2 Kings 2:1-12                         Psalm  50:  1-6                        2 Corinthians 4:3-6                Mark 9:  2-9

It took me a long time but I think I figured a few things out.  First, transfiguration CAN be instant but it can also take a long time.  Second, transfiguration may be uncomfortable; third, Jesus was the first but it is intended for us too, and finally, it looks different on each face.

For Jesus in today’s gospel, transfiguration came in a spellbinding Kodak moment.   Now, for those of you not old enough to remember when everybody had a special, separate camera for taking pictures instead of just using our phones, we used to spend a fortune on camera film that gave you around two dozen shots before you ran out and had to take it to be developed and printed, and most of that film was produced by a company called Eastman Kodak.  One of their advertising campaigns referred to ‘Kodak moments’, experiences that were so wonderful that somebody should take a picture for remembrance.  Jesus’s transfiguration seems to have been such an experience – a brief snapshot of such wonder that somebody needed to capture it in a picture for posterity.  Peter obviously thought so.  

For us lesser mortals it seems mostly to be a gradual burnishing process, not an instantaneous suntan.

We can be fooled by our readings today; they are special-effects masterpieces.  Flaming chariots, shining robes, and voices from heaven are fabulous stuff.  If you only look at the surface of the readings, all that glitz and glory can dazzle.  Elisha, chasing grouchy Elijah at a dead run and snarling at the prophets of all the cities to shut up.   Poor Peter, with his chronic foot-in-mouth affliction, offering Jesus a popup tent so they can all stay on the mountain with the supernatural Moses and Elijah.   The experiences were just too much for those men to deal with all at once.   It took a while to quite get their minds around what was happening. 

They needed their own transfiguration.   Again, it’s a burnishing process, not an instant glow.   Because make no mistake about it, Elisha in the Old Testament story and Peter in the gospel were transfigured too.  They didn’t get immediate shiny faces but a little of the dullness in their minds and hearts got scrubbed off, and they were never quite the same again. 

There are some junctures in life, some critical milestone events, that divide your days into Before and After.   Before you fell in love, and after – the what-you-did-about-it part, whether happily ever after or a broken heart.  Before that diagnosis, and after.  Before you moved to a new state, and after.  Before that loved one died, and after.  Not all milestones are bad, but the view becomes completely different when you pass one, and most of us have more than one.  Some are a lot bigger and have greater effect than others.   How did they change you, and what did you learn that you didn’t know in the Before days?  Were they all gradual changes, or did one or two of them try to polish you up by sandpapering off all your hide at once?   

Transfiguration changes us almost at the cellular level. There’s no way to be the same person afterwards as you were before.  That’s the point.   Transfiguration can be flashy and wonderful, but it can just as easily be miserable and hard!  The Gospels don’t record Jesus complaining about how it felt, but you couldn’t blame him if He did.   Maybe it felt like sunstroke, or a panic attack.  Yet the essence of the story of the Transfiguration is that Elijah and Moses appeared to Jesus to further His ministry – passing the baton, so to speak. 

Jesus knew that anything could happen, even to Him.    A shiny face and fancy white suit wouldn’t stop it.  

He may not have liked change much more than we do, although Jesus always moved toward change.  It can be scary and agonizingly painful to let go of where we were before.   Painful if the Before was good.  Scary because, even if it wasn’t that good, it was at least familiar and we knew where the monsters were hid.  Sometimes we followers of Jesus kid ourselves that if we can control today, we can control tomorrow too.  It’s a delusion because we can’t control the next five minutes, but it makes us feel better. Transfiguration calls us to step boldly across the threshold into After, fear and grief and loss notwithstanding.  As our Lord did.

If you think about it, the mistake Peter made was to try to compel time to stand still.  It was the same mistake that Elisha made as Elijah was taking his leave.   They both had become convinced that things were so good they should be kept in a frame for the ages – they were trying to hang onto the Before.  Peter wanted to build cabins.  Elisha wanted a double share of his mentor’s spirit (not a bad aspiration, I admit) but both forgot for a moment that God builds new wonders out of brokenness whenever brokenness occurs. 

Our transfiguration, however it comes, God will use for good.   

 So after all the uncertainty of transfiguration, there’s your new face and new garments.  If you are very lucky, a voice will remind you that you are the son or daughter of the Most High God.

You are, you know.  It’s easy to forget in the rough and tumble of life, but you are.

Today is the last Sunday of Epiphany.  On Wednesday, we begin the season of Lent.  Lent is traditionally a time of extra devotions like fasting, prayer, more intensive Bible readings, and perhaps an adopted discipline.  Some people give up certain treats, others take on extra responsibilities.

There is a method to the madness.  The point, of course, is to make us more into the image of  Christ.  That image that we see in Jesus when we look at him through the story of the Transfiguration.  This is a subtle thing  - the Gospels rarely have anyone blurt out that Jesus is the Messiah.   It’s let slip a few times, but for the most part we learn that He is the Christ by reading St. Paul.  The Transfiguration is one of those slips where we SEE that Jesus is the Messiah.  It’s literally written all over Him.

Because we are disciples, we want it to be written all over us, too.   The Lenten practices are taken on to help scrub a little dullness off ourselves, instead of letting God do all the work. It speeds up our Transfiguration – at least, that’s the hope.   J

Most of us will never glow in the dark no matter how much we fast or pray.  But all of us can be better and do better, and Lent is the season to take a hard look at yourself and find the gumption to make some changes.   What you need to do will probably be different from what your spouse or neighbor or best friend needs to do, because the point of the exercise is to become more like Christ.  If giving up chocolate or wine isn’t going to move you toward holiness, then maybe you need to find a different strategy, a discipline that creates a change of heart and perhaps shines you up a little.   Just a thought.

And Jesus was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them anymore, but only Jesus.

The Lord is calling you to a mountaintop, where you can see Him in His glory and hear the voice of God.  It will not be easy – climbing a mountain never is.  But it will be astonishing and wonderful, and you will be transfigured more and more into the likeness of Christ. 

And beloved son of God, dearest daughter of God, isn’t THAT what you are longing for?


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