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Transfiguration

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Mark 9:2-10
After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them.

His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus.

... Then a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and a voice came from the cloud: "This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!"

... As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.

Jesus climbed the mountain on the seventh day and waited for something to happen. Told in the third person many years after the fact, this story makes everything seem so orchestrated; but that day no one knew what to expect, probably including Jesus. He just knew God was sending him up the mountain, along with his chief disciples.

Transfigure means "to change completely the nature or appearance of..." A few documented moments in Jesus' life before this mountaintop experience indicate his special-ness: birth by a virgin, unbidden worshippers at his birth, recognition at the temple a few days later, wise visitors from the east, a spontaneous interaction with priests and scribes when he was only twelve, John the Baptist's shock and awe at his baptism. And now he has begun healing and preaching and feeding thousands with a few loaves and fishes.

But after this day Jesus sees his life in a new light, telling his disciples he will die and then rise again. They rarely question Jesus, even when they don't understand; and this time too they only talk among themselves about this strange comment from their master. They have no idea what he's talking about.

Jesus' understanding of God's plan might be filling out, but theirs was not. I identify far more with their confusion and wonder than with Jesus' clarity. However I have had moments ... I hope we have all had moments ... when God made himself more clear. In those mountaintop moments of radical clarity and transformation, God in heaven comes to us on earth.

Those times are not predictable or manageable in any way. We can sometimes push them away and not experience them at all. And even if we welcome them, it's not long before we're back, with Paul, "seeing but a poor reflection in a mirror."

In the meantime like the disciples, we talk about what it means, and what we should do with ourselves while we wait for the next rebirth of wonder and awe. Jesus redeemed every moment between this day on the mountain and his day on the cross. He preached and healed and touched everyone he could. He loved his brothers and sisters just like God loved him. And he insists that we go and do likewise.

Thank you Jesus again and again for showing us how to live.



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