What an odd thing to happen to Peter, James and John. They follow Jesus up to the mountaintop and Jesus starts to shine. Peter, James and John catch a glimpse of glory.
The three will need this vision of Jesus in all his glory to get them through the next part of their journey with Jesus. A glimpse of glory, an inkling of the love and power of God, gives us hope when times are difficult.
When was the last time you were surprised by a glimpse of glory? When was the last time you were confronted by the love of God or knocked down by the power of God?
These are not moments we can create. These moments come to us when we don’t expect them.
In 2008, we had neighbors who were going through an awful time. The family included Mother, Father and only daughter, 18 yrs old. Mom was diagnosed with breast cancer while Dad was battling a cancer for which they’d now done all they could. His doctors weren’t clear on how much time he had left. And their only daughter had just begun her first year of college.
A good friend of mine helped rally friends to bring food and watch out for them through those difficult days. Now, Jane’s not sure that she believes in God, although she goes to church every Sunday and helps lead her church’s youth group. But she decided that she would organize a prayer circle for the neighbors. She doesn’t actually believe in prayer BUT she believes in sending positive thoughts and in the power of positive thinking. She makes me smile.
So she invited a bunch of people – some who believe in God, some who don’t, some Jewish friends, some Christian – an Episcopal priest (not me, I couldn’t make it) – and some friends who are Moonies. She didn’t know if anyone would come and she wasn’t sure what they would do if they did come to the prayer circle.
She wasn’t sure what would happen but what she did not at all expect was a glimpse of glory, an inkling of the love of God. Fourteen people attended the prayer circle, bringng food and a guitar and prayers from their traditions, old hymns and ‘Cum ba yah.’ They prayed, they sang, and they thought positive thoughts. They shared their hopes and wishes for the family. They surrounded the family with love. And they recognized they had entered sacred space – they felt the presence of the Holy. It just all came together, she told me. I don’t know how it happened. I just know it happened. They entered holy ground.
A few years ago, I visited with a parishioner who was dying of cancer. I knew that my visit was probably the last time I’d see her. What I didn’t expect in my visit was a glimpse of glory… The woman knew that her time was short. She was tired and in some pain. And she was shiny – almost translucent – especially when we talked about what was about to happen to her in death. ‘I’m so excited to see what comes next,’ she told me. She was entering God’s glory and she was already beginning to glow. I knew I was on holy ground, there in her hospital room.
Moses went up the mountain to meet with God. In our reading from Exodus it says that when Moses went up on the mount and met with God his face would shine when he returned to the people. He had to wear a veil because his face was so bright it bothered them. He would take off the veil to go meet with God and then put it back on after he had explained to the Israelites what God had told him. Moses shone because he had met with God – he’d had a glimpse of the love and power of God, a glimpse of glory.
Peter and James and John went up on the mountain with Jesus and Jesus’ face shone with the love and power of God, with the glory of God. Peter tried to respond in the moment, but once God started to speak the disciples were terrified. Matthew’s gospel says that they fell to the ground. They had entered sacred space. There was nothing they could do or say – they could only bear witness to the moment. They didn’t understand what happened, they just knew it had happened.
I suspect that each of us can remember a moment when we knew we were on holy ground – a moment or a place where we experienced a glimpse of grace, a glimpse of the love and power of God. Remember those moments. Hold on to them.
We are about to enter the season of Lent – a wandering in the wilderness with Jesus in preparation for the glory of Easter.
But in a sense, this parish might already feel like you’ve entered the wilderness. At our Annual Meeting we discussed the challenges we face in 2019. We have many questions but very few answers as yet. Wandering in the wilderness – yup, we’re familiar!
At least we know that the season of Lent is only forty days. Our wanderings as a parish might take a bit longer.
I think Peter, James and John were given the privilege of witnessing the transfiguration so that they would not lose hope on their journey – wandering through those last days with Jesus, witnessing his betrayal, his trial, his crucifixion and burial. Trying to make sense of the death and resurrection of Jesus and how to go on without him after the ascension. Whatever else happened – they had had a glimpse of the love and power of God. Peter never forgot. We never forget those moments.
As we move through this season of wandering – through Lent, through the process of living into our future – let those transforming moments of grace carry you through. Remember what your eyes have seen and your ears have heard. God loves us. God will never leave us. God will be with us every step of the way on our journey. God has dreams for us. It will be all right. May we find the boldness the Apostle Paul speaks of so that WE are transformed into the likeness of Christ from one degree of glory to another. Amen.