Tag Archives: Transfiguration

‘With eyes that have cried’

Matthew 17.1–9

While the church today, as always, is challenged to confess in word and deed that Jesus is indeed ‘the Christ’, it is simultaneously warned against using that confession in the service of triumphalist religion. ‘The Christ of faith’, when true, always leads again to the ‘Jesus of history’―that is, to him who ‘was crucified, dead, and buried’, and whose anointing entailed a ‘descent into hell’ before it could sit him down at the right hand of God. ― Douglas John Hall, Feasting on the Word, Year A, Vol.1


Trigger warning re domestic violence

Christophe Munzihirwa was a Catholic, a Jesuit, and an archbishop in the African nation of Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He was in office for just over a year, until he was assassinated by Rwandan soldiers in 1996. He was a protector of Hutu and Tutsi refugees in the Rwandan civil war and a proponent of democracy and reconciliation. He once said:

There are things that can be seen only with eyes that have cried.

I thought of these words after the dreadful murder-suicide last Wednesday just fifteen minutes from here in which Rowan Baxter cruelly killed his wife Hannah Clarke and their three children Laianah, Aaliyah and Trey before killing himself. How many eyes have cried since then, and what have they seen that they hadn’t seen before? 

There has been a lot of criticism of the reporting of the murder of Hannah Clarke and her children. I would say that much of the reporting avoided tears. 

Initially, it sidestepped the reality of what happened; then, it spoke of what a ‘good bloke’ the murderer was, a footy player and great dad. 

When we try to sidestep the issues, we avoid our tears. Are we afraid of tears?

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Transfiguration happens all the time (Year B, 15 February, 2015)

2 Corinthians 4.3–6
Mark 9.2–9

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.

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God shares glory—Transfiguration of Jesus, Year C (10 February, 2013)

Exodus 34.29–35
2 Corinthians 3.12–4.2
Luke 9.28–43

If you look on the inside of my office door, you’ll see a piece of paper with something written on it. It was put there during the time of the previous minister; I’ve kept it because I love it. It’s a wonderful saying that has been handed down through the centuries to us, first uttered by St Irenaeus, who lived in the second century AD (that is, in the 100s). He was bishop of the town we know today as Lyons, in France.

So what does this piece of paper say? This:

The Glory of God is
for a human to be
fully alive!

The glory of God is a human being fully alive. The strange story of the Transfiguration shows us a human being who is fully alive.

Jesus takes three disciples, Peter, James and John up a mountain to pray. (Traditionally, it is usually assumed to be Mt Tabor.) They don’t know what they’re in for! Jesus is changed, his clothes dazzle them, Moses and Elijah are there(!?) and a cloud descends. From the cloud, God tells them

This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!

And then the cloud lifts and Moses and Elijah are gone. And some commentators wonder why the disciples told no one about this. I don’t!

This story is told by Matthew, Mark and Luke; a couple of other parts of the New Testament may refer to it as well. John 1.14 is a possibility:

And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

It’s just possible that “we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son” is a memory of the Transfiguration.

It’s much more likely that 2 Peter 1.16–18 refers to the Transfiguration:

For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honour and glory from God the Father when that voice was conveyed to him by the Majestic Glory, saying, ‘This is my Son, my Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.’ We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven, while we were with him on the holy mountain.

The word that occurs in both passages is “glory”. God is “the Majestic Glory”, and Christ is clothed in glory: “we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son”.

I want to emphasise one thing today: God is generous with glory. God shares glory with us through his Son Jesus Christ.  Continue reading

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