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Last Sunday after the Epiphany - February 19, 2023




The Gospel reading for the Last Sunday after the Epiphany is very easy to skip over…For one, this story often makes us feel uncomfortable…


What in the world are the three synoptic Gospels trying to tell us? We are modern people, and we KNOW things and transfiguration is not in our wheel house…we are slightly interested, but REALLY! We can listen to the Gospel reading and then let it go…


However, let us consider… three of the Gospel writers ,Matthew, Mark, and Luke thought it was important enough that they included this story.


And they not only included it, but they all have it following the confession of Peter… when Peter declared that Jesus was the Christ…


And the three Gospels have the transfiguration occurring just before Jesus turns and sets His face toward Jerusalem and His final days of ministry before the crucifixion…


The transfiguration is also one of the most important paintings of the great Raphael…He was commissioned by Cardinal Medici who later became Pope Clement VII to create an altar piece and it now hangs in Vatican City.


The painting is breath taking and was in earlier times a piece that inspired many to believe and to follow the Christ…


The painting depicts the story beautifully and contains the four elements of the story as told by the Gospel writers… Number one, Jesus is transfigured or changed by an unusual radiance… in other words, he stands in the Glory of God.


Number two, Elijah and Moses, long dead, appear and stand with Jesus and the three of them converse.


Number three, the Divine voice of God speaks from the cloud above the mountain to the three disciples…the three witnesses…


And finally when the disciples look again, Jesus stands there on the mountain alone…


Alone… Why alone…perhaps because the law and the prophets are all accomplished in the person of Jesus and in His ministry…


Perhaps alone… because this man Jesus is God incarnate and can bring salvation to all of humanity.


Perhaps alone because Jesus is the culmination of all that is Good and True….


Our modern world absolutely delights in the supernatural… We have movies, wizard conventions, video games, card games, all manner of entertainment that emphasizes the supernatural…


Harry Potter took the world by a storm and continues to delight each generation… I, for one, was devoted to the books and the movies….


However, this story of the transfiguration does not often challenge or even interest us…not particularly…


But we are missing a great opportunity… first I think we are missing the opportunity to allow ourselves to be taken into another realm and find what the synoptic writers can teach us…


And I think that we are missing a great opportunity if we do not allow ourselves to think; to dream; to consider what it is that the disciples heard and saw…


What did they understand after the crucifixion and resurrection that had happened on the mountain and what was God in Jesus telling them.


The great kindness of Jesus is obvious… Peter has declared Jesus as the Messiah… What in the world did Peter say…what did he declare…what did it mean? the Messiah…the Christ…


And why does Jesus have His face turned toward Jerusalem… of all times during the Passover when the danger to Jesus is so plain to see.


Because the world was about to witness God Incarnate … Crucified; resurrected; and ascending into heaven…


God knows…the disciples needed every tool they had and many that they did not possess to see, hear, partially grasp, and declare to the world.


All of the gifts of insight, understanding, even imagination had not prepared the disciples or the world for what was to be revealed…


Transformation through whatever means was required…healing; visions; conversations; teachings…the list is endless depending on who is listening and watching.


Jesus Christ was the culmination of all that we knew of God and He is God…


You might ask why John the writer of the fourth Gospel left out the transfiguration…I think because he started with it.


He declares from the opening of the Gospel that Jesus is God… In the beginning was the Word…

Jesus was God from the very moment …


So if we can at least look at the transfiguration as a story that is vital to the salvific story of the synoptic Gospels and perhaps even vital to us as Christians…


Then it is perhaps possible for us to enter into a realm that we might have otherwise closed off from ourselves…


It is the world of paintings; of poetry; of contemplation; of silent consideration; of prayer; of the setting apart of ourselves; of music; of dance; of writing; of reading; of art in its many forms…


There are more opportunities in this world than what I describe, but you, if you choose, will find those things and practices that are particular to you…particular for contemplation; for the nourishing of souls; for the furthering of beliefs…


Those times set apart when one leaves the world of noise; requirements; confusion…


Then perhaps look at the transfiguration…what does it mean to you that after the glorious event…Jesus stood before the disciples alone


Or think of how you might feel if you went up on the mountain and what you thought you believed was not as you imagined…There stood Jesus with Moses and Elijah and was radiant and the voice of God spoke to you.


Or what if you went up on the mountain with Jesus and you heard nothing; saw nothing; felt nothing…

What if your search takes you somewhere else with God…


I think that it can be terrifying to willingly put yourself in the hands of the Living God… It requires of us our life…


But what if we do not…What if we sleep through the stories of Jesus and salvation and find our own way? That is certainly a possibility…


But I, for one, want to be terrified… I want to change from the creature I created to the creature God created… I want to give myself permission to believe and to look at the world where I work hard to be the person I was truly created to be.


I want to lose myself in the music of God; in the poetry of God; in the saints of God.


I want to search and be delighted and chastised and changed…


John O’Donohue writing in To Bless the Space Between Us speaks of searching for the light…the light of God…


And when we come to search for God

Let us first be robed in night.

Put on the mind of morning

To feel the rush of light

Spread slowly inside

The color and stillness

Of a found world


Why did Matthew, Mark, and Luke tell us this fabulous story of the transfiguration…


Perhaps… so we could be transformed and filled with the color and light of God…


Amen





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