Summary: The Holy Spirit gives a transfigured person power to do what he or she could not do before. Authority stood on the mountaintop. The same authority and light guides us through and out of whatever wilderness we may be in, whatever horror we face.
Many of you may remember a TV show called "TV's Bloopers and Practical Jokes". Well my friends, bloopers have never been limited to television shows. In fact, some of the funniest bloopers have appeared in church bulletins. For example:
1. Barbara remains in the hospital and needs blood donors for more transfusions. She is also having trouble sleeping and requests tapes of Pastor Jack's sermons.
2. The sermon this morning: "Jesus Walks on Water". The sermon tonight: "Searching for Jesus".
3. The Rector will preach his farewell message after which the choir will sing "Break Forth Into Joy".
The disciples in this morning's Gospel reading this morning also made a BIG blooper, but not on purpose. Peter, James and John were in the presence of God in an extraordinary moment, but they did not see the miraculous-only the mundane. Peter definitely did not get it when he suggested that they stay on the mountain and build shelters for Jesus, Moses and Elijah. He wanted to capture the moment and remain there. He wanted to freeze that one moment in time, but doing so would have shut off the possibility of the next moment.
Jesus, on the other hand, knew that in order to fulfill His destiny, they had to leave and travel the long road to Jerusalem-the road that would eventually lead to His death and resurrection. He was not afraid to talk about his death and resurrection, because they transformed death into victory over sin and the grave, and they also transformed a sinful world into one where salvation and glory are possible. Prayer transforms us. God's grace makes us lively; however, it is a good thing to "go up" to a great experience with God, but we will be very disillusioned if we do not remember that eventually we have to "come down" again. We must always remember that we should not stay up on the mountain so long that we forget what it is like to be in the crowd.
Why did Moses and Elijah appear to Christ on the mountain? Moses represented the Law, and Elijah represented the prophets. Jesus represented the coming together of both the Law and the Prophets into the New Testament. The spotlight moved from Moses and Elijah to Him. He looked beyond His present state to see into change. Jesus had a vision where the saints and liberators of the past came together in Him to empower and strengthen His resolve to open for us a way of salvation.
The transfiguration was meant to strengthen Jesus for His journey to Jerusalem and the cross. Ash Wednesday is this coming week. It marks the start of Lent and Christ's journey to the cross. It is also time for a spiritual makeover. It is time to look inside ourselves and examine our thoughts, motives, desires and lives. Lent is for giving up anything that blocks our spiritual makeover.
Jesus also rebuked the disciples' desire to imitate Elijah. God himself tells them to listen to Jesus and not to the heroes of the past. Peter wanted a typical response to their situation. He wanted to build an altar, light candles, burn incense, etc. Peter represents our desire to see everything in the Sacred. The past was symbolically removed when Jesus died, especially when the curtain in the temple was torn in two. Peter's reaction was distorted because he liked being there in the rosy, gilded world of his "natural high". We, on the other hand, can't stay here and sleep. We have a duty to spread the Good News. We need to listen to God and Christ. We need to put our liberator first in our eyes. We need to make sure everything we do, say and think centers on Him. The ancient people saw the world as a thin place where God can enter and speak to them at any time. God was alive and communicated with them. We can still hear and see the divine today. We can experience the holy, receive guidance, intuit wisdom and energy, and channel God's healing energy. Encountering God changes everything and calls us to new behaviours. Unfortunately, we might have to veil our encounters so that others can understand our experiences, much like the cloud on the mountain veiled the disciples from God.
Faith, hope and love are to be earnestly desired, but they are not part of a hierarchy. Moses' faith, Elijah's faith and hopeful vision of a liberated future with love had their day, when the future is now and visions belong only to yesterday. Love will be still be alive, because it never ends or dies. The greatest of these-faith, hope and love-is love. Faith has revealed to us in our transformation love for those who share our journey of faith. Jesus and his disciples were given a vision of the end of their journey. The one who was about to suffer blows and lashes of the whip, the one about to be rejected and abandoned, the one about to be defeated by His enemies, was none other than God's beloved Son. He shared the brightness and glory and very nature of God the Father. After the humiliation, there would be victory. After the cross there would be resurrection. After the defeat, there would be God's victory. Jesus gave the disciples a vision of the end, without which he knew his disciples would not just run out of gas, but give up the journey altogether. It was a brief glimpse of the transcendent, a peek at the reality that lies just beyond everyday life.