February 14, 2021 - Last Sunday after Epiphany
Over the past year, we’ve gotten really good at hiding things. We have all become adept at making sure that our laundry isn’t displayed behind us while we meet on Zoom. But while we go through great efforts to hide our unpresentable sides, the glory of God displayed in today’s readings is actually limited by the physical person of Christ. It is a veiling not of something unpresentable, but rather of immense power and immeasurable, unbearable light.
The voice of God in our Gospel reading today insists that the disciples listen, that their looking at this dazzling sight is not the point. Instead, it’s a kind of grab for their attention to reveal the identity of Jesus. Likewise, St. Paul’s letter closes with a plea to the reader: “listen to my appeal” (2 Cor 13:11). Do not be distracted or deceived by those who impress the eyes, but let God’s light shine in your hearts to “give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor 4:6).
The Transfiguration in today’s Gospel - where Jesus was changed in appearance in front of the disciples - showcases and defines the identity of Christ. Friends, while we may be tempted to focus on what Jesus did or does for us as we enter Lent, Jesus is who Jesus is not because he defeated death. Jesus defeated death because of who he is. How do we respond to who Jesus is? How do the disciples respond? Our next steps - just as theirs were - are related to what we’ve seen and heard in the person of Christ.
But I want to focus on the light. Light illuminates. It makes things clearer. But it can also blind us. So how do we treat light in our lives. Do we allow the light to illuminate our darknesses so that we can learn from them? Or do we allow the light to shine into our eyes and shield us from the true vision, like a flashlight in our eyes on a dark night?
The light that shines on Jesus is the same light that enables us to see that we are connected to one another. The generosity to which Paul calls the church in Corinth is not aid, but sharing within a household. Those invisible connections between fragile people are the means God has chosen to express God’s power in the world.
I haven’t had an opportunity to preach a children’s sermon recently, but sometimes I think that adults get more out of them than the children do. Today, on the day when we hear the story of the Transfiguration, one of my favorite questions for the children is to ask them about the best day they remember. And then I ask them to share the details with me, but before they can tell them, I stop them and tell them that they can’t tell anyone about it. And I ask them how they feel.
That’s what happened to Peter and James and John on the mountaintop! Peter and James and John knew more about what was going on than their companions, and yet they couldn’t tell anyone about it. Put yourselves in their shoes… how would that make you feel?
We may not always feel that God is powerful or that God is with us, but our faith asks us to walk in the truth even when we don’t feel it… just as we can enjoy the memories of a great day long ago. When the clouds move in, we still have trouble remembering the vision on the mountaintop. It is a hard lesson to learn: that we should trust those rare moments of clear insight and heightened joy that are granted us from time to time, and should let them help us through the long hours of doubt and sadness. Those other times will come… But when we can no longer see the hand of the Heavenly Father, we may still hear the voice: ‘This is my Son…; listen to him!