Today we celebrate the event of the Transfiguration—an event
of central importance in Jesus’ life, as well as the lives of
his three intimate companions. The event looks backward and
forward, focusing our attention on the past, on earlier events in
the life of Jesus and, indeed, on the central acts of God among
the Hebrew people. At the same time, it points to the future, to
the fulfillment of God’s redemptive purpose in Jesus Christ and
the mission in which we all participate.
Consider the central figures of the scene: Moses, the prototype
of the Messiah, the great deliverer, the embodiment of the
Law, and Elijah, the forerunner of the Messiah, the greatest of
the prophets, whose name itself means “the Lord is my God.”
The Transfiguration reveals and confirms that Jesus is the Messiah,
the fulfillment of both the Law and the Prophets. In Luke’s
Gospel, this mountaintop experience immediately follows the
account of Peter’s confession where the apostle boldly proclaims
Jesus as the “Messiah of God” (9:20).
The Messiah approved by God on the mountaintop is the
One through whom God now acts in the dark valleys of life.
The way of Jesus is not a detached glory; it is a glory relevant
and active in the most sordid of human situations. Through his
actions, Jesus shines all the more clearly as he illumines the
dark spaces in which people live. He gets his hands dirty in
the world of everyday life and transforms it by his presence.
The way of Jesus is to be pierced by the hatred and cruelty of
those he came to save and to go on loving. You and I are called
to nothing less!
Christ, whose glory fills the skies, Christ, the true, the only light. . . . More and more thyself display, shining to the perfect day. Amen. (“Christ, Whose Glory Fills the Skies,” UMH, no. 173)
In deep deference and careful obedience, Moses enters the zone of God’s glory, which certifies Moses’ authority. Psalm 99 praises the kingship of Yahweh, while bringing to mind the human agents of God’s rule who facilitate Yahweh’s conversation with the people. The Gospel lesson, like Exodus 24, characterizes what is not fully seen or clearly heard. Jesus is taken up into the zone of God’s glory and so is filled with transcendent authority. Speech about glory points to the assignment of new authority. The epistle reading asserts the authority of the true teachers of the church who rightly present and interpret the scriptural tradition.
• Read Exodus 24:12-18. When did you last experience a life-altering encounter with God?
• Read Psalm 99. Have you ever felt that if God really knew you, you would be hopeless? What changed your mind?
• Read 2 Peter 1:16-21. For the epistle writer, the Transfiguration event focuses more on hearing than on seeing. How do you listen for God’s words?
• Read Matthew 17:1-9. What dark places have you seen brightened by Christ’s presence—through you or others?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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