictions, obsessions, destructiveness, self-worship, or when groups or communities or even rarely, whole nations glimpse the supernatural light of the transcendent in their midst, there the New Creation has come upon us.
The world for one brief moment is transfigured. The beyond shines in our midst – on the way to the cross.”
The call of these next 40 days as we move into Lent, is to step aside from normal life, to wonder, to imagine, to walk with Jesus, persisting with him, not falling away and leaving him when the way gets rocky, drawing closer to Jesus so that the presence of God can flow through our lives blessing the world. Amen