Summary: God transfigures us and sends us out into the world to share His love. God uses us to light the sky of the darkest nights of the soul. Praise be to God.
One day I was reading the news on the net, I do that most every day. I ran across a headline for an article titled, “Death of an International Language.” The title sounded intriguing so I read it. It made both sad and nostalgic. The article talked about the death of Morse code, the only language other than English I am fluent in.
The article talked at length about how the code was developed by Samuel Morse in the 1800s. Along with the invention of the telegraph, Morse code literally helped to settle the west. It cut the time it took to send communications, using wires to link one part of the country with another. Later, with wireless communications, principally radio, the code became an indispensable tool, particularly for the military. It was used by armies and on ships for both radio and visual communications. A Morse code message was used by the Titanic to tell the world it had hit an iceberg and was sinking.
Since that time, as we all know, voice communications have long since replaced the telegraph. Because we use voice to communicate over the radio, the need for the code drastically diminished.
Until relatively recently, the military still used the code fairly extensively in visual communications. That is what I did in the Navy. I was a signalman. I worked on the bridge and used Morse code for flashing light messages. We also used semaphore, and all the bright colored flags you see on ships for visual communications with other ships.
That article said even among merchant ships the communications code was available until February 1999 though few people used it. Beginning then, international law required all maritime ships to have satellite navigation and communication systems. Though the military still used Morse code some, it was on life support. When the Army and Navy quit using Morse code a few years ago, it was pretty much the end with only a handful of amateur radio operators keeping it somewhat alive. That made me a bit sad because at least at one time, Morse code was an important part of my life.
As I read the article I thought back on my Navy days. I remember standing on the bridge of my ship at night and being amazed at how much of the ocean became lit when we would send flashing light messages to other ships, even when we used filters. Or, when I would see some old salt (a term of endearment for an old sailor) that had been working for years as a signalman, operate the light. He could run that light so fast and smooth. Sometimes it would look like gibberish and I would have to slow him down.
Occasionally we would have to send a task force wide message. We would use the yard arm blinkers. At night they really lit up the sky. The blinkers made the night sky seem to become day. It was really bright.
The article and all those memories came back to me as I was studying the texts for today. Matthew tells us Jesus, Moses and Elijah were glowing to the point they were shining like the sun. Then Peter says, “You will do well to be attentive to this as a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.” Light and darkness are important metaphors in Scripture. Jesus, the Christ, the Messiah, came into the world as a light in the darkness. He came into the world to light up the night sky.
If Peter, James, and John hadn’t gotten the message Jesus was the Messiah, our lesson should have made the point. Remember by this point these three, and the other disciples, had seen thousands fed, heard Jesus teach and preach and had seen people healed. Peter had even publicly declared who Jesus was to the other eleven. Now with the Transfiguration it was confirmed before their eyes and ears Jesus was the Christ.
I think it is difficult for us to place ourselves in this story. It is harder than most of Scripture because it sounds like something from a movie script. It is so different from our reality. First, we look up and see Jesus standing there. Not so strange, except he is standing there with Moses and Elijah. Don’t ask me how they knew it was Moses and Elijah. I don’t know. We have pictures of departed family members and famous and not so famous people of the past. Some time ago my Dad gave me a picture of my great-great grandfather. He died over 20 years before I was born. If I suddenly had a vision, I might recognize him. But these three didn’t have the luxury of a picture of these two fathers of Israel. Yet they still knew Moses and Elijah. And, it must have been a frightening thing to look up and see two men, seemingly alive they knew had died centuries before.