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March 4, 2019

Monastery of St. Catherine_Sinai-Egypt
Mosaic_Transfiguration of the Lord

Scripture Luke 9:28-36

And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.

Luke 9:29-31 NRSV

I believe that we all have this very human tendency to go about our busy lives, failing to see God active in the world. But, we can find them easily in spontaneous acts of kindness or someone moved by gentle words of comfort or the unplanned, but needed, presence of a close friend. I prefer to call these transformative moments, and they can become memorable and endearing moments when we recognize God’s continual presence with us and God’s power to transform us, as well.

The transfiguration of the Lord in the scripture lesson can be a bit eery and disorienting when taken literally. However, the key words are these: They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem (Luke 9:31, NRSV).

The appearance of Moses and Elijah tie this story to the history of the Jewish faith and the power of God. Because of this, our focus is not the cloud, the dazzling clothes of Jesus, or the appearance of these two great persons of the scriptures. Instead, this verse declares that Jesus is going to depart from the disciples, later specified as the arrest, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

In this story, only one person, Peter, began to understand this moment and encounter with God: “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him.” (Luke 9:35). Like you and me, Peter is enthusiastic, but fails to fully understand the “big picture.”

With the transfiguration of Jesus, the reader has an impression of change that will not go away. In these last days before Lent, we prepare ourselves to travel with Jesus and the disciples to Jerusalem. That journey ended in Holy Week: the grand arrival of Jesus in the city, the final time with the disciples on Maundy Thursday, the terrible trial and death of Jesus on Good Friday, and the darkness of the sabbath day that followed.

The disciples of Jesus and many others only understood Jesus as the Messiah after his resurrection. Until then, they failed to grasp the full meaning of his ministry and death, which is how I regard my own fragile and imperfect faith journey. Like the disciples, you and I should pause during Lent and place ourselves alongside those who witnessed the Gospel firsthand.

In these verses of scripture, Jesus was transfigured to mark a point in his ministry. In a less dramatic way, will you and I allow ourselves to be transformed by God’s activity in our lives?

Stan Reid

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