+LORD, IT IS GOOD TO BE HERE Transfiguration 2017
We have all had those moments in our lives when we find ourselves saying to the Lord: “It is good to be here.” These are moments of gladness, when our hearts are at peace and we have a living sense of God’s nearness and how blessed we truly are. The readings this morning reflect this joy and gladness, a living sense of the divine presence filling our hearts with gratitude.
The prophet Daniel sees the Ancient One taking his throne and thousands upon thousands ministering to him, myriads upon myriads attending to him. The letter of Peter speaks of being an eyewitness to Christ’s majesty, of hearing the Father say “This is my Son, my beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” Peter knew he experienced a “prophetic message that is altogether reliable” a message we are to be attentive to “as to a lamp shining in a dark place, till the day dawns and the morning star rises in (y)our hearts.”
We have those wonderful moments so that in times of sorrow and conflict, in times of suffering and hardship we may remain persons of firm faith, become resources of faith and strength to all around us. Just as in Christ’s life, the Transfiguration was clearly a turning point, a time when he was about to enter the final stages of his redemptive work, so also in the crucial stages of our own lives, we are to be mindful of a much bigger world that is unfolding before our very eyes. The Transfiguration frees us of our shortsightedness, our limited perspectives so as to enter into God’s own design.
If we look closely at Matthew’s rendition of this event, we see that it follows almost immediately upon what happened at Caesarea Philippi, when Jesus asked the disciples who they thought he was. As you well remember, Peter declares him to be the “Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Hardly had he done so, when Jesus “began to speak plainly to the disciples about his going to Jerusalem, and what would happen to him there—how he would suffer at the hands of those in authority, that he would be killed, and then after three days, be raised to life again. As we know Peter had a hard time with this and Jesus had to rebuke him.
As our gospel text ends, the three with Jesus are coming down the mountain and “Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone what they had seen until after he had risen from the dead.” He did not want what they had just witnessed to be misinterpreted but to be the source of strength for their faith in the face of what was about to happen. Jesus knows so well, what goes on in the human heart, the struggle we all have to be faithful in the face of suffering.
And yet, it is precisely at these times, when our Christian faith is being tested that we become truly Christian. If we are all being called upon to enter into Christ’s redemptive work, should we be at all surprised when hardship, pain and misunderstandings arise in our lives? It is at these very times that we are cleansed of superficiality. If God is truly God for us, it is through our encountering mystery, by becoming still before the transcendent. For in this stillness we come to know the living God. We may come up with all sorts of theories or explanations as to why this or that is happening but in the end it is coming to trust in the divine presence that shows us the way. Only love gives us the answer, the love that led Christ to lay down his life for us.
It is this Love that we celebrate around this altar. The offerings we bring, the bread and the wine carried in procession, are symbols of our lives. Through the ministry of the priest, Christ takes them, offers them and transforms them into his very own Body and Blood. They are then given back to us as food and drink for our journeys. Through the outpouring of his Spirit, all our hardships and struggles take on a whole new meaning, become living signs of a divine love, changing the world we live in, into a new creation. Amen
Dan. 7:9-10, 13-14, Peter 1:16-19; Matthew 17:1-9