February 15, 2015
Mark 9: 2-9
This is a hard one to explain. I have read so many attempts to figure out what this means: is Jesus’ re-charging his batteries for the time that is soon coming in which he will be arrested, interrogated and killed? Is God sending him special power?
Why only these three disciples? Are they especially gifted leaders, or particularly slow to understand?
This story appears in all of the Synoptic Gospels, the three which share the same story lines about Jesus’ life and death. The Jews of Jesus’ day knew that Moses and Elijah had seen God in person, and that God took them out of this world in a special way. Peter wanted to build the kind of tent that was used in the Festival of Booths, which celebrated the time in the desert and the walk with God out of slavery. But that doesn’t explain why. It’s meaning is pretty opaque to us. We are just confused.
This Sunday marks for us the end of the season of Epiphany, the season in which we see Jesus revealed. We started with the story of Jesus’ baptism, when the heavens are ripped open and God tells Jesus that he is the Beloved. It isn’t clear whether anyone else heard that voice or whether it was only Jesus himself. But here at the end of Epiphany, Jesus is revealed out loud as God’s Beloved. God’s light shines through him and in him. You can’t miss it, he’s a beacon, a lighthouse shining in the desert. It’s an eye-popping story, all the more amazing in this Gospel in which so much is hidden and Jesus is always taking people aside to heal them and telling them not to talk about it.
To me, the preacher, for all it’s amazing visuals, it’s hard to answer the “So What?” question. What does this story of Jesus blazing beside Moses and Elijah, before his clueless disciples have to do with us, with me, with the lives we are living today?
How are we supposed to use this story to understand our lives of faith?
Rather than trying to figure out what Jesus’ big transformation means, maybe we should look at how it offers us a glimpse of God’s love. Jesus is the beacon that draws us into God’s transforming grace. Jesus is the one who reveals to us the incredible and unbelievable depth of God’s love for us. Today we may look at him in the glory which is so amazing that the Evangelist can’t even find words for it. And in a few weeks we will see him suffering on a cross, lifted up for all the world to see once again. And in both revelations, we see God at work to draw us in, to overwhelm us with the power of this love for us.
So you see, that’s the thing. It is this love that can transform us into God’s people, seeing now with the eyes of the love we have experienced like the disciples who were there with Jesus. After all their squabbles about who was the greatest, and who would sit at Jesus’ right hand, they were finally transformed into powerhouses of the church, sharing a Gospel that transformed the world.
Some of us have had big experiences of faith that can leave us stuck there, waiting for God to appear again. And some of us wish that we’d have some big experience that would make us realize that God is here with us. With or without the big experiences of faith, we are invited to live everyday by the grace that seeks us out, transforms us bit by bit into the lovers that God sends into the world to be Jesus every day. It is in the everyday experience of living through fear and in joy that we find God growing us into the disciples we are meant to become. We learn to love even unlovable each other, and to lean on each other’s faith when our own fails us. Did you know that Mother Teresa’s diaries revealed that she prayed for experiences of God’s love, and assurances of God’s presence, but got none? Most of her religious life felt empty and cold, but she kept on doing what she trusted she was called to do. Over the tubs where they bathed the dying beggars was a sign: “This is my body.” That was her hope and her life of faith.
On this day of Transfiguration, may we, too, be drawn to the beacon that is Jesus, the light of God’s flaming, flagrant love for us and all of humanity. And may we be transformed into the lovers God needs to transform our world. Amen.
Now may the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, our Lord. Amen.