Readings: Matthew 17:1-9, Exodus 24:12-18, 2 Peter 1:16-21
Let us pray:
Open our hearts and minds, our ears and our eyes to your word for each of us this day O God. May our speaking, our listening and our responding be held in the presence of your Spirit, in Jesus name. Amen.
In the midst of the mundane we are startled by the unexpected, the mystical, the breathtaking presence of God.
In our ordinary life, in the routine and the boring, there are moments when we encounter, quite unexpectedly, the transforming glory of God.
You could say that Moses was in the midst of the mundane when God called him to the mountain. It was a rather elevated mundane in that he was in conversation with God, but it was all business you could say. In the chapters preceding today’s reading we find a long and rather detailed description of how the laws given to Moses are to be applied to the daily life of the people. And in the chapters following we find equally detailed and somewhat long directions for the building of the tabernacle, offerings and rules for the conduct of worship. Moses had already been up and down the mountain a few times when God called him yet again – he must have been a very fit man! So he went again – obedient to the call – to climb the mountain, to meet with God. But this time was different – this was not about rules and instructions, laws and statutes, this was a moment of absolute and pure mystery, where the transforming glory of God was somehow made known to Moses. There were more encounters with God, more trips up and down the mountain, but this was special, an epiphany if you like, a moment that fuelled his faith and had him shining with the glory of God.
You could actually say that he didn’t ‘need’ this experience, for he had been in continuing conversation with God since the moment of his call, he was obedient and prayerful and effective in his ministry and leadership. But for him and for the people he led, this moment made crystal clear to them nothing less than the glory, the power, the immensity of God, in fact, that God is!
Likewise, Jesus called to the mountaintop was not about somehow bolstering his own surety of faith, his relationship with God but rather revealing to the others with him the transforming power of God through his Son, showing us all that Jesus is the Beloved, that God is with and in him. There were no clouds to hide what happened this time - God shines forth in the Son, in the person of the Christ.
In this moment the human man that was Jesus became joined with the divine; the Jesus of history became one with the Christ of our faith experience.
For all Jesus obvious humanity – in this moment something radiated from him that spoke of ineffable and eternal truth and it was the light of the divine in him and with him.
And what was the response of Peter James and John to this unexplicable, stunning moment of being in the presence of the living God? They wanted to stop it, hold time in limbo, scared that this clarity of understanding would become a faded memory, that the journey to come, the journey to the cross, would wipe out the joy of this moment. But in fact it was just the opposite – they slowly began to realise that they weren’t to leave the light up there on the mountain, but rather that it was to accompany them through the chaos and suffering and heartache that was inevitably to come. The story of the transfiguration reminds us that we cannot separate the light that is the love of God from the daily rounds of life, from the joys and the sorrows that are our reality. In fact it is in the difficult times that the light of Christ shows most strongly. In the hospital room with two people who have just heard the worst news of their lives and you see the sick one reach out to assure their companion, the healthy one, that all will be well. There the light shines brightly
The transfiguration also serves to remind us that even without Jesus bodily presence, we can live in the light of the knowledge of the Glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. The challenge for the disciples, and for us, is for the light to continue to shine on with us, etched on our hearts and lived out in our lives. To not forget, to not try to confine to a moment in history or to a particular place in the scriptures but to continue to experience the transcendent in the midst of our ordinary lives.
C S Lewis puts it beautifully in his book ‘The Silver Chair’ -in Aslan’s final words:
“Here on the mountain I have spoken to you clearly. I will not often do so down in Narnia. Here on the mountain the air is clear; as you drop down into Narnia, the air will thicken. Take great care that it does not confuse your mind... Remember the signs and believe the signs. Nothing else matters”
Remember the signs.
We all have transcendent moments I am sure, moments where we encounter the presence of God, where faith becomes clear, where the light of Christ just plain shines – sometimes almost too brightly for us to comprehend and in ways that we do not expect. And we hold those moments close to our hearts. For some it may be a mountain top experience – a mind blowing moment of understanding, for others, I hope for all, these moments of ‘God with us’ happen in the midst of our everyday life – in the classroom or office or kitchen or on the street, in the hospital room, playing sport, gardening together. They are the butterfly that alights on the branch in front of you as you are standing at the grave of your best friend, the piece of music that is just a moment of absolute beauty in the midst or turmoil, the absolutely contagious laughter of a child outside the rest home window, the word of comfort and understanding spoken by a stranger, the act of giving when you weren’t expecting or needing it, the offer of help when you are feeling overwhelmed, the bliss of the familiar and the excitement of the new – all these moments are the signs of Christ with us – the breathtaking presence of God with us in the mundane, in the suffering.
There is no way we can hide ourselves from the rigours of life, no way that Jesus could stay up there on that mountain, not come down and continue the journey to the cross, but and this is a brilliant and life changing ‘but’, there is also no way that we can shield ourselves from the light of God that sheds hope into the darkest moments. As we enter the season of Lent, as we sit around the communion table as Jesus did with his disciples at that last supper, let us remember the presence of God with us in the ordinary and the everyday.
I want to finish with a quote from Maryetta Anschutz:
“The moment of the transfiguration is that point at which God says to the world and to each of us that there is nothing we can do to prepare for or stand in the way of joy or sorrow. We cannot build God a monument, and we cannot keep God safe. We also cannot escape the light that God will shine on our path, We cannot escape God, Immanuel among us. God will find us in our homes and in our work-places. God will find us when our hearts are broken and when we discover joy. God will find us when we run away from God and when we are sitting in the middle of what seems like hell. So ‘get up and do not be afraid’.”