It’s the Last Sunday of Epiphany, which means we read the story of the Transfiguration.
“Transfiguration” is the fancy church word to describe this story of Jesus being transformed before his disciples on the mountaintop, his clothes becoming dazzling white as he talks with Moses and Elijah. The voice of God speaks out of the cloud and proclaims, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!”
Why do we always end Epiphany with this story?
We end Epiphany with the Transfiguration, or “The Fig” as it’s affectionately known among preachers, because it is the closest anyone on earth has ever come to seeing the fullness of Christ in his divine nature.
Peter, James, and John get to see the end of the story, Jesus in all his heavenly glory, while they’re still in the middle of the story.
It’s a revelation to them about this man they’ve been following around for the last few years. They’ve seen him do amazing things—heal the sick, feed the thousands, and walk on water—but this surpasses it all.
The season of Epiphany is all about revelation. It’s about the world coming to understand who Jesus is and why he came to earth.
During this season, we read of Jesus’ Presentation in the Temple as a baby, of his baptism in the River Jordon, and of his first miracles.
The Transfiguration is the pinnacle, quite literally. It’s a mountaintop experience for the disciples.
But here’s the thing. It’s revelation, but it’s not particularly helpful revelation.
What do we learn about Jesus in this miracle?
What lesson for living an ethical life does it teach us?
How do we come away from seeing Jesus in dazzling white clothes better able to love our neighbors?
I don’t think we particularly do, which is why I hate the Transfiguration.
Well, perhaps “hate” is too strong a word. Let’s just say it’s not among my top ten miracle stories from the Gospels. I moan and groan about having to preach on it every single year.
What I want out of my revelations from God, whatever they are, is something practical.
“What am I supposed to do next?” I ask God. “What’s the right path forward? How do you want me to change?”
Reveal that to me, God, if you’d really like to be helpful.
And that, I realized this year, is precisely my problem. Continue reading