Today is Transfiguration Sunday, a time when we consider Jesus’ true nature and learn about how we can also be transformed by God. We’re all invited to embrace the Spirit so that none of us remain stuck spiritually.
The text focuses on Mark 9:2-9, with Jesus trekking with three of his followers who are also, presumably, his closest friends (Peter, James and John). The four of these guys were in for a hike up a mountain whose location and name are lost to us today. Jesus had taken trips on, around and on top of all sorts of terrain, and yet he and his companions were in for an unforgettable experience.
Once on the mountaintop, Jesus did something extraordinary. The evocative word “transfiguration” describes what happened when Jesus revealed his true, spiritual nature. We already knew that God was Spirit, but here we see for the first and only time in the gospel story Jesus’ radiant glory. “[A]nd his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white” Matthew 17: 2).
The marvelous scene did not end there. Next, Moses and Elijah appeared talking with Jesus. These two Old Testament prophets, dead for hundreds of years, were seen standing with Jesus discussing something. Upon seeing this magnificent trio, Peter responded by suggesting construction of three religious monuments, or mini-temples/shrines. I suppose you can’t blame Peter for thinking that this was a holy place that needed to be memorialized.
God must not have liked Peter’s idea because the Almighty’s voice pierced the air to direct attention back to Jesus. After hearing God’s thunderous words, Peter James and John fell to the ground as if fatally startled. When they recovered, Moses and Elijah had vanished and Jesus told his disciples to not spread news of the incident.
Here we are, wondering what this fantastic encounter means to us today. For one, we can see how God’s Spirit can be likened to pure energy. Perhaps we can also learn something from the brevity of such intense, dramatic episodes. The entire incident doesn’t seem to have been long-lived, and this may speak to the nature of spiritual highs. Also, the brilliance of Jesus’ shining suggests that spirit is far greater than what appears on the outside. It even makes sense from the perspective of physics to describe our spirits as some form of energy.
We can contemplate how the power of spirituality can shine through us when we see beyond the façade of physicality. We don’t have to go onto a mountain to shine. Our faith activates our glowing witness here and now, wherever we are, such that we are beacons of hope for a dark and hurting world. It is also reassuring to suggest that our true, spiritual substance is similar to how Jesus’ was described.
As tempting as it is to covet mountaintop experiences, most of us live a bit lower. Our challenge is to remain motivated and energized by what God wants for us. Yes, we behold God’s glories while also attending to the more mundane aspects of life. Nonetheless, it’s all good to yearn for a more vibrant connectedness to God through the power of the Holy Spirit.
As you consider spiritual renewal, think about your potential to energize your faith and shine forth as a guide to those seeking the God of love and truth. Who knows, but that you might just experience transfiguration for you and our church. Let’s get going! –Reverend Larry Hoxey