Exodus 34: 29-35; Psalm 99; 2 Corinthians 3: 12-4:2; Luke 9: 28-36
Have you seen someone’s face glow? other than brides in January….
When our grandson was born last year we flew up from Melbourne, just for the day, to make sure we were part of his story from the beginning. As many of you can recount, it is such a special time, the witness of the generations together. For me, though, the highlight was to see our 33 year old muscle-laden builder son holding this wee mite, his son – and to see him glowing. Such great love has no other outlet sometimes except to transfer the light from within to without. The knowing glow, the glow of love beyond articulation.
That is the knowing glow of today’s scriptures. The glow, the unique light of the Transfiguration of Christ, is God’s love for his Son. It is actually the perfect ‘glow light’ as the reflection of God and Christ of and into each other is complete and flawless, perfect light, perfect glory. The interchange of love and truth, noting Paul’s teaching today, is of one between the Father, Son and Spirit.
However, it is also there for us as transformational power to draw closer to God. Paul writes thus…
“And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.” Now, I have never thought of “degrees of glory” before – it’s a quite wonderful description of our deepening relationship with Christ as we keep seeking to live our lives indeed as his reflection.
Paul naturally writes in the relationship of God as Trinity – “now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom”. It seems to me he creates another Trinitarian movement in what we hear today between freedom, reflected glory, and truth. This an interweaving of dynamic power that Paul says, in the same dynamism of Trinitarian God, need each other and cause each other. At the centre of each movement, is the key difference between the revelation of God to Moses and the revelation of God that is Jesus Christ.
So the reflected glory of God, available to each of us, is found in direct encounter with Jesus Christ. There is no need for a veil, like Moses found he had to use. Paul says.. “that same veil is still there, since only in Christ it is set aside.” The veil Moses used was because the people were not ready for the truth of God, their hearts were hardened to the truth. So, the veil is still there…. people with hardened hearts to recognise the truth of God in Christ, will continue to see only dimly. For those who turn to Christ, the veil does not exist. It is gone.
This is good teaching for us as we enter the spiritual season of Lent in the church this coming week. It is one of the reasons the story of the Transfiguration of Christ is read on the Sunday before Ash Wednesday. The extraordinary, dazzling light that Jesus became, quite beyond description for Mark to describe, is the optimum truth and freedom of life opportunity in Christ’s reflected glory. No wonder Peter wanted the moment to be captured, to build dwellings to in a sense hold and keep God. Note of warning here to those who think the church building is what we have the relationship with, ie, is God. or to think we could ever capture God….
So the movement of revelation, God’s glory found in Christ, frees us of the limitations we put on our hearts, and our bodies, and indeed the human constructs of life, and is part of the movement of truth, the real truth, of life in Christ. Listen again to how Paul writes this so profoundly – and listen in the intention of Lenten penitence…
“We have renounced the shameful things that one hides; we refuse to practice cunning or to falsify God’s word; but by the open statement of the truth we commend ourselves to the conscience of everyone in the sight of God.”
Reflected glory, freedom and truth. I found a challenging description of Lent season which I have included in the “Invitation to Participate” in Lent and Easter handout you have received today. That is, that these forty days of Lent, beginning this coming Ash Wednesday, is a time of “levelling confession”. As we reflect on the mountaintop experience of the Transfiguration story, it is an apt metaphor for the truth of our perishable life intertwined with the imperishable life – again, Paul’s words. The truth is, none of us can live in the pure glory of Christ’s divinity – we are human, we get glimpses and we are called to live in faith. In other words, our lives are really on the plain, down from the mountain, in the ordinariness of daily life. And yet, the invitation from Christ is to live as reflectors of his glory, and so the concept of “levelling” is apt. We also, like Christ, are called to live life as human in divine hope. Our “levelling confession” for Lent needs to express that reality – we are called out of the shameful things that we hide, into the mutuality, the levelling culture, of being able to live fully human.
In the most direct telling, the Transfiguration of Christ was for himself the surety and affirmation of his identity, with the direction he now must take. He comes down from the mountain and turns his face to Jerusalem. He has been empowered, he has been strengthened, he has revealed the glory of God in its inexplicable power that is the power of resurrection transfiguration. That is, the conquering of the power of death. Death is no more; and in that transfiguration comes the truth of God’s love – that nothing therefore can separate us from the love of God – in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Do we therefore need the season of Lent? It would seem so, because our flawed self is always turning away from God and living in this world thinking we can do it alone, do life in self-sufficiency. We need to turn again to Christ – repent means turning – and in faith and even loyalty, travel the forty days with Christ to Holy Week. Intentionality is the key – and so we are encouraged to find our truth before God this Lent, to expose the shameful things we hide, to enter a time of levelling confession. We do so in community, and I commend to you the different opportunities being made available to enable intentionality. The study groups commence this week with the “Today with Jesus” – anyone is welcome at any group, any week. Reflecting on the scriptures together is how God culture is forwarded in community.
Next Sunday begins four Sunday afternoons of “Meeting God Space: Experiences of Prayerfulness”. This is an initiative for the parish – a group of eight people have come together to prepare and offer several spaces to enter ways of praying, over a two hour period, in which you can come and go, come and stay, as you need. I preached last week on the essential cultures for a faith community – prayer and reflection – and so I am excited by this initiative which I believe has the power to strengthen not only our own prayerfulness, but the nature of this faith community. We all pray differently, and at different stages of our faith journey need different ways to pray. The Meeting God Space acknowledges that, and also offers the intentionality of deep dialogue with our God for the self-scrutiny upon us in Lent. As I also keep saying – please don’t think this is for someone else – this is for you, all of us. Relook at your prayer life and how you resource that, and acknowledge if necessary the need to perhaps change, but certainly strengthen, that relationship with God.
The Transfiguration of Jesus Christ has opened up for us, those who follow, the truth of transformation in him. One day that will be complete; we also each will be transfigured before God, fully glorified, fully knowing, fully glowing, in the ultimate face to face experience. The glimpse of glory before us today gives us the courage, and the freedom, to follow Christ through this pre-Easter period into the resurrecting power of self-giving love.
May we all arrive at Easter morning with our hearts so aglow, that our very being is glowing. Amen.