Moses’ shining face, Paul’s proclamation of transformation from glory to glory, and dazzling Jesus on a mountain top. Must be Transfiguration Sunday once again. Who doesn’t need a dose of dazzle to launch us into Lent? These are all odd texts, but there is hope and power embedded in them just waiting to come alive in us.
Wouldn’t it be great if we could all shine like Moses? That would mean we have all had a direct encounter with God Most High. I’d also be fine with borrowing Paul’s mirror so the reflection of the Spirit of the Lord could be seen in my own reflection. On the other hand, I’m not sure I want to witness dazzling Jesus; that might be more holiness than I’m ready to experience. Of course, Peter, John, James weren’t exactly ready for it, either. That didn’t stop it from happening or prevent Jesus from being a bit annoyed by the powerlessness of his disciples shortly thereafter.
It’s the powerlessness that captures my attention. It seems that the people of God have always been a bit standoffish when it comes to the power and presence of God. Moses had to veil his face to hide the evidence of having encountered the radiant power of God. Peter, James, and John were paralyzed with fear before wanting to stay on the mountaintop and contain what they had witnessed. And those Corinthians, they just missed the proverbial boat entirely. We don’t do much better, do we?
Throughout this season of Epiphany, I have seen in all the texts an invitation (a call? a command?) to embody Divine Love in ways we have not yet managed. I have heard the biblical stories as a push to wrestle the church away from the empire, to reclaim the liberation God has always delivered to God’s people. It is no wonder that I hear God’s promise of freedom and new life in these texts as well. We need to stop denying the transformative (transfiguring?) power and presence of God in our midst and embody Love in ways that bring healing and hope to those who live in the valleys, to those who are powerless over their own demons.
While I don’t particularly want to shine as literally as Moses did, it would be something if we could see evidence of the Holy on each other’s skin. Imagine how our congregations would be transformed if we all intentionally focused on reflecting Love out into the world. I do think the church would become quite dazzling then. Who knows what would be revealed in those bright streams of holiness? The church would be transfigured and people would be liberated – from their own demons and from the collective power of empire. A new age would begin for sure.
In the meantime, we are trudging up the mountain with Peter, James, and John. They could not have anticipated what they experienced there. Maybe we shouldn’t, either. We can just imagine ourselves climbing that mountain, following Jesus, one foot in front of the other. Maybe we can be flooded with awe and terror and amazement when we see Jesus dazzling, the glory of the Lord unveiled. Maybe we won’t want to stay and build tabernacles, but carry the radiant glory of God down into the valleys as fast as we can move. Then, when we encounter those who are held captive by their personal demons or by the demons created by the rulers of this world, we would be fearless in sharing the Love that leads to liberation.
We are not powerless. We are bathed in the same radiant glory that made Moses all shiny and Jesus all dazzling glory. It’s time we take off the veil of fear and reluctance and apathy, and shine without apology for all the world to see. It’s time we come together to embody Christ transfigured before all. Maybe then we will be the liberating force God yearns for all disciples to be…
Rev. Dr. Rachael Keefe is an author and the pastor of Living Table United Church of Christ in Minneapolis, MN. You can find links to her blog, video series, and books at Beachtheology.com.
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