A reflection on Luke 9:28-36 by the Rev. Alisdair Smith
Between the words that are spoken and the words that are heard, may there be peace.
This evening at St. B’s we honour transfiguration.
We honour The Transfiguration of Jesus as we glimpse at his divine experience, and we honour transfigurations for Casper and Mary Ann.
This evening I’d like to think first about the Transfiguration from the Gospel and then to reflect on our naming liturgy this evening. I suggest three things for our reflection. First, transfiguration is available for each and every one of us, secondly that transfiguration is very difficult and third that this difficult journey is the one to which we are called, by God and in God.
To the Gospel first. My plan with you this evening is to come at the text slant ways a little. I’m going to imagine for a moment that I am Peter. I’m choosing Peter because we know he wants to build the “dwellings”, and so we have an inkling into what his character might be thinking. And through Peter, I’d like us to reflect on the awesome moments in our lives when everything changes, when we witness transfiguration.
So we’ve come up to this mountain top, with Jesus. Might even be quite exciting; mountain tops are great places for messages and insights; think about Moses and Elijah and their Mountain top experiences.
And think of the status bump here, it’s just 3 of us with Jesus, not all of the disciples, just the “inner circle” we like to think. We’re the cool kids in the class. And then, and then, YES, Jesus has an experience, no, in fact I have the experience; I, Peter see Jesus with Moses and Elijah!
“I knew it! He is a prophet, and not just any prophet, he’s with the big players! Wait until I get back home, this is going to be so cool.”
“But wait, I have to be cool, James and John are here too.”
“OK, so what would be cool? What could I do that would mark this place? I know, I’ll get my building friends and we’ll build dwellings for Jesus, Moses and Elijah, right here. This will be so cool, and just wait till people here this. Now they are going to know that Jesus is the real deal. Jesus, Moses and Elijah, mountain top, right here, and here am I too. So cool! I cannot wait to tell everybody how wrong they have been about Jesus. Jesus! Moses! Elijah! Yes!”
“Wait a minute what’s this cloud? This is not what I expected? This is not how it’s supposed to be?! Holy Crap! Is that The Lord? This changes everything! They are not going to like this in Jerusalem. No sirree bob, they are not going to like this one little bit. This whole idea of Son, of chosen one, no, no, no. That is not going to go over well at all. Hmmmmm, we’re going to have to stay quiet and think about this.”
For me, and I’m curious about what you think:
transfigurations by definition, change and disrupt everything.
And most especially they change and disrupt people’s ideas and expectations. They change the script, and that makes people uncomfortable. A transfiguration, as wonderful and awesome as they are, require great courage and perseverance.
And remember, we can all have transfigurations, they are so very difficult, though. And that is the point, God is calling us to transfiguration, to transformation, into the people God knows and calls us to be. Even when that makes others around us feel uncomfortable.
And now let’s consider the transfiguration of Casper and Mary Ann. What is important to remember, is that the transformation into the people we are called to be is first and foremost a journey inside. It is what psychologist call the inner journey and it is the most arduous of all of our journeys.
I was mentioning to Marnie earlier in the week that I thought about these TV show where there is a makeover, where somebody gets some dental work done or a new hairstyle even new clothes and there is a big “reveal” at the end of the show. My consistent worry as much as I have any say in this, is that there is no inner work done by the people In these shows.
Both Casper and Mary Ann are doing the inner work and that in part is why this liturgy is so important. It is not a “reveal.” It is an emergence.
The reveal is like Peter’s response to the arrival of Moses and Elijah, let’s mark this, let’s be very excited, and clap each other on the back. Yay!
Our Liturgy this evening is far deeper, and is to some degree shrouded in mystery. And that is as it should be.
The emergence we celebrate is at some level wordless, beyond our comprehension and understanding. The call is from so deep within us, we have no way of really expressing it except through liturgy.
We are saying “we see you” to Mary Ann and Casper. And we are at the same time, seeing ourselves anew. We embrace the emerging you, Casper and Mary Ann and we are here to support and love the two of you in the days ahead, because we, like you, know that the emerging you changes the script.
And that changing of the script terrifies us all.
The emerging script challenges the status quo and that is oh so very scary for so many of us. And we know that once the script is changed there is no going back.
Our liturgy this evening then not just about marking this moment, it is about moving together in to an unknown future. In this communion we can find courage, and perseverance. We do not know what the future holds, and so surrounded by silence we say quietly together; what ever happens, you are safe here. You are loved. That is what is deeply embedded into this naming liturgy.
And I can also say that being sober for 17 years has taught me about my own transfiguration. It is the same for all of us who wrestle with addiction, as we emerge into sobriety we are transfigured, we ourselves are transforming, every day into the people that the God calls us into. And in doing so we change the script, we change the status quo. And such emergence is most effective in community.
So three things to take away from our time together tonight.
Number one transfiguration is available for each and everyone on our own journey, to change the script.
Number two, the difficult work of transfiguration is the inner journey; the changing of the script.
And three, that our journey is one of continuous transformation and transfiguration. We are always working and growing one step at a time. We do that work most effectively in communion with each other and God.
And in that communion, we find we are loved by God, every step of the way. We find we are safe in communities like this one, every step of the way. And we find we are responsible to each other, loving and supporting each other as Jesus, has taught us.
And in our transfigurations we are co-creating a better world for all.
Photo byBara Cross