Year A, The Feast of the transfiguration
august 6, 2023
Year A: Exodus 34:29-35; Psalm 99; 2 Peter 1:13-21; Luke 9:28-36
This morning, we turn our hearts and eyes to the radiant spectacle of the Transfiguration. A mountain, a cloud, the figures of Moses and Elijah, a voice from the heavens, and our Savior transfigured in dazzling white. In today’s Scripture, we seem to find a moment where time, space, and divinity intersect. This profound moment on the mountaintop reveals Jesus’ true nature and his connection to and fulfillment of both the Law and the Prophets.
Back in February, we heard Matthew’s version. Today, we heard Luke’s version. The differences are minimal. What’s important is that all three Gospels point to the Transfiguration as a significant event in the life of Christ.1 This event happens after Peter’s confession of Jesus as the Messiah and Jesus’ prediction of his death.
During the time of Jesus, the Jewish people were under Roman rule, grappling with questions of identity and faithfulness to the covenant. The appearance of Moses and Elijah at the Transfiguration would have been profoundly meaningful to the early disciples, anchoring Christ’s mission in the revered traditions of the law and prophets. Understanding this context helps us grasp the profound impact of this event.
The event’s rich symbolism has inspired Christian thought and art throughout history, symbolizing a revelation of Christ’s divine glory, connecting his human existence with his divine existence, and his earthly existence with his eternal existence.
In the Transfiguration, Christ’s appearance alters: his face shines, his clothes become dazzling white, a spectacle witnessed by the apostles Peter, James, and John. This shining light signifies the divinity of Christ. Why? How? In various religious and cultural traditions, light is associated with the divine, with purity and truth. The brilliance of Christ’s appearance during the Transfiguration aligns with this symbolism as serves as a visual affirmation for the disciples of Christ’s divine nature. Throughout the Bible, light and radiance are often linked to divine encounters.2
The dazzling light that shone from Jesus on that mountaintop is the Light of the World, a light that continues to shine, guiding, healing, transforming, and empowering. It’s not only a symbol of Christ’s divinity but a beacon of hope and guidance for each of us.
In our journey through life, we often encounter valleys of shadows where hope seems distant. The light of the Transfiguration is a beacon for us, illuminating our way, guiding us from despair to hope, from darkness to light. The same light that transfigured Jesus on that mountaintop can transform us, infusing us with strength, courage, and wisdom.
The Transfiguration can be seen as a powerful metaphor for a spark of justice in our communities. It represents a moment of clarity and enlightenment, where the ordinary is transformed into something extraordinary. In a societal context, the Transfiguration can inspire a renewed commitment to justice, equality, and compassion. It can be the catalyst that awakens a sense of shared responsibility, urging individuals and communities to look beyond superficial differences and recognize the inherent dignity and worth in every person. Just as the disciples were called to see Jesus in a new light, the symbol of the Transfiguration challenges us to see our neighbors with fresh eyes, embracing empathy and striving for a fairer society.
The light of the Transfiguration brings us to a transformative spiritual awakening for us. As we reflect on the divine light of the Transfiguration, we must consider how it extends to our community. As a church, individually and collectively, we are called to reflect the Transfiguration’s light in our community. Through our worship, fellowship, and service, we are tasked with embodying Christ’s light, and being examples of love, compassion, and unity.
But the light of the Transfiguration doesn’t stop with us individually or even as a community. It reaches out to the world. In a world marred by climate change, disease, political polarization, and tragedies like the drowning of immigrants trying to escape war and violence, the symbolism of the Transfiguration reminds us to seek wholeness beyond human-made divisions, striving towards a unified purpose. Can we recognize the divine within one another and work collectively for compassion, empathy, and responsible stewardship of our planet?
The Transfiguration teaches us about the continuity of God’s light. The appearance of Elijah and Moses confirms the continuity of God’s revelation, assuring us that God’s light has always been and always will be. This eternal light is our guide, our comfort, and our hope through all generations.
The Transfiguration is not merely a past event; it’s a living reality, a call to action. The Transfiguration is not merely a momentary vision but a transformative encounter. The apostles descended the mountain forever changed, having beheld the glory of God. It is a theological pronouncement of the Christ who transforms, redeems, and restores. This light calls us to a similar transformation.
The light of Christ. It’s a profound invitation. It’s an invitation into communion with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, our Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier. Just as Christ was revealed to the disciples on the mountain, Christ is made known to us through the breaking of the bread. This sacramental encounter illuminates our lives, fostering a deep connection with Christ and with one another.
How are we allowing the light of the Transfiguration to transform us? How are we being that light to others? How can we be more intentional in reflecting this divine light in all aspects of our lives?
We are called to be a living testimony of the light that guided the disciples on that mountaintop. As we consider the Transfiguration, it is essential to reflect on how this profound event informs our understanding of God, our faith journey, and our engagement with the world.
Maybe we want our mountaintop experience to last as long as possible. Certainly, this was true of Peter. He experiences God in a direct, obvious, and powerful way and responds by wanting to build dwellings for Moses, Elijah, and Jesus.
When we encounter God in powerful ways as Peter did, we’ll probably want to capture it like we capture our memories on our smartphones (I have more than 4,000 pictures on my phone).
But, we cannot domesticate or tame the activity of God, of course. Staying and dwelling there on that mountain would have kept Jesus from Jerusalem and Calvary, which Jesus is trying to explain is his purpose and mission.
To further Christ’s mission in the world, we can’t remain on the mountaintop. We must descend, carrying the divine light into our daily lives. It must shine through us in all that we do, reflected in our interactions, our decisions, and our very being. So let’s remember this in the everyday moments, in our conversations with friends, in our decisions at work, and in our time with family. Let’s make an effort to be kinder, more patient, more understanding, and more forgiving. It’s in these simple, daily choices that we can make a real difference and carry on Christ’s mission. Let’s be conscious of this in the coming week, and may it guide us in all that we do. Amen.