Recently I read about a television show called “How It’s Made,” which walks viewers through the way items we use every day are created and constructed. From padlocks to pencils to whatever else you take for granted and buy at the store without much thought to how it got there—this program shows you its genesis and all the various parts that have to move in order for it to come into being and actually work.
It gives us a proverbial peek behind the curtain of something that is usually a mystery, or not even on the radar screen of our curiosity. Well, apparently, once you see how a ballpoint pen is made, you will never look at one the same way again. So, from the simple to the sublime…
Transfiguration is a day we commemorate the further revealing of who God is in Jesus Christ. And just as that silly ballpoint pen becomes a thing of wonder once we realize what went into making it, so too does, or should, our sense of wonderment deepen when we come into a greater realization of who and what God is (perhaps multiplied a thousand times). What’s more, that realization and new understanding or recognition transforms the seer.
But let’s take a step back and spend some time with Moses. Moses spends days on Mt. Sinai conversing with the Lord and receiving the law on two stone tablets. When he descends from the mountain, his face is shining. The residue of the Lord’s presence is still on his face—or perhaps he has brought the Lord with him. This must have been a remarkable sight.
The people, however, are afraid. In their understanding, no one sees God and lives to tell the tale. They fear for themselves. Maybe they are reminded, in comparison, of their own inadequacies. At any rate, even though God is fine with the people gazing upon God’s glory, the people do not want to see it.
After Moses shares the law with the people, he veils his face. He realizes that he is freaking them out! The only time he takes the veil off is when he goes back to speak to the Lord, which I think is a shame because the people are missing out on an opportunity to witness God’s glory. But no one wants to get closer or to adjust their eyes to the brightness.
You simply can’t see something like this and be unaffected. Perhaps the people of Israel know that being in the presence of something that remarkable would require them to change. Indeed, they would die—but may not in the way they thought. Perhaps in the presence of God, having received God’s law, they would find new life. And since the new is often frightening, they, and sometimes we, don’t want any part of it.
At Jesus’ Transfiguration and the sight of his communing with Moses (the great lawgiver) and Elijah (the great prophet), Peter wants to commemorate the event with altars in honor of each. He wants to freeze this moment in time, and most likely if he had a smart phone, he would have been recording the whole thing, perhaps catching a few selfies with Jesus and company. But a voice from heaven interrupts and says, “Listen to him!” Does anyone remember a former time when God’s voice broke the silence and said, “Listen to him!” Yes, of course, Jesus’ baptism.
Just as Moses brings the law to the people so that it will be heard and heeded, Jesus’ transfiguration should have implications for how its witnesses will live their lives thereafter. Eventually, they all will have to come down from the mountain and be with the people, and minister to them. They will have to act upon what they saw and heard.
In 2 Corinthians Paul speaks of Moses and of the Israelites’ veil, the hardening of the mind that kept them from fully living into the glory of God. They didn’t want to be changed. Neither do we at times. We don’t know what change will mean for us, what it will take away from us, where it will call us to go, or what it will call us to do.
We are often more comfortable with being religious than we are with being changed. So we build altars, monuments, and create religious forms—all very beautiful. But we remain unchanged spiritually and psychologically.
We resist being changed in a way that will make us agents of healing.
We resist being changed in a way that will make us purveyors of justice.
We resist being changed in a way that will enable us to share God’s glory instead of hiding from it or trying to hold onto it. We settle for religious form, instead of Godly function.
Well, when the disciples come down from the mountain, they are met with an opportunity to heal a sick boy. They can’t do it. Maybe mentally they are still on the mountain.
Sometimes we walk through a world that is sick and in need of help, but mentally, we are not there. We’re still in church. We’re still thinking about our own spiritual lives, what devotional we’ll read next, or what tasks we have to do around the church, or how we think the worship music or the liturgy should be done. Or, are we happy with the weekly flowers at the altar?
Important as these things are, if they don’t produce righteousness, healing, love for one another, forgiveness, and freedom beyond our selves, what good are they? What good is our healing if the people around us, or we ourselves, stay sick? And I use the word “sick” to convey anything that can keep us from full joy in, and fellowship with, the Lord and each other, and the world beyond these doors.
We know who Jesus is. So, it is incumbent upon us that we act upon that knowledge. How can we see God’s Glory in Jesus and not be changed, transformed, enlivened to be “Little Christs” in this crazy world?
My prayer this morning is that Jesus’ church will set aside our veils that we think protect us somehow. They have already been removed in Christ Jesus. Why pick them up again?
Let us sit at the Son’s feet and listen to him! Let us willingly submit to being transformed, so that we may gaze upon the glory of the Lord “as reflected in a mirror” and be transformed into the same image.
This kind of change within us can produce change in our churches and communities that glorifies God, and heals humanity around us and beyond. Who wouldn’t want that? Amen