Summary: The word Transfiguration is another way to say transformed. We too have been transformed by the power of hte resurrection and hte love of Jesus.
One of my favorite parts of confirmation is the day we spend in the Church going over the special vocabulary that we have in the Church world. It is a funny thing that we have a different "Churchy" name for everything that we would otherwise call by its normal or non-churchy name. For example, the wall behind me is facing north according to the compass but once inside the Church we always call it the East Wall so that the altar faces Jerusalem, which is East. I am speaking from a pulpit not a speaker’s stand. The book holder is a lectern. The stage are is called a chancel and the table an altar. The assembly area is the nave and the lobby is a narthex.
Even the simplest things have fancy names - we pour from a flagon not a pitcher, the bread sits on a paten not a plate, the cup is called a chalice, and the Baptismal water bowl is called a font. We wear special clothes to signify the fact that we are engaged in God’s work in God’s house. When I try to explain to the confirmands, the students, why we have all of these fancy words I become torn between the special vocabulary and using ordinary words for everything. On one hand I feel that we should teach them this special vocabulary because it does make things here in the spiritual world of the Church seem just a little more special and a little more holy. This special vocabulary has been passed down from one generation to another for ages and does create this space as a place away from the world and the ordinary-ness of our normal day to day work. This special status is also a reminder that we are in this world but not of this world. That we are God’s people not the people of the world.
But on the other hand, this special status and the special vocabulary can separate us from people who are not part of this particular Church culture. It can be a barrier and make us seem like we are trying to be "better" than everyone else or that this is a closed club with a secret handshake or password that you MUST learn all of these words and vocabulary and learn how to navigate through our worship service with the LBW, the WOV and the bulletin. And yet we want people to know that this is a special place - a place that we have set aside to do the most important thing in our week --to come together and pray and worship and seek the fellowship - the friendship and commonness of our struggle together in faith - with other Christians.
Do these words hurt us or help us? I don’t know - so often times I mix up the sacred and the mundane in my speech.
The word that we use for this last Sunday of Epiphany - or season of Jesus’ revelation as the light of the world - TRANSFIGURATION -- one of those Christian words in our vocabulary that does hurt us - not only in our outreach to those who are here as our guests and visitors. But it also hurts us - the gathered believers - since we have made that word such a big and powerful word. Jesus went up on the mountain top and he was TRANSFIGURED - his clothes began to shine and the revelation of God descended upon the cloud and the three disciples understood that Jesus’ life and ministry was taking a huge turn. For in the Gospels of Mark, Matthew, and Luke this section of the story of Jesus is a turning point - a turning point where Jesus will from this point "set his face upon Jerusalem" and journey there to die and the rise again.
This time in the mountain top is what prepared him for that journey that journey to life through death. This time on the mountain top is what transfigured him --- which all sounds so very "churchy" and quaint. It also sounds so un-obtainable. Jesus was TRANSFIRUED - but the word transfigured merely means transformed - they are almost identical in the dictionary and they are used as synonyms in earlier English.
This morning Jesus was transformed - we should call this transformation Sunday - it would make our task of being part of Jesus’ body in the world easier. For we can all aspire to being transformed - to being changed by God. That is one of the primary reasons that people come to Church in the first place - to open themselves p to the changing power of God - if you were not interested in having God change your life, you would not be here.