This Sunday we will commemorate the Transfiguration, that mysterious event in Matthew 17 in which Jesus goes up a mountain, accompanied by Peter, James, and John, and starts glowing. I can’t think of a better description than that. He glows. While he is glowing, two other figures appear, and somehow the narrator identifies them as Moses and Elijah, heroes from Israel’s past and representatives of the Law and the Prophets respectively. After Peter babbles some nonsense about building tents or booths for the three men, a cloud appears, and a voice says, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him!” Then the vision dissipates. Moses and Elijah depart the scene, and Jesus returns to his normal, non-glowing state.
Here is a poem I wrote about the Transfiguration a few years ago. Cruciform, of course, means “cross-shaped.”
On a mountain apart,
away from the others,
we saw the Lord transfigured.
His robes burned bright white,
his face shone in splendor.
But we noticed something, even then,
well before we fathomed the curious destiny
of this curious Messiah,
about that splendor,
that blazing white.
Even as we babbled stupidly
in our exuberant terror,
“It is good for us to be here,
let us set up booths,”
we could see a shadow creeping
along the edges of that brilliance—
a cruciform shadow, untrammeled
and undispelled by the transfiguring light,
but rather cast in bold relief,
stamped across his form (clothed,
we now understand,
in the pure white robes of the
as though the cross stood
not at odds with the glory,
but was the essence of the glory
Transfiguration Sunday is the last Sunday in the season of Epiphany. Lent begins on the 22nd, Ash Wednesday. We are preparing a solemn worship service that will feature confession, the Imposition of Ashes, and Holy Communion. That will be at 7 pm; I hope you can make it. If you can’t, I invite you to stop by the church between 12 and 2 pm for “Ashes to Go.” Just drive through the canopy in the front of the church, and I will mark you with ashes and send you off with a quick prayer. The ashes are a symbol of repentance, a recognition of our mortality, and a visible witness to others that we have committed our lives to Christ and to Christ’s vision of the commonwealth of God. I hope you will wear your smudge of ashes (cruciform, by the way) proudly as a child of God sealed and marked by the Holy Spirit as you seek to follow Jesus through the Lenten season and beyond.
Grace and peace,