Summary: The Transfiguration of Jesus calls us to reflect upon our own shining moments
When I was in seminary, I’d drive along a stretch of Highway 33 between Bath and Kingston, Ontario every school day for three years. It was right along the lake, a scenic drive for sure. But, when you’re part of a steady stream of traffic, all trying to get into the city on time, you don’t always pay attention to the beauty of nature around you.
One February morning, it was so foggy, I could hardly see the lake. The road was slippery, I was late getting to my classes. The day did not get off to a great start at all. But, the drive home was something else. The fog had been burnt off by the Sun, so everything was plain and clear to see. As a matter of fact, the sun was setting behind the trees along the lake which had all been coated not only with hoar frost, but a glassy, icy overcoat. I wanted to pull over and get out my camera and shoot off a roll or two. But, of course, I was in the middle of the evening traffic, my camera was at home, and all I could do was capture that SHINING MOMENT in that invisible album in my cranial cavity. You can tell that it is still there...I just proved it! I can actually see it as vividly as the day it happened back in the winter of 1981...20 years ago.
Peter, James and John were treated to a powerful visual experience one day nearly 2000 years ago. Jesus loved heights. He had this habit of going off to a hillside to pray. Of course, you remember the time he delivered a whole long sermon from a mountain. So, going up a mountain with Jesus by itself was not unusual. They’d done mountains before! But, on this day, it turned out to be more than just another routine hike, more than just another prayer session. It was such a vivid, unforgettable event that three gospel writers record it in great detail. They saw Jesus as they’d never seen him before, clothed in dazzling white, surrounded by a blinding light, accompanied by Moses and Elijah, acknowledged by a voice from heaven as the Son of God. It is the event we have come to know as The Transfiguration, a word which means “change in appearance.” It was a SHINING MOMENT for them for sure!
Surveys show repeatedly that a very high percentage of people admit to having religious or spiritual experiences at one time or another in their life. A month or so ago, I started teaching Christian Ethics to a new set of Grade 11 students at Luther College. When I asked them one day if anyone had gone through any experiences where they felt the presence of God in a powerful, mysterious way, several hands went up. One groped for words to describe her experience in a retreat setting, two others had visions of a relative’s death, and one student later wrote me a note suggesting that I ask the class to write a report on how we think God has helped us cope with life. In his words: “Sounds pretty dumb, doesn’t it, but I have interesting stories to tell.” I haven’t heard those stories yet, but it is quite obvious that this sixteen year-old has had some SHINING MOMENTS in his young life.
I dare say that most of you, if not all of you, young and old alike, with varying degrees of spiritual maturity, can point to such moments in your life. I was there when all three of my children made their grand entrance into this world. I almost missed Priya’s birth, because I was so overcome with emotion that I reached a state of consciousness known in non-medical terms as “passing out.” Until that particular moment, I was just trying to recall what we learned in pre-natal classes and be the best possible coach I could be to my screaming yet darling wife. But, when she emerged, it was not just a baby being born, I’d already seen the film and had a good idea of the process. It just struck me that this cone-headed creature here was OUR baby, we were now parents and I was a Daddy! Wow! That’s when the room started spinning out of control!!
For the record, Sulojana did not label it as a SHINING MOMENT on the spot...at least I couldn’t come to that conclusion based on the words she used to describe the process as she was going through it! But, it was a powerful experience for her nonetheless! As we both capped off “our” time of labour with toast and washed it down with orange juice it was as though we were taking part in Holy Communion.
I consider it a great privilege to have had the opportunity to share such special moments with some of you. For the most part they happened in a hospital setting, some at birth, but mostly at the time of death. I vividly recall the time of prayer with Ruth Case, just a week before she met her Maker....and watching a great man and friend, Bob Law, breathe his last in total peace in the Palliative Care Unit at the General Hospital surrounded by his loving family. Following another such time together, one of our members would write me a note that said: “The prayer you had with Mom was one of the most meaningful spiritual experiences I have ever had, one that I will never forget.” Yes, even in the darkness of death, there are SHINING MOMENTS for us to cherish.