I’m sure there’s a long list of bible stories, verses or phrases that are appropriate for what’s happening in the world right now. And we might find comfort and inspiration in the ones we each find most meaningful. But, this week, I can’t help thinking of the story of the Transfiguration as speaking a timely message.
Each of the gospels includes this story of Jesus ascending a mountain with three of the disciples. Once there, he appears to be transfigured - illuminated with bright inner light, as if “in glory” - and then he’s seen talking to Moses and Elijah. The disciples are amazed - and afraid - but Peter wants to build a shrine for each of them to mark the moment. A great cloud appears and God’s voice is heard saying “this is the chosen one, listen to him” and, before you know it, it’s all over. Down the mountain and on with their lives they go.
Of course, each author tweaks the story their own way, but, essentially, here is the divine nature of Jesus revealed, not only in his being transfigured, but in the company he keeps and the voice of God proclaiming him.
Okay. Cool story, but what makes it so meaningful right now?
Look where this happens. It’s a mountain top moment, a peak experience. We all have those in the geography of our lives. We also experience valleys and plains, deserts and green pastures, stormy seas and gentle streams. This particular peak, especially in Luke’s account, is the transition between Jesus’ early ministry and the journey to Jerusalem and the cross. He’s climbed the mountain, the light in him is revealed and he comes down the other side, continuing on his journey toward the valley of shadow and death.
Look what happens. The light is the divine spirit in Jesus. It may be revealed in a moment, and that particular moment passes, but the light doesn’t. And the light doesn’t stay on the mountain, it goes with Jesus into the days ahead. The light that gives hope and courage, the light of grace and compassion, the light of wonder and love, this is the divine light that is in all of us. It goes with all of us.
Look who’s there. Jesus takes his friends with him, appears to be divine himself, but also meets the divine spirits of Moses, the great giver of the law, and Elijah, the greatest of the prophets. The law and the prophets represents the scriptural tradition Jesus says he comes to fulfil. We are all children of God, the divine spirit of life, and that is present in friends, strangers, leaders, followers, the famous and the unknown.
So, when there are shadows, look for the light. When the valleys are deep, remember the mountain top moments. When feeling alone, look for the face of the divine in those around you. Because the divine spirit of life is in all things and shows itself, sometimes when least expected, always when most needed.