Friday, February 13, 2015

Transfigured Living

The passage we often read on the Sunday before Lent begins is an account of the Transfiguration of Jesus.  I was struck by something this year that I hadnt thought of before.  While Matthew, Mark, and Luke record this story, John does not.  At first it seemed a little odd that Johnwhom all the other authors agree was actually theredoes not describe his own experience.  Im not sure why he doesnt talk about it, but heres a thought:

The Transfiguration of Jesus
Mark 9:2-8
Perhaps Johns point in not describing the Transfiguration experience was to focus us less on John and more on Jesusless on describing a personal mountaintop experience and more on helping others find God in the midst of their everyday lives.

Certainly, that seems to be the message Jesus tells his disciples as they come down off the mountain.  He urges them to keep what they experienced between them and focus on the ministry that lies ahead when they return to the valley below.  He knows that from this point on, life is going to get harder for his itinerant band, as they begin to make their way toward Jerusalem and move toward an inevitable confrontation with the rulers and authorities.  If you read the accounts in the Gospels (e.g., Mark 9:14), you see that a crowd of needy people waits for them the moment they come down of the mountain.  There is no time to bask in the afterglow of their special experience and feel superior to the other nine disciples who didnt get to go with Jesus. There is work to be done!  In our modern parlance we might say:  The retreat was great but all too soon its back to reality.

Johns entire Gospel reads like a testament to the impact witnessing the Transfiguration had on his life.  His essential message is that if we have eyes that see, every moment we are alive offers opportunities to glimpse Gods glory.  If we see Jesus, we see GodJohn 14:9or as songwriter Michael Gungan puts it:

Our praises will rise,
As we come to recognize,
Jesus is near,
Glory is here!

As the Gospels make clear (especially if you read Marks account), even after the Transfiguration, the disciples are slow to recognize Jesus for who he really is.  Jesus tries to explain what lies ahead, but no one seems to be able to “hear” what is being said. Ironically, the ones who got the special glimpse of Jesus up on the mountain sometimes seem the most obtuse in their understanding.  Jesus gets frustrated, but he understands.  He also remains committed seeing his journey through to the end.

The mountaintop experience they have just had is important, but only insofar as it helps to prepare them for and sustain them during the difficult journey that lies ahead. 

FOR REFLECTION: Think about a mountaintop experience in your life?  What made it special?  Did it help you see God more clearly?  How has it sustained you on your journey through the valleys of this life? 

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