Welcome to Transfiguration Sunday, a time to consider Jesus’ true nature and God’s “fantabulous” transforming power. We’re invited to embrace God’s marvelous Spirit so that none of us remain stuck in life’s pit.
The biblical tale begins as Jesus was trekking up a mountain with three of his closest friends (Peter, James and John). Once on that mountaintop, Jesus did something extraordinary. The evocative word “transfiguration” describes what happened when Jesus started shining with a blinding light. The biblical writer who narrated this event was accomplishing more than simply advertising or sensationalizing Jesus’ divinity. With the radiance, Jesus shone with his true spiritual energy. God is variously described as Spirit and love, but here Jesus revealed visually his spiritual DNA. “[A]nd his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white” Matthew 17: 2). Such fantastic imagery sparks amazement, sort of like seeing a star going supernova.
Next, the Old Testament prophets Moses and Elijah, who had been dead for hundreds of years, appeared talking with Jesus. It’s a curiosity to consider what they may have been discussing. Upon seeing this magnificent trio, Peter responded by suggesting construction of three shrines. It’s understandable that Peter thought this was a holy place. People have a long history of creating sacred spots for pilgrimage and worship. Sometimes this process goes berserk and the focus shifts to what’s visible more than to the God to whom the spot may have been dedicated.
Preoccupation with externals is a problem. Humans are physical beings hosting a God-given spirit, which is humanity’s core essence. This suggests that people will attain a life of wellbeing more by focusing on receiving and sharing God’s love more than by creating religious structures and monuments. God frowned upon Peter’s idea to create another holy hotspot. The Almighty’s voice angrily pierced the air to direct attention back to Jesus, the incarnation of love. Upon hearing God’s thunderous, rebuking words, Peter James and John fell to the ground as if fatally struck. When they recovered, Moses and Elijah had vanished and Jesus told his disciples to not spread news of what happened. A lesson here is that we must resist the temptation to imprison the Spirit inside brick and mortar. Given God’s chastising of Jesus’ three disciples, we might conclude that creating another church, another temple or synagogue doesn’t do justice to what God is teaching, which is that the Divine is always with us, and that each individual must accept spiritual awakening to perceive the glorious reality behind the façade of daily existence. God’s voice calls to us the same as to Jesus’ three hapless disciples: experience the power and beauty of the moment rather than killing it by fossilizing it in stone.
What does the transfiguration mean today? The transfiguration wasn’t long-lived, suggesting that transient nature of intense spiritual events. As to demonstrating spiritual power on-demand, some people twist teachings about spiritual gifts and concoct false experiences which, ironically, undermine the very testimony they are trying to reveal. Nonetheless, people of faith are empowered with God’s Holy Spirit, the source of wonders. What is the miracle of transformation in your life? Consider that God is energizing you and that one of your primary tasks is to unleash your tremendous potential as did Jesus. Is there anything that God can reveal that will renew your spirit and better equip you to share love and truth? Whatever goodness you find, bring it down the mountain and share it with less fortunate people, those without close encounters with God or those for whom life circumstances get them stuck in life’s valleys.
Once down from the mountain, Jesus’ band met the harsh reality of peoples’ suffering. God’s promises remind us that we needn’t be caught in a life-sucking abyss. God elevates our spirit and transforms problems into possibilities, if we’re willing to recognize and claim God’s presence. Further, Jesus’ shining suggests that spirit has a deep source, far greater than what appears externally. Life is richer than just glancing on the surface. If more people would choose to see in their neighbor God’s loving face rather then projecting their own fear, ignorance and anger, then we might more readily embrace one another. Another overlooked aspect of the transfiguration is the suggestion that humans have an underlying spiritual nature, which may not be substantially different from what Jesus revealed during his transfiguration. We are invited to look deeper and discern our common spiritual nucleus, which seems tantalizingly the same as Jesus’ since we are also children of God.
Let’s contemplate how the power of the divine can shine through us beyond the veneer of physicality. We don’t have to trek up a mountain and speak with dead saints. Our faith activates our glowing presence here and now. We are beacons of hope for a dark and hurting world. This is the profound aspect of justice, which exceeds mere social activism and identity politics. It is also reassuring that our true, spiritual substance shines whenever we unleash compassionate attitudes and actions. To unlock all that God has for us requires that we follow God and embrace our brothers and sisters of our one human family.
As tempting as it is to covet dramatic religious experiences, our challenge is to remain motivated and energized regardless of life’s elevation. Being addicted to highs and creating artificial ones through substances or bad relationships is not the preferred way. We’re invited to celebrate God’s glories while also attending to life’s responsibilities. We can yearn for and achieve a more vibrant connection with God if only we strive for it. What has God revealed to you on your journey and how can you share the joy with others? People need to know what God is doing in your life.
As you consider spiritual renewal, think about your potential to energize your faith and shine as a guide for those seeking God. You might experience a form of transfiguration that forever changes you. Can you claim “fantabulous” energy, promises and possibilities? As a child of God you’ve already been revitalized from soul-sleep to a spiritual awakening. As you continue your journey, let your faith blaze forth like a supernova, revealing your true spiritual nature and God’s presence through you. –Reverend Larry Hoxey