It only took four minutes or so for it to all come together – all the work, all the hours, the drudgery – but at the end of an exquisitely beautiful free skate Yuna Kim of South Korea lifted her hands to the sky, and then covered her tearing eyes and took in the applause of the crowd. For years and years she had practiced the same shapes on the ice, had taken many spills and spent her 10,000 hours or more to reach this level of brilliance. And at this moment Yuna was radiant, incandescent, all that was within her was now exposed and she shone. Deanne and I were transfixed.
But this Olympic moment was soon over. Yuna didn’t even get the gold. She returns to South Korea to the ice rinks for practice. Who knows what the next four years will bring? But she had that brief moment of revelation.
For a brief shining moment it all came together and recognition that there was even more to him then met the eye: Jesus, the man in whom divinity and humanity dwell, stood radiant before Peter, James and John.
It was just Jesus and yet there was more – Moses, Elijah – the coming together of the law and the prophets. God’s voice repeating what had been said on one other occasion: “This is my beloved Son.” Now was added: “Listen to him.” And so we look at Jesus, the “pioneer and perfecter of our faith.”
Frederick Buechner, who is one of the best at making the vocabulary of faith understandable writes this about the “Transfiguration” of Jesus:
It was Jesus of Nazareth all right, the man they’d tramped many a dusty mile with, whose mother and brothers they knew, the one they’d seen as hungry, tired, footsore as the rest of them. But it was also the Messiah, the Christ, in his glory. It was the holiness of the man shining through his humanness, his face so afire with it they were almost blinded.
In Matthew, Mark and Luke this moment of transfiguration comes as a precise moment in the gospels. It stands as a mid-point in the life of Jesus.
Peter wanted to stay in the moment, build those booths for Jesus, Elijah and Moses. But you can never stay in that kind of moment for too long – flashes and glimmers and glimpses are just that – you can’t stay or you become somewhat sad like old men who never move on from high school or wartime glory.
Yes we look back and remember but we must live forward and move on. Jesus says “get up and do not be afraid!” Do not be afraid of what tomorrow brings.
Yes we have moments of clarity, moments of transfiguration when the light bulb went on, or that one particular person shone with a luminosity that caused you to go all silly and fall in love and do crazy things. You had flashes of insights.
I think of Michael Sams coming out as the first opening gay football player. His revelation transformed the conversation – but oh my, what he will have to face.
You have to wake up the next day. You have to press onward down the hill.
From this moment onward, for Jesus, it is all “downhill.” Downhill into the crowds, into the hurt, into the opposition, into the passion until Jesus walks up that other hill, with many people watching but really no one following – carrying his cross up the hill of Calvary to his death.
I wonder, as he faced the moment of agony, if he remembered the day when it all seemed so clear and he heard God’s voice: “This is my beloved son.” I wonder if he thought: “If this is what being beloved means, can I ask what was behind door number 2?”
It is good to recall those moments of clarity, because they pass so quickly and we are back in the haze of unknowing. We need a “memory hook” that we can hang our faith upon as we journey on – we have seen who Jesus is, we have stood in his radiance, the Son of God in glory – we need to remember this during the agonizing moments when Jesus seems so, well, ordinary, so broken, so powerless, so like me. We need to remember – now that we are going through things difficult, heavy.
Read correctly this transfiguration story is so much more than an event that happened to Jesus. This passage, properly read should transforms not only how we look at Jesus Christ, but how we look at each other, how we look at the world and perhaps even how we look at ourselves: there is so much more to all of it than meets the eye.
I believe that the very nature of our faith and the very core of this community is about seeing the possible in other, giving ourselves and each other permission to have transformative, glorious moments where we reveal ourselves to each other – and thereby give memories of identity so that, as we trudge along down the hill, we can remember who we are, whose we are, who Christ is and what we are called to be and become.
Sometimes you don’t even recognize the person you are closest to. I am always being surprised as my children do something that reveal a depth that I had been closed to before; where did they come from?
Sometimes you have to remember how precious that child was in your eyes, how full of potential, how marvelous when things are tough. Having seen the glory can help shape the present and move us more confidently into the unknown, trusting that God knows.
Walter Wink, the profound Christian scholar once wrote:
Transfiguration is living by vision: standing foursquare in the midst of a broken, tortured, oppressed, starving, dehumanizing reality, yet seeing the invisible, calling to it to come, behaving as if it is on the way, sustained by elements of it that have come already, within and among us. In those moments when people ARE healed, transformed, freed from addictions, obsessions, destructiveness, self worship or when groups or committees or even, rarely, whole nations glimpse the light of the transcendent in their midst, there the New Creation has come upon us. The work for one brief moment is transfigured. The beyond shines in our midst – on the way to the cross.
As followers of Jesus we need to stand foursquare in the midst of brokenness and give witness to the radiant. Do we see the beloved child which was Trevon Martin: an ordinary teen with skittles in his pocket instead of a threat. Which revelation do we live by? Which one gives us hope? Or Jordan Davis – the young man who was shot because the music was too loud?
We who claim to have been transformed by Jesus Christ need to have new eyes to see potential, new thoughts of creativity, new courage to act on the knowledge of the faith that all shine with glory as children of God.
The Taize Community claims a central importance to this story of transfiguration. One of the sisters there writes: “Transfiguration takes charge of everything in us and transfigures even that which disturbs us about ourselves. God penetrates those hardened, incredulous, even disquieting regions within us, about which we really do not know what to do. God penetrates then with the life of the Spirit and acts upon those regions and gives them God’s own face.”
Jesus calls to you: those things you hide – reveal!
The true self clawing to get out – let it shine!
But make no mistake: standing in the light is not an easy place to be. Living the transformed life is hard, it takes courage – faith is not for the weak of heart or weak of limb – you have to lift up the cross and move on down the hill.
Keep your eyes on Jesus – he fulfills the law and the prophets.
Let yourself be revealed – look at all with the new eyes of hope.
Get up! Do not be afraid!