transfiguration sunday

After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.

Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”

While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”

When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.  

Matthew 17:1-7, The Message

Oklahoma Redbud  (photo: Andy Bruner)

Oklahoma Redbud  (photo: Andy Bruner)

Yesterday was Transfiguration Sunday, and the gospel reading was this passage from Matthew.

Isn't it weird that when Jesus shone like the sun and his clothing was as white as the light and when Moses and Elijah showed up and started talking with Jesus, nobody turned a hair?

Peter just said, "This is cool that we're all here together.  Let's build a camp and stay."

The thing that freaked the disciples out was the voice from heaven saying, "This is my son, listen to him."

My religious tradition taught me that Jesus was trying, throughout his time with his disciples, to tell them that he had come to start something new.  

And I wonder if here at the transfiguration, the fear comes with the new.

I wonder if Peter was hoping to contain Jesus to the old religious patterns. 

Glory shows up, here on a mountain--we've seen that before.  We know what that is.

Moses met glory on a mountain,  Elijah met with glory on a mountain.  

Let's build a shelter, let's contain the glory in this one place, like we've always done.  

We could set up rules and regulations, we could make it be the way it's always been.

But the Voice interrupts:  "This is my Son.  Follow him."

And that news and that instruction was terrifying to those dedicated to The Way Things Are.

Because Jesus was doing things like healing on the Sabbath and saying things like, "The Kingdom of Heaven is within you."  And generally making the religious people want to kill him.

The Kingdom of Heaven is a nice, safe thing if you can contain it, keep it on a mountain, push it far away.

"Somewhere in outer space, God has prepared a place," as we used to sing in Sunday School.

But if the Kingdom of Heaven is within us, and if we're supposed to follow Jesus into the muck and the mire of everyday life?

I think that's the challenge that scared the disciples so badly.

They weren't being called to sit on the mountain and drink in the glory forever and ever amen.

They were being asked to follow Jesus off the mountain.

And I think they knew what that meant.

They would be called to heal and to speak and to make the religious people want to kill them, too.

So how did they ever get off that mountain?

Jesus came and touched them. 

“Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” 

When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.

Oklahoma Redbud, a couple of weeks later (photo: Andy Bruner)

Oklahoma Redbud, a couple of weeks later (photo: Andy Bruner)

I don't know about you, but I feel like I'm being called to the same work that the disciples were so afraid to do:

Follow Jesus off the mountain.

To heal, and to speak life and Love to those who need it.

Honestly, it scares me, too.  

I don't mind healing and speaking, but I don't like pissing people off.  

I want people to like me and praise me and say I'm awesome.

But I have found that loving the least of these is just as offensive today as it was in the time of Jesus, and I think it's because of this:

When we live out the Kingdom of Heaven within us, when we walk to the margin, when we seat ourselves with the suffering, we demonstrate that Love is not something that can be hoarded for sale by the religous elite.

Transfiguring Love is not contained to a mountain top or to prophets of old.

Transfiguring Love is not the property of Pastor John and the Second Fifth Billionth Main Street Church of Our Lady of Ten Thousand Literal Inerrantist Rules. 

Transfiguring Love is, instead, a free gift to all.

Transfiguring Love lies within each of us, ready to share.

And that sharing will come at a cost.

We are called to follow Jesus where Love goes, laying down our lives for one another.

I, for one, would be so much more comfy up on the mountain.

To follow Jesus?

That is scary stuff.

And in my experience,

the only thing that gets me off the mountain is

Love touching me,

telling me not to be afraid,

and most of all,

Love filling my whole field of vision,

so that I see

no one

except Jesus.

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