2 Corinthians 4.3–6
Today, we heard that odd story we call The Transfiguration.
Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them…
It may appear to be a strange story, but you know little transfigurations, ‘mini transfigurations’, happen all the time.
By that, I mean that something quite ordinary can easily become truly significant to us in a life-changing way. It becomes a moment of transfiguration for us. We don’t control it, it just seems to happen, but we know that it is so. We may know it at the time, or we may realise it later as we reflect back on what has happened. But there it is—a moment of transfiguration.
We often associate these mini moments of transfiguration with love.
I remember first seeing Karen. At the time, I was just looking at a pretty girl. (I doubt she remembers the occasion at all.) In retrospect, as I look back, that moment has been transfigured for me into something full of meaning.
Two other people may lock eyes across a crowded room, and they just know there and then. This is the one. Their hearts skip several beats, and the moment transfigures their lives. They know it straight away.
A mother or father holds their child for the first time. Their heart melts with love, and the meaning of this event is one that changes their lives forever.
It’s a little moment of transfiguration. The new mum and dad see more truly what their lives truly mean.
A young person finally realises that they have vocation in life, which may be to teach, to nurse, to be a gardener. They feel elated. They want to share it with others. That’s a moment of personal transfiguration too.
These little, personal moments of transfiguration happen when something ordinary reveals itself as something meaningful.
We don’t know exactly where the Transfiguration is said to have happened. Mark says, ‘Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves.’
Where was this high mountain? One traditional site is Mt Tabor. Tabor is higher than Mt Coot-tha but not at all high by global standards. It’s pretty ordinary, really. A bit of a hike to get up there, but no ropes, grappling hooks or oxygen are needed. A pair of legs, a pair of knees and a pair of lungs should get you there.
That’s why I like to think it may actually have been on Mt Tabor that Peter, James and John discovered that Jesus was more than they had realised. They didn’t have to go east to the Himalayas or west to the Alps. They just had to walk up a nearby hill.
Personal moments of transfiguration change the way we see things. They are wonderful, but they aren’t everything.
Two people meet, the stars somehow shine brighter, they get married. That’s the beginning, not the end. Then comes the daily round of working, cooking, sleeping, finding time for each other. The discovery that that cute mannerism that stole your heart is actually an annoying habit.
A baby is born, you have more love in your heart than you could ever imagine possible. The baby eventually learns to say No, grows to become a child who falls in with a bad crowd, you worry yourself sick about them.
Whatever the moment of transfiguration, you have to come down from that hill and live the ordinary days too.
And when those ordinary days are less-than-ordinary, when things are not as they should be, that transfiguring moment can seem so far away. Was it an illusion? Has it passed its use-by date? Was I fooling myself?
Even for the disciples after The Transfiguration, the excitement doesn’t last. Once they come down the hill they do and say more foolish things—even though they had been told on the mountain-top,
This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!
Yet they didn’t listen. Jesus must have been exasperated more than once when they still didn’t get it. Peter even denied knowing Jesus, right at his hour of need.
But at last, they got it. Once Jesus had given his life on the cross, once he had broken through the barrier of death and had risen, they began to understand. It isn’t about who is the best, who is the greatest; the greatness of Jesus is the greatness of the one who comes to serve, not to be served.
They got it because there came a moment of Transfiguration that has never gone away. A Transfiguration which is as strong and as true now in 2015 as it was two thousand years ago.
We call that moment the Resurrection.
Of course, a lot of people don’t believe in the Resurrection of Jesus, they call it a fairy tale and think we’re mugs for believing it.
But the doubters need to take a look at the disciples of Jesus. When he was arrested, they disappeared into the darkness. When he was crucified, their dreams were over for them. Yet a short time later they are preaching that this crucified criminal is the long-expected Messiah.
Why was that? It was the Resurrection, that eternally-transfiguring event when they realised that death could not hold Jesus in its grasp. Then Peter, James, John and the others understood. From the Resurrection they received the courage to proclaim the Crucified One as Lord of all.
The Resurrection of Jesus is a moment of Transfiguration for all who believe; yet not just a moment, because the Risen Lord rises still in the hearts of men, women and children today. Christ is risen in the heart of every person who looks to him for life. It is here that we find the power for that daily life, that ‘ordinary life’, of faith.
There was also a moment of transfiguration today. Did you see it? Yes you did, but did you see it for what it really is?
A and L were baptised. Through baptism, they are joined to Jesus. They are declared to be children of God; Jesus is their heavenly Brother. Baptism is a genuine moment of transfiguration.
Baptism is the beginning of a new life, it is like the planting of a seed into the hearts of Lucinda and Aidan.
Will that seed grow? Under the right circumstances, it surely will. In a home of love and caring, in a life of learning the way of Jesus, faith in Jesus can take root and grow. Right now, that part is up to us. As A and L grow older, it will be more and more in their hands. The moment of transfiguration is here today; they are children of God. Will they show the family likeness as they grow? We hope and pray that they will.
Friends, we cherish our little moments of transfiguration, those moments that tell us what life is really about. And we cherish this moment today, L and A’s moment. But all our moments of transfiguration bow down to Jesus, who is risen and whose risen Life continues to give us life today. Cherish him and his way of living.