17:1 Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves.
17:2 And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white.
17:3 Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him.
17:4 Then Peter said to Jesus, "Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah."
17:5 While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, "This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!"
17:6 When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear.
17:7 But Jesus came and touched them, saying, "Get up and do not be afraid."
17:8 And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone.
17:9 As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, "Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead."
Here it is again. Every last Sunday after Epiphany--the Transfiguration.
It is a major feast of the church and seemingly so out of place just 4 days before Ash Wednesday when the 40 day bowing and scraping of Lent begins.
I'm not a huge fan of Lent. It's not as bad as my dislike of Creeds, but it just seems a little to play-acting to me. I don't think it's needed to 'give up something' for Lent. It would be preferable to 'take on something'--volunteering at the library, writing your congressional representatives, joining an environmental group, doing some tutoring...stuff like that.
But Lent does come and deserves some attention and notice. Since I grew up in a non-liturgical tradition I sailed uninterrupted from Palm Sunday to Easter, for example, and Palm Sunday itself came as a bit of surprise since Lent wasn't a 'thing' in either the Pilgrim Holiness Church or the mountain Methodism of my youth.
What's odd is Jesus lighting up like a neon sign the Sunday before Lent begins.
There was a rather 'high church' member of St. John's in Waterbury where I served for 21 years, who ranted and railed about "Transformation Sunday" since everyone knew (according to him) that 'the Feast of the Transfiguration is August 6!"
He was right, bless his heart and may he rest in peace. I'm sure in heaven, where he doubtless is now, they get this stuff straight. But knowing Jim (his name) I'm sure he's found something to argue about.
It is an odd reading, to say the least. It comes earlier in Mark's gospel and both Matthew and Luke pretty much copy it verbatim from Mark. (You see, Luke and Matthew--whoever they were--had a copy of Mark in front of them and since they pretty much stayed in Mark's words, it might mean they didn't have another source for that story. See how much fun Biblical scholarship is! Really!)
Some scholars, smarter people than me by a long shot, have suggested the Transfiguration event is a post-Resurrection event that just got misplaced in time. I misplace lots of things 'in time' so I get the distinction.
I love to talk about the Transfiguration and will tomorrow at St. Andrew's in Northford. It is a fascinating part of the gospel accounts. Moses and Elijah obviously represent 'The Law' and 'The Prophets' of Judaism. The cloud that comes over Peter, James and John was celebrated in the Middle Ages by such anonymous writings as "The Cloud of Unknowing", where much of current Christian mysticism devolved from. And the journey 'off the mountain' to the valley where life is real is so vital for people of faith to understand.
'Being with God' is great, really. But that's not where the rubber of being a faithful person meets the road of reality. That's back in the valley where pain, conflict and confusion abide.
'Being with God' is cool, really. But 'being with God' is only meant to lead back to 'being with the world as it is' and being God's people then and there.
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- Igloo, chapter 2
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