Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Practicing Transfiguration

In Matthew’s Gospel (17:1-9) we hear the extraordinary story of the Transfiguration of Jesus Christ. An event witnessed by the disciples Peter, James and John. Included in this vision is Moses and Elijah. Jesus is sometimes described in scripture as the one who came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets and at other times to destroy those things. Either way, it is appropriate in this significant vision that both Moses (who is associated with the Law) and Elijah (who is the Prophet of prophets) are included.

For their part, the disciples know the importance of this event and they don’t want it to end. They would be happy to build some meager dwelling and remain there, on the mountain top, forever. They would love to simply adore Jesus and forget about the rest of the world. Both Moses and Elijah had extraordinary, mountaintop experiences that changed them, that made their faces shine so that other could see the light of God shining through them. Moses and Elijah had to climb back down into the valley, where life is lived. Jesus, along with Peter, James and John must return to the valley too.

There’s nothing wrong with the desire of the disciples to simply want to worship and adore the transfigured image of Jesus. That is, after all, what our worship is about; to be in prayer and worship (together and alone) is to seek an awareness of the presence of the Holy in our lives. This is a kind of ascent into the presence of God, an opening which (ironically, I guess) brings us quickly back down into the valley where we find God is also present and where we encounter others. Immediately after the transfiguration, Jesus, in the valley, encounters a sick boy, so Jesus returns to his mission and heals him.

For us, practicing transfiguration is about developing a practice of prayer, worship and adoration that ultimately opens us to a life where we encounter God in everyone we meet. A tall order for sure, but with practice people will see the light of God shining in our transfigured faces.

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