February 26, 2017
We stand at the precipice of the liturgical season of Lent, and ready or not, we transition into its wilderness of honest introspection of who we are as God’s individually, but perhaps even more, who we are as a community. It is through the window of the Transfiguration, the crowning event of this season of light, that we are introduced once again to the clarity of Jesus’ identity, first heard at his baptism, “This is my Son, the Beloved.” His baptism and Transfiguration are bookends of the season after the Epiphany, each a manifestation – an epiphany – of who Jesus is.
But note that this day is not only about who Jesus is. It is also about who you and I are. The Scriptures remind us over and over again, and today is no different, that we gain our identity of who we are in the midst of a community in relationship to God and to one another.
On the holy mountain Jesus’ identity was affirmed within the community of Peter, James and John, along with the historical witness of Elijah and Moses, the great prophets of the Hebrew Scriptures, who also had experiences of the glory of God on holy mountains. Today, the identity of those baptized and receiving the laying on of hands by the bishop is reaffirmed. Just as Jesus, you are God’s beloved, with you God is well pleased, embraced by God, sealed by the Spirit, Christ’s own forever, and empowered for service to be God’s ambassador of love and grace for the sake of the world.
One of the purposes of the Divine Liturgy is to draw us into a relationship with God and one another in which the veil is pulled back just a bit in order to catch a glimpse of the glory of God, to be given the opportunity to fall in love with the Holy once again, and to find ourselves reminded of who God is, who we are, and what God intends the world to be. We see on the holy mountain today a vision that all creation is full of God’s glory, that beauty is everywhere, and that each moment vibrates with God’s presence, if only we had eyes to see and hearts ready to be opened.
Some years ago I was travelling on a warm summer day on my way to a diocesan meeting. Part way there I came upon road construction where one lane was shut down. There was the guy doing his job, holding the sign that said “Stop!” in large letters, causing us to wait for the other side to clear. I found myself irrationally irritated that this interruption in schedule might cause me to be late, because clearly, the universe is all about me.
While waiting, however, by grace I was able to slow my breathing and look around. Out of my peripheral vision I saw a Wooly Bear, one of those fuzzy fat caterpillars walking along the yellows stripe of the road. Each undulation of its body and the manipulation of its many legs moved it along at a rather rapid pace. I found myself relieved when it made it to the side of the road not being squished by a tire.
I looked out the window on the other side and gazed upon a red-winged blackbird, perched on a cattail as it swayed bag and forth in the breeze, glowing iridescently in the sun. Transfiguration? All of the sudden what seemed like an inconvenient interruption was transformed into a moment of grace, even contemplation on the beauty of God’s creation. I was awakened by that grace to a reality that was present whether I noticed or not, but fortunately circumstances caused me to slow way down, pause, and see with different eyes.
I wonder if you have heard of something called “the sacrament of the moment?” In essence it means that each moment of life, every breath we take, is full of the grandeur and wonder of God. Too often, however, we are too busy, too preoccupied, too distracted to notice. Yet today we hear Jesus’ words to us, “Get up and be not afraid!” In other words, stand with Jesus as he stands with you, just as he did with his disciples on that holy mountain, and as some of you are doing today in coming forward.
That is what this day seeks to do as it calls forth from us a new way of seeing. This life isn’t the only one there is, but we are called to live this life in a way that respects what God has made, including ourselves, and calls us to be stewards of every relationship on earth to which we are called. What we discover in Jesus’ Transfiguration is that each human being is made in God’s image, how we treat every human being matters, and is why we promise again today in the Baptismal Covenant to “work for justice and peace among all people” and “to respect the dignity of every human being.”
The nature of life is always to be in transition. We often resist since we human beings really like the status quo. Yet this day teaches us, once again, that the journey into holiness is not only to change, but to change often. Or to put it more eloquently from today’s Collect, to be “changed into his likeness from glory to glory.” Hopefully, by grace, we’ll be opened to the possibility, discover the joy of being co-creators with God for the transformation/transfiguration of the world, and find ourselves transfigured along the way.