Christ Transfigures the World

3 March 2019 – Transfiguration

Today’s readings are awe-inspiring; they excite our senses and make us long for our own extraordinary mountaintop experiences. Unfortunately, in a world that thrives on thrills, this can also be dangerous because, like the disciples, we do not fully grasp the implications of such encounters. Further, we are tempted to want to stay on the mountain.

But perhaps we can sustain encounters with God . . . with a smaller encounter. . . that requires the courage to be transformed for action. Where can we find this kind of experience? Each time we ascend the mountains of our own self-interests, self-sufficiency and our own impairments and move into a posture of prayer around the Eucharistic Table. . . we risk encountering God in new and magnificent ways that transform . . . [our] intimate relationship with God and with each other. . . –– Chris L. Brady

Luke 9:28-36 [37-43]

Seeing Jesus solely as the one that we go to, we are enabled to manage our relationship with him in a way that it doesn’t cause too much confusion, doubt or change. Jesus doesn’t show up as an unexpected guest for dinner. . . we go to him.

But these texts turn the table on that assumption. They speak of a Jesus who isn’t confined to our sensibilities, our patterns, our ways of experiencing the world. They speak of a Jesus who shows up in unexpected ways and places. And . . . when this happens there is often great awe, worship and sometimes confusion. . .

And like befuddled politicians who struggle for a convincing answer, we can’t make sense of this divine intercession. . . The dazzling robe, the voice from above . . . [Fred Craddock wrote:] “Christ is as we are and therefore will help, but this mountain top story reminds us that he is not as we are, and therefore can help.” (“Christ is Not as We Are,” Christian Century, Feb 21, 1992.)

. . . Peter, James and John—play a significant and representative role in the story [for]. . . once the awesome power of God breaks into their living—they become gradually transfigured, too. In the sweep of these few verses they move from the joy of new converts, to the rush to be useful, to the absolute and outright fear of those who are terrified in a cloud. . .–– Dean L. Francis

Exodus 34:29-35

No doubt the lectionaries assigned this pericope because a Christian reading of it associates the radiance that the Israelites witnessed in Moses’ face with that of Jesus’ transfiguration witnessed by Peter, James and John. . . Moses’ radiance and veiling illustrate his special role and calling as mediator between God and the Israelites. –– Regina Boisclair

2 Corinthians 3:12–4:2

Paul treats Moses as a type of apostle. Both are ministers to the glory (presence) of God. . . . The lectionary sees a connection between the glory that caused Moses to be veiled and the transfiguration of Jesus witnessed by Peter, James and John. In this instance there was no veil and Moses and Elijah also appear as affirmation of Jesus’ role. –– Regina Boisclar

Chris L. Brady is lead pastor of Wilson Temple, United Methodist Church, Raleigh, North Carolina.

Dean L. Francis is a retired pastor who served First United Methodist Church in Evanston, Illinois, for twenty-three years while also writing. He received an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in 2010.

Regina Boisclair, a Roman Catholic biblical scholar, teaches at Alaska Pacific University, Anchorage, Alaska.

Homily Service 40, no. 3 (2007): 26-40.