Hymn: O Wondrous Sight! O Vision Fair (Sarum Beviary, trans. John Mason Neale/William Knapp)
Opening Prayer: Holy God, upon the mountain you revealed our Messiah,
who by his death and resurrection would fulfill both the law and the prophets.
By his transfiguration enlighten our path
that we may date to suffer with him in the service of humanity
and so share in the everlasting glory of him
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
One God, for ever. Amen. (Lawrence Hull Stookey)
Readings from the Word:
2 Peter 1:16-21
Reflections on the Word
The Gospel story this week marks the beginning of Jesus’ final journey towards Jerusalem and his passion and resurrection. It’s an unusual story for Matthew, and one that doesn’t easily fit into the “standard” narrative of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus takes his three closest disciples, Peter, James, and John, as he climbs to the top of a mountain, where he becomes “transfigured” – his face and clothes glowing bright – and is suddenly joined by both Moses and Elijah. Stunned, the three disciples try to make sense of the spectacle. Peter, ever the man of action before thought, jumps up and, in a fumbling attempt to respond to the dazzling display, offers to build three structures to shelter Jesus and two of the most important figures from Jewish history, the lawgiver and the great prophet. It’s an altogether too human response to a heavenly event.
But while Peter is still rambling through his building plans, the voice of God sounds, and proclaims, “This is my Son, the Beloved – listen to him!” Once again, as He did with Moses and Elijah, God reminds us that, in the presence of God, it is not action that is needed, but stillness, wonder, adoration – and for awed reverence of the majesty of the Creator.
Yet no one can experience the full presence of God, even as a mere witness, without themselves being changed. This event on the mountaintop was the beginning of not only Jesus’ final ministry, but of the disciples – soon to become the Apostles – ministry, as well. Peter, James, and John had seen the undisguised truth of Jesus’ divinity, had heard the voice of God proclaim it, and it surely changed their lives forever. Even two millennium removed, we can experience these “mountaintop” moments, just as they did, when God reaches down and speaks to us. The question is, how do we respond? In fumbling attempts to “do something”? Or by stilling our own voices, and listening to the call of Christ? Because by listening, and then responding, we, too, become “transfigured”, and prepared for our own journey of ministry.
In Marianne Williamson’s book, A Return to Love, she writes: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” When we accept God’s grace and love, we become new people, transfigured. And as we live out our transfigured lives, following in the example of Christ, everyone we touch becomes changed, as well.
Rev. J. Carl Gregg writes: “We each reflect different aspects of the image of God, and practicing transfiguration allows God’s image to shine more brilliantly through us in all our uniqueness and diversity.” As we reflect in awe and wonder as the majesty of God reveal in Jesus’ transfiguration on the mountaintop, let us use the experience – and our own transfiguring encounters with the presence of God – to prepare ourselves for our journey through Lent and toward Calvary, so that we may truly be ministers to the Gospel of Christ, and a transfiguring force in the world.
Hymn: Blessed Jesus, at Thy Word (Tobias Clausnitzer, trans. Catherine Winkworth/Johann R. Ahle)
Blessing: Come down from the mountain with mountainlike faith.
Walk on God’s paths as bright, shining lights.
Live in God’s ways with faith, hope, and love.
Go into the world transformed and renewed! Amen. (The Abingdon Worship Annual)