Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. ... a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, "This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him! Matthew 17.1-2, 5
We’ve been at this historical site before, but not in any
history we remember.
The present has been cloaked in cloud before, and not on
any holy mountaintop.”
From “Interesting Times”by Mark Jarman
This coming Sunday is the last Sunday in the season of Epiphany. It is Transfiguration Sunday when we celebrate the mysterious story of Jesus’ mountaintop experience of God’s blessing and his disciples’ experience of Jesus illuminated by God’s presence with him and within him. It is a story of revelation. As readers of the gospel we are prompted to consider, “who is this One that shines with Divinity?“
We are also prompted to consider, “What happens to disciples when they see the face of God on the mountain? How are they changed?” As readers we are the disciples experiencing this mystery. Transfiguration is akin to transformation but not quite the same. It has something to do with seeing the “real” or the “true” or the “holy” within the everyday or the familiar. Transfiguration is being in the present moment “cloaked in cloud” whether or not we are on a mountaintop. It has something to do with being transformed by seeing transformation, seeing the transfigured.
On the mountaintop Jesus is revealed as at his baptism as God’s beloved, God’s revelation of God’s self. We know Peter, John and James were changed by this experience in some dramatic way. Maybe like us who are puzzling over the story to this very day, they puzzled over it all their lives. Maybe not since they were eye witnesses to the resurrection which the transfiguration of Jesus foreshadows. Still the story of the transfiguration of Jesus is mysterious, one to be pondered. Like metaphor it asks to be looked at sideways and talked about indirectly. Perhaps this is also, the only way the disciples could take in Jesus’ shining appearance. I do know that the story must be held in balance with the stories of preaching, teaching, and healing that we encounter after Jesus and his companions descend from the mountaintop. In these stories, Jesus shines with true humanity steeped in God’s ways. Perhaps the Transfiguration is really understood best in tension with shininess of everyday life.
As we head toward Transfiguration Sunday, Ash Wednesday and Lent, I invite you to consider this question, “Who is this One that shines with Divinity and with true Humanity?” Do the stories of this One change your present moment? Will you let the presence of the Holy One shine through the stories to transfigure your soul?
Blessings on the journey,
The Rev. Jane Anne Ferguson, Associate Minister, is a writer, storyteller, and contributor to Feasting on the Word, a popular biblical commentary. She is also the writer of sermon-stories.com, a lectionary-based story-commentary series. Read more