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Thursday, August 05, 2010

Transfiguration: The Things We Don't Forget

Epistle: II Peter 1:13-18
Gospel: Luke 9:28-36

Karen is a school teacher and she has taught me a lot about the way people learn. Some of us learn with our hands, some with our ears, some with our eyes, and some of us with a combinations of ways.

One of the things that she has taught me about learning is that we don't forget the things we learn that have an emotional impact on us. We don't forget when we've fallen in love, we don't forget our marriage, we don't forget when we've been treated with gentle affection.

I remember my Grandma. I don't remember a lot about her intellectually, but I remember that she always greeted us with warm wet kisses and had the best hugs. (She also made peanut butter toast on sesame seed bread that was the bomb.)

We also remember those things that have an emotional impact that are very negative: abuse, pain, rejection.

These things connect with us on a deeper level than merely our intellect.

I'd like to add that those things which impact us spiritully are also things we remember.
* We remember those quiet times we had when we prayed at home with our kids before bed.
* We remember moments with God when we face a time of crisis.
* We remember our conversion, that time when we realize that Jesus Christ is alive, that He loves us, and that we want to be His follower.
* We remember times of nurture: retreats, camps, holy days.

This is St. Peter's experience of the Transfiguration as he tells it in II Peter. St. Luke gives us the details in chapter 9 of his Gospel: eight days after Peter's confession that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, on a mountain, with James and John. They saw Christ's appearance change and His robes become brilliant, "glistering white" as Coverdale translates it.

Peter's confession took place in a discourse with Jesus Christ and the Apostles after the miraculous feeding of the 5,000 earlier in Luke 9, which occured after the Apostles completed their ministry of healing, exorcism and preaching.

Peter's emotional response was three-fold:
1) To "do something." You know how you respond in a crisis, don't you? Many of us want to "do something" to help, to provide relief, to take care of the situation. In Peter's case, he wanted to build tabernacles for Jesus Christ and Elijah and Moses (who were with Jesus in that glorious cloud).
2) Peter knew it was good to be there on the mountain with Jesus Christ. Even in the midst of a situation Peter didn't understand at the moment, he and the others knew "it is good for us to be here."
3) He had a sense of awe and fear. He and James and John had to have been thinking, "Is this really happening?" and "What's going to happen next?" Wouldn't you?

This emotional response is echoed by St. Peter's spiritual account given to us in his epistle:
1) He was an "eyewitness to His majestic glory." This is an honor very few have seen. Moses saw the glory of God in the Burning Bush; he saw it again in the cleft of the rock passing by (Ex. 33). Elijah saw God's glory when he was taken up the chariot. Isaiah saw the glory of God in the Temple (Isaiah 6). And now Peter, James and John joined this honored group.
2) Peter "heard the Voice of God" without question. He recalled specifically what God said. How unlike us: We think we hear the voice of God, but we're not sure... maybe it's nerves, maybe it's self-will, maybe it's just fatigue.
3) Peter knew the closeness of God. He says, "we were with Him."

By commemorating the Transfiguration we are witnesses, like Peter, James and John.

We are witnesses to the Divinity of Jesus Christ through His glorification on that mountain top.

We are witnesses to the Presence of the Holy Trinity. There is God the Son in the cloud of majestic glory with God the Father represented in Moses the Law Giver and God the Holy Spirit represented in Elijah the Prophet.

We are witnesses to the faithful truth of Scripture.

Especially, by commemorating the Transfiguration we recall again those times when God has impacted our own lives:
* Those times when we have seen God in His glory. Just this morning I took a walk. It was foggy and pre-dawn. The sky was brightening, but I couldn't see anything specific. I turned the corner and walked up the hill about half-mile. Suddenly above the eastern horizon, above the purple shadows of the trees and Schuler's barn, there was the sun, a bright tangerine of light warming away the dewy chill. I thought how appropriate that was for Transfiguration: the sudden glory of God warming away the dewy chill of the Apostles sleep.
* Those times when God was real to us "in the moment" - as real as He was on that mountain. We remember how we felt, what we saw, how we responded in that moment.
* Those times when we retell about our encounters with God to others:
- "This is what God has done for me"
- "This is what He said to me in His Word"
- "In my time of need, God was with me"

The Collect for Transfiguration
O God, who on the mount didst reveal to chosen witnesses Thine Only-Begotten Son wonderfully transfigured, in raiment white and glistering; Mercifully grant that we, being delivered from the disquietude of this world, may be permitted to behold the King in His beauty, who with Thee, O Father, and Thee, O Holy Ghost, liveth and reigneth, one God, world without end. Amen.

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