Summary: "God moments," like the Transfiguration, need time and perspective before we can fully appreciate the significance of what we have experienced of the divine.
February 23, 2020
Hope Lutheran Church
Hindsight and God Moments
Friends, may grace and peace be yours in abundance in the knowledge of God and Christ Jesus our Lord.
Today we come to the conclusion of Epiphany. Epiphany is known as the season of light. It begins with the story of the bright star leading the Wise Men to the baby Jesus. And it ends with Jesus in his brilliant transfiguration. How dazzling the moment must have been for Peter, James and John! No wonder they fell to the ground in fear and awe! The transformation of Jesus, the heavenly visitors, the bright cloud, the voice. Pretty awesome! It was a God moment, for sure.
Here was Jesus, this man, this ordinary man, they knew and loved. The longer they knew him, the more their perception of him expanded. Who is he? A rabbi? A healer? A miracle worker? When Jesus asked his disciples who they think he is, Peter goes out on a limb. “You are the Messiah!” he says.
But now, this! On this mountain, Jesus is more than a rabbi, more than a Messiah. He reflects the brilliance of the divine.
The Greek word for “transfiguration” comes from the root “metamorph.” It’s the root for our word “metamorphosis.” A caterpillar enters a cocoon. While hidden away, it undergoes a radical change. It enters the cocoon as a caterpillar, but it exits the cocoon transfigured. It’s a butterfly.
This is the word to describe what’s happened to Jesus. His appearance has been altogether altered. Jesus went up the mountain as a human being. But Peter and his associates witness an altogether different aspect of his being. Their friend Jesus shines with the brilliance of the divine.
They do what anyone does when they stand in the presence of God. They fall to their knees.
When the vision has ended, their friend Jesus stands before them again. “Get up,” he says, “Let’s go.” And then he tells them, “Don’t say anything about this to anyone. Don’t speak about it until after I’ve been raised from the dead.” This strange comment about dying made what they saw even harder to comprehend.
“Tell no one.” Indeed! Even if they had, what they would have said would’ve sounded like the ramblings of mad men! They simply didn’t have the understanding, the mental capacity, to absorb and comprehend what they’d witnessed. They leave the mountain and keep their mouths shut.
Now, this is completely in my imagination. There’s nothing biblical about this at all. But in my imagination, I see Peter kneeling there on the ground. And before he stands up to go, he sees a small rock on the ground. He picks it up and puts it in his pocket. He takes the rock with him to remember what happened up there on that mountain.
He carried that rock with him as a remembrance of what he’d seen up there. That it was real, that it really happened. He’d been on top of that mountain, and he saw his friend Jesus transformed into the divine! That rock let him know he hadn’t dreamed it.
Peter couldn’t comprehend what he’d seen up there. But years later, he would come to appreciate it more fully.
There’s a power to hindsight and reflection. While we’re muddling through the experience in real time, it’s difficult, if not impossible, for us to make sense and understand the full significance of what’s going on. We’re in the thick of it. We’re on an arduous, uphill climb. Our vision is hindered by the thick undergrowth and overshadowing trees.
We have God moments along our life journeys. Just like Peter, our comprehension of them need time and experience before their significance can crystallize. During the heat of the moment, we can’t fully absorb the sparks of hope, the glinting of grace.
But along the way, we come to a level place, and there, we can look back on the way we’ve come. We can look and see it all. We can see our God moments for what they are.
For us to fully appreciate the God moments we encounter, we need the gift of hindsight. So when you come to that level place, pull out the stones you’ve collected along the way. Pull them out and look at them. Remember and reflect on those moments:
- Huddled around a font at a baptism
- The heart to heart conversation with your brother
- That moment when grace unexpectedly met you around the turn of a corner, and just the right person stepped into your life
- Remember when you were quietly humbled by the gracious outpouring from your neighbors
- Remember that moment when you knew in your heart that God would see you through, that everything would be enveloped and carried by God’s almighty hand