Tag Archives: Transfiguration of Jesus

Not the mountain, the plain

Reading
Luke 9.28-43

There is a terrible cruelty to it. Baptizing them as children, teaching them in Sunday school, hosting lock-ins & game nights in youth group, encouraging their calls to ministry, and then, when they work up the courage to tell the truth about their sexuality, kicking them out. — @rachelheldevans, Twitter 28.02.19

The society in which we live suggests in countless ways that the way to go is up. Making it to the top, entering the limelight, breaking the record—that’s what draws attention, gets us on the front page of the newspaper, and offers us the rewards of money and fame.

The way of Jesus is radically different. It is the way not of upward mobility but of downward mobility. It is going to the bottom, staying behind the sets, and choosing the last place! Why is the way of Jesus worth choosing? Because it is the way to the Kingdom, the way Jesus took, and the way that brings everlasting life. — Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey, p.186 (https://henrinouwen.org/meditation/downward-mobility/)

The transfiguration is something any old atheist could understand: ‘glory’ is a body and face shining with supernatural light. This does not unsettle my pagan presuppositions of what ‘divinity’ and the ‘supernatural’ mean. What we need faith to see is this: that the dead Jesus, forgotten and abandoned, naked and hanging on the Cross, is truly the Love of God Incarnate. In the wounding of his fragile being is the fullness of the divine glory. He is not ashamed to be our God. — Brad Jersak, A More Christlike God, p.135

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There’s a tradition in preaching on the Transfiguration of Jesus, that we talk about ‘mountaintop experiences’ that we take down to our everyday lives on the plain.

So where do we start today, on this Day of the Transfiguration of Jesus? Do we start on top of the mountain, along with Peter, James and John, with Moses and Elijah in glory? Do we begin bathed in the reflected heavenly light coming from Jesus? Do we start with a privileged glow mixed with strange feelings of awe or even dread?

Well no, not today. Today, we must start on the ground, along with the helpless, hapless and confused disciples who couldn’t expel a demon from a young lad, the only son of his father. That’s where we are today, at the bottom of the mountain. 

We have to start—and stay—on the ground today because as Christians in Australia, as members of a mainstream church, many people see us as representatives of something that is not only wrong but despicable. There’s a man I know who frequents the same coffee shop I do. We get on, we pass the time of day. The first time he saw me in a clerical collar he wondered if I should be wearing one, because it could make me look like a ‘paedo’. 

This week, Cardinal George Pell was found guilty of child sexual abuse. The charges relate to acts committed in 1996, while he was Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne. Pell had forcefully denied all charges, but now that a media ban has been lifted the news is known within Australia. 

A number of prominent figures have leapt to his defence, he will mount an appeal, but the fact remains: today, Pell is a convicted child abuser. 

We have to stay on the ground and not go to the mountain today because last weekend one of our sister churches in the USA, the United Methodist Church, discussed the place of LGBTIQ people in their church. Their special conference began with hopes of full inclusion of people regardless of their sexuality. Instead, the conference voted to accept the so-called ‘Traditional Plan’ which keeps the current exclusions of LGBTIQ people in place. 

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‘All for transformation’ (Transfiguration of Jesus, Year A, 2 March 2014)

Readings
Exodus 24.12–18
Matthew 17.1–9

‘All for transformation’: The Offering of bread and wine in the light of the Transfiguration

Karen and I are very fortunate in that we live by the river. Every day, as I leave the house I see it. We live on a bend in the river, and we see the gentle flow of the water, and often there are pelicans on the river.

Quite often, I get surprised that I live in such a lovely spot. I seem to forget after a night’s sleep. So I might step out of the house, and I am once more amazed by the river’s beauty.

Sometimes, I it moves me so much that I am transfixed. I have to stand still and gaze, or walk over the road so I can be closer to the river. Being transfixed is not the same as being to transformed, even transfigured; but I think it may be the first step.

Beauty can do that to you.

On other days, I just leave the house, get in my car and drive without a second glance. What makes the difference? Is there something different about the river—perhaps the light plays on it in a way that catches my attention? Or is there something different about me on the days I pause, maybe I’m in a mood to be amazed?

Or possibly it may be both the river and me? Perhaps sometimes it is.

When Jesus takes the disciples up the mountain, they see a vision of him transfigured and they are afraid. At least that’s what happened there and then. But I wonder what happens deeper in someone’s heart and soul when this happens? I wonder if the disciples were now taking baby steps on the road to their own transfiguration?

Because that’s what the Transfiguration is ultimately all about: the disciples being transfigured. ‘Transfiguration’ is about our transformation into the people God made us to be. Our transfiguration into being God’s children, bearing the image of Jesus Christ.

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The Transfiguration of Jesus (Year A, 6 March 2011)

Landmarks

Readings
2 Peter 1.16-21
Matthew 17.1-9

When my family first arrived in Australia in 1965, we were placed into a rather grotty fish processing plant which had been recently turned into a migrant hostel. It reeked of fish. Rotting fish. We took any and every opportunity to get away from there, and not knowing what else to do, we went into Brisbane City quite a few times. We’d been advised that you couldn’t get lost in the city—all you had to do, wherever you were, was to look for the City Hall clocktower and take your bearings from it. And you know, it worked! We used it as a landmark to help us in a strange place.

Of course, today that’s impossible, with all the high-rise buildings that have gone up since. Today, City Hall is dwarfed by its neighbours. The clocktower no longer serves as a landmark.

If you’re in a strange place, or on a hike through the bush, landmarks are essential. They tell you where you are. A landmark may be a mountain, a waterfall, a building or a fork in the road. Without those landmarks, we’d be lost.

The spiritual writer Margaret Silf talks about landmarks on the spiritual journey. When we’re on the spiritual journey, we need landmarks just as much as when we’re on a walk through the bush. Perhaps even more.

Let me tell you about a landmark on my spiritual journey. It was 3 April, 1983. I can date it exactly, because it was Easter Sunday.

I’d been studying hard for my post-graduate qualifications as a psychiatrist. I’d also been steadily losing my faith; it seemed to me to be less and less real.

Most of my friends had gone away for Easter, but I had stayed home to study. I’d decided to go to church on Easter morning, more out of a sense of duty than anything. So I walked down the road to a nearby church, St Peter’s Anglican Church.

I love the Anglican liturgy, I really do—when it’s done well. However, it can be done very badly indeed.

On this occasion, it was dire. I wasn’t a regular attender of this church by any means, and I’d heard that the priest wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed, but I wasn’t prepared for how bad it was.

As the service went on, I wished I were somewhere else. But I was too polite to walk out.

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