Today is Transfiguration Sunday, which marks the last Sunday of Epiphany, that time when Gods reveals who Jesus is to his disciples and to the world. Like us, they need to see order to believe. And sometimes, it takes a little bit more than that.
READ Luke 9:28-36 Here.
During the season of Epiphany, we’ve journeyed alongside those who first discovered that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah.
We stood on the banks of the Jordan as the heavens opened and a voice declared, “This is my Son, the beloved.” We were at a wedding in Cana to witness water become “good wine.”
We went to his parent’s synagogue in Nazareth as Jesus declared, “Today the scripture has been fulfilled in me.” And went out into the deep waters with three fishermen who saw something so amazing it would inspire them to drop everything and follow him.
We sat with Jesus, and the disciples, and countless others as Jesus blessed us and taught us how to do unto others as we would have them do to us. In all these ways Jesus revealed not only who he was, but what God’s Kingdom is all about.
Some people got angry. Others found hope. There were many who challenged him. And a few who gave up all they had to be close to him. But everyone who met Jesus would be forever changed.
“How could they not be? How could we not be?” asks Joshua Wood. “To see God is to be changed.” Which almost seems like an understatement. Through Jesus, God doesn’t merely alter or amend life but transforms it completely.
Take it from me, once you see who Jesus is, and what God has done through him, your life will never be the same again. You see yourself in a new light, and others too. After you begin to see all of creation bathing in the glow of God’s glory…nothing will ever be like it was before.
Moses and Elijah are perfect examples.
When Moses first encountered God on a mountain, in a burning bush, the entire direction of his life changed. As did the life of God’s people. After he led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt, Moses met with God again on another mountain, where he received instructions on how to live a God-centered life. When he returned to the camp, he was shining so brightly that they had to cover his face with a veil.
Moses saw God and was changed. Not only in appearance, but his purpose and the core of his being. Elijah encountered God on a mountain as well. Once he realized God was real nothing could stop him from doing what God was calling him to do. Now it’s Peter, James, and John’s turn.
Although they had already witnessed countless miracles, it wasn’t until this particular time and place that their eyes were opened to see God’s truth transfigured before them. And just in case this point wasn’t clear, the voice breaks through the heavens and declared, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” Like Moses and Elijah discovered, when God speaks, you’d better listen.
But sometimes that divine voice is hard to hear. Especially when there is chaos and war all around us. Loud voices barking for our attention. But even in these ugly spaces, Christ has a way of bursting through - disrupting and changing everything.
It took an act of God for the disciples to finally comprehend the importance of this mountain meeting. Even after they saw God’s glory, firsthand, and received the good news directly from the source, “They said nothing to no one.” Did they not comprehend? Were they afraid? What would you do in this situation?
I know firsthand what they are experiencing. Part of them is still trying to process what just happened, what it all means. I also know that what they experienced is just as much terrifying news as it is good news. If what they saw and heard was real, then that means God was real. And if God is real, what does that say about what God is telling them to do? “This is my Chosen Son; listen to him.”
Listen to him. Good advice that is not as easy as we would like it to be.
Lent begins on Wednesday. And for the next seven weeks we will be following Jesus to Jerusalem, where he will suffer rejection, humiliation, torture, a brutal death. Yes, there is a glorious resurrection in the end, but not before the darkness of humanity gets a turn at him.
If we are going to walk with Christ, then we must walk all the way with him…even through the darkest shadows. This means will experience miracles and joy, as well as deviations and grief. Throughout it all, we too become something new, something different.
As terrifying as this seems, God gives us all the instructions we need to navigate this space between before and after. “This is my Chosen Son; listen to him.”
Listen to him. Look at what Jesus does, then go and do the same to one another. Love each other, like he loves you. Pray for one another, as he pleas and intercedes for you. Bless everyone. Give your all, to all. And do so without any strings attached. This is how the glory of God is transfigured in us.
Whenever and wherever God’s glory is seen and felt and known, things change. You can’t unsee or unfeel or unknow love, grace, mercy and kindness. But you can grow and change with it. The way it was done before will always be different after meeting Christ and seeing God’s glory in him.
Years ago, someone asked if I thought Jesus would smoke pot? “After all,” he argued, “didn’t God create it?”
I told him I can see Jesus hanging out with stoners. It wasn’t an uncommon thing for Jesus to do. I imagine everyone is having a good time, laughing, and celebrating, when someone lights a joint and begins to pass it around.
But when the joint gets to Jesus, I imagine he takes it, blesses it, and then passes it to the next person.
When that person receives the blessing, something changes. Instead of smoking, he passes it to the next person, who receives the blessing and does the same. This goes on until the blessing makes its way back to Jesus, who then extinguishes the joint without passing judgment, or shaming anyone there.
What we once thought we needed before is no longer the case after we encounter God’s blessings in Christ. God said, “Listen to him.”
If we are going to thrive in Anamesa, then we need to remain ever present in these holy moments. For it’s in this space, between before and after, God comes bursting into our life and changes everything. We might not get a mountain top experience like this one in Luke’s gospel, but that doesn’t mean it’s not happening all around us.
Mother Theresa always said, if you want to see Christ look for him in the other; be it in the face of a stranger, the generosity of a neighbor, or the kindness of a friend.
Every time you interact with others you are given a chance to encounter God. To look at a person and see the Divine Image of God in them will change the way you act and react.
Imagine seeing Jesus on someone you hate. Rage will change into love; war into peace; weapons into plowshares. True transfiguration…from the human way to the Divine will of God.
I don’t know if Bill Murray ever saw people like this, but he realized we all have the power to make changes on a macro-level. Just as he made the decision to step out of his celebrity, we too can join him by stepping into our Christ likeness.
Just as Jesus did before him, Bill Murray changed people’ s lives by simply showing up and listening to them. Helping where he can. Serving where needed. Giving his time, his life, so that God’s glory can be seen in the world. This might not have been Bill Murray’s intentions, but as Christ followers there should be no other way. It’s imperative to make this our intention.
Through Jesus, God speaks to us and invites us to be a mirror of the Christ transfigured…so others can have a life-changing encounter as well.
You know the way. See what Jesus does, listen to what he says, and go and do that to one another.
Adapted from an original message is from March 3, 2019.
Wood, Joshua. "Forever Changed." March 3, 2019 (first accessed on March 1, 2019).
An ex-copywriter turned punk rock pastor and peacemaker who dedicates his life to making the world a better place for all humanity.
"that they all might be one" ~John 17:21
“Prius vita quam doctrina.”
~ St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274)
* “Life is more important than doctrine.”