‘Who do you say that I am?’ Jesus’ question to the disciples is one for all of us, isn’t it? Indeed, if you are like me, it is a question you will answer in different ways at different times. Sometimes that may feel like a growing and deepening sense of who Jesus Christ is. At other times it may feel like a peeling away, and even a painful deconstruction, of old or unsatisfying patterns of understanding. Either way, my own sense is that if we are not continually being transformed by a transfiguring understanding of God in Jesus Christ then we have largely missed the point of the journey of faith. That was Peter’s mistake, wasn’t it? Today we only hear about his great confession of Christ and of gifts Jesus bequeathes to him. This passage is immediately followed however by Jesus’ powerful rejection of Peter’s failure to understand him and his calling. ‘Get behind me Satan!’, Jesus cries out. For the Christ Peter had seen, and wonderfully declared, was not the full picture he needed to see. So it is in our own lives, in the church and world today…
I love being trans. How about you? No, I am not so much speaking about being transgender, as about simply being human, or at least a Christian variety thereof: in other words, about being a person who is transfiguring. That is each and every one of us. This is not to downplay the significance of someone being transgender, or otherwise. After all, we still have some way to go in working through that. The particularity of each of our human lives really matters. Each transgender life and story is also unique: a special creation in God’s love. Yet, the more I reflect upon it, in a powerful sense, in the divine economy, being transgender is also a way of helping us all recognise that each of us is continually invited to embrace transfiguration. For, as human beings, as Christians, we are never fixtures but loved works in process. What we shall be is not what we are now. All that is loving in our past and present is indeed taken up into what we shall be. In the glory of God however, we are, and will be, so much than we can ever imagine. This is part of the gift of the Feast of the Transfiguration of Christ which we celebrate today…
If you were only allowed one book from the Hebrew Scriptures, which would you choose? It would be a tough selection, wouldn’t it? At the risk of being called a Marcionite, there are a few books I might dispense with quite cheerfully: not least Leviticus (that continuing bane of some people’s lives) and also Numbers, and perhaps Ezra and Nehemiah. Personally, I’d also be happy to see quite a few other passages put to one side, including the invasion of the land by Joshua. However it would be hard to choose just one book to keep. For Isaiah would be high on my list, together with Genesis and the Psalms, Lamentations and some of the other prophets. In the final analysis however I’d pick Exodus: a book which begins with abject slavery and ends in the glorious presence of God. Along the way, we see all kinds of adventures, highs and lows, encounters and transformations, betrayals and revelations, miracles and mercies: all ending in today’s vision of clouds and glory. Such a core story which encompasses so much about living faith! What a perfect prelude today to this Sunday’s feast of the Transfiguration….
It is said that the poet Alfred Tennyson was walking one day in a beautiful garden where many flowers were blooming. Someone stopped him and asked: ‘Mr. Tennyson, you speak so often of Jesus. Will you tell me what Christ really means to you?’ Tennyson thought for a moment, and then, pointing down to a beautiful flower, he said: ‘what the sun is to that flower, Jesus Christ is to my soul.’ That, my friends, is at the heart of the feast of Transfiguration...
Today we come to the climax of the Epiphany season - leaving all the little 'ephiphs', the mini revelations as it were in the foothills, we come to the very top of the mountain, to the big one, to the Transfiguration; to the moment when Jesus stands before his closest disciples in all His luminous glory. All too briefly the fullness of his divine nature is there to see. He shines with all the brilliance of a hundred thousand diamonds. And it is amazing! But not as amazing as what it implies for us and our world.
For the thing about diamonds, it is said, is that in chemical reality they are just chunks of coal that kept on doing their jobs. And that is helpful to us when we think about the fullness of humanity transfigured in Jesus Christ. We are like those lumps of coal. We have the potential to be diamonds, but mostly we don't and can't see the job through to the end. In the Transfiguration Jesus shows us what we would be if we did. This is the principle of theosis, or God-becoming that has been part of the Orthodox teaching of the church from the beginning. You and I and the whole created order have the potential to be transfigured, to reveal to the world the glory of God just as Jesus did, but it is a process that even in the best of us like Moses is fitful and incomplete this side of eternity...
What mountains do you know? Mountains are among the most treasured and admired locations on earth - as well as some of the most perilous. I wonder what are some of the mountains that you have heard about or even visited yourself? What are some of the things you love about those mountains?
