On our church calendar, the season of Epiphany concludes with Transfiguration Sunday. It's a powerful way to end the "season of revealing:" with a story revealing the glory of Jesus as the Son of God.
|Lewis Bowman's "Transfiguration"|
Jesus takes three of the disciples with him to the top of a mountain. While there, Jesus appears to be transfigured. That is, his appearance is changed and he shines with a dazzling light - with "glory," Luke says - and Moses and Elijah appear next to him. The disciples want to build three "dwellings' for them, but suddenly there's a great cloud and a voice is heard saying "this is my son … listen to him." The disciples are fearful, Jesus is alone with them again, the moment passes and they go down the mountain and on with their day.
Okay, I didn't mean to sound like I'm trivializing the ending there. After all, I think that's pretty much the most important part of the story, but I'll come back to that.
The story appears in the gospels of Mark, Matthew and Luke, and there are some details that are a little different, but that's the gist of it: Jesus' transfiguration reveals the very human man to be also the Son of God, the meeting of human and divine. We should listen to him because he is more than a messenger of God, he is the Word made flesh.
It's Luke's version of the story we hear this year and, I have to say, I like Luke's story. Each of the gospels give us ways to break open the story, discover what it might mean and imagine how that might become part of our lives. Luke, I think, gives us a little something more to take away here, he gives us a way forward. Like I said, a way on with our day.
Luke writes that Jesus and the disciples went up the mountain to pray. In fact, "while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white" (Luke 9:29). Prayer is a theme throughout the gospel of Luke. Thank goodness. How else might we listen?
I can imagine the wonder of the moment. I mean, I can imagine my own sense of wonder at the moment. How do you imagine the glory of God or the voice in the cloud? Or the awe and fear of the disciples? And, with some study, I can explain various aspects of the story and what they might mean.
But what happens when I leave the mountain top? After the wonder and the understanding, where do I take this story, how do I "listen to him?"
First, I wonder if Luke isn't trying to remind us that we can hear the stories of Jesus and we can hear Jesus' words as the story reports them, but to "listen to him" demands more of us. It demands that we understand the words and put them into practice in our lives, not just as behaviour, but as living. And to understand, we must listen for what is true and experience that in our own lives. The story must come alive for us.
And second, we must pray. We so often think that prayer is about asking or thanking, but it's more than that. Prayer is a critical part of our relationship with God. It's our communication with God, our conversation with God, our sharing with God. And God shares with us. So when you pray, do you leave God some space to answer?