We've heard about a few mountains here in Australia, some of them local to Toowoomba and to Queensland, and about some mountains far away. Through our links with Nepal we have particular connections to the Himalayas and of course to the world's highest mountain, Mount Everest. Has anyone climbed a mountain that really required the proper gear, ropes and grappling irons and all those things?
Climbing a mountain requires a lot of effort, and preparation and discipline and persistence - which is why climbing a mountain is such a good picture for the spiritual life and often used as such. It is also why some traditional Christian communities are located near the top and on the very edges of mountainsides. Climbing requires patience and faith and provides a sense of perspective. When we physically get up higher we can see more; in the same way the more we advance in our relationship with God the better perspective we have on what really matters in life...
Jon Inkpin for the Transfiguration – Last after Epiphany Yr B, Sunday 8 February 2015
In 1934 an American romantic comedy called Carolina was released. Based on the play, The House of Connelly, by Paul Green, the film starred Janet Gaynor, Lionel Barrymore, and Robert Young in a romanticised story about a post-Civil War family in the fading South. They regain their former life and prestige when a poor Northern girl appears among them, eventually charming, not just the young son of the house, but even his obdurate mother. The advertising summed up the poor Northern girl well: ‘bursting into our lives and world – like a flash of sunlight - upsetting traditions, injecting life where there was laziness, love where there was fear and hate.’ What an impact, eh? Much as we might sum up the impact, only more so, of Jesus whom we call the Christ: ‘bursting into our lives and world – like a flash of sunlight - upsetting traditions, injecting life where there was laziness, love where there was fear and hate.’ In many ways this is summed up in our Gospel reading this morning: which, if not a feature film, is a luminous, multi-splendoured picture, or living icon, of the love of God – a Northern Jewish boy lit up with God, lighting up our way to God, and making of us shared lights of God’s glory…
Our Gospel reading today helps us mark what our Christian tradition calls the Transfiguration. This is a fitting climax to the Epiphany: the church season we have been travelling through since Christmas. For Epiphany is a great Christian season of light. It begins with the story of the Baptism of Jesus: what some have called the ‘Great Epiphany’ or revelation of God’s light at the beginning of Jesus’ and all our Christian lives. Transfiguration complements this and rounds it off: being what some have called the “Small Epiphany’, revealing what is the ultimate purpose, or end of our Christian lives – sharing in the glory of God’s very own light. As we prepare to begin Lent, 40 days journeying through darkness to the greatest light of all, Easter, so we are given a vision of this ultimate purpose and goal of our lives...
Transfiguration Year A, Sunday 2 March 2014 by Jonathan Inkpin
‘In a flash, at a trumpet clash/ I am all at once what Christ is/ since he was what I am, and/ this Jack, joke, potsherd,/ patch, matchwood, immortal diamond,/ is immortal diamond
What an amazing proclamation that was by the poet-priest Gerard Manley Hopkins! (Have a look in the inside cover of the pew sheet for the full poem…) Hopkins puts into one sentence the mystery of the Resurrection and the meaning, for us, of the story of the Transfiguration which we ponder and celebrate today. Yes, today’s Gospel story also declares who Jesus is: God’s Son, the Beloved, in whom God is well pleased. Accompanied by heavenly light, Moses and Elijah, this is powerful, revelatory, stuff. Matthew’s Gospel is leaving the disciples, and all those who come after, with no doubt about Jesus’ significance. Indeed, the story also finds Jesus associating his mission with the mysterious figure of the Son of Man. Yet, as we reflected a few weeks ago, in considering Jesus’ baptism, this is a message not just about Jesus’ true identity and destiny. It is a message about our true identity and destiny too. We are also God’s children, God’s beloved ones, in whom God is well pleased. Perhaps the figure of the Son of Man is related to this. For there is still no consensus among biblical scholars about the exact nature of the person of the Son of Man. Yet most biblical references seem to stress the humanity of this spiritual figure. Sometimes too, the Son of Man is spoken about as an individual person and at other times as a corporate person, as the community who stand in special relationship with God. So again, as in his baptism, what Christ is, we are also. We too will share in the resurrection of the Son of Man. We too, will be transfigured. Just as Moses went up the mountain and was transfigured, so we can accompany Jesus up God’s mountain and be changed from weakness into glory.
How is it possible to express this astonishing reality?
sermons and reflections from Penny Jones & Jo Inkpin,