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Transfiguration Sunday – February 26, 2017

Exodus 24:12-18; 2 Peter 1:16-20; Matthew 17:1-9
Transfiguration of the Lord

God’s data is, apparently, in the cloud.

Is it securely stored or not? Depends on how one defines “secure.” God’s voice is not encrypted. Moses hears and understands, as do Peter, James and John. Access may, however, be limited. Only those privileged with a place on the mountaintop get the revelations and instructions firsthand. The rest of us must trust the words that come to us through those who were eye witnesses to God’s majesty.

Jill Duffield’s lectionary reflections are sent to the Outlook’s email list every Monday.

Or do we? I mean, is that all we’ve got, the words and witness of others? Those words and witness remain critical to our faith, no less critical than it was for all of the Israelites left with Aaron and Hur or the other nine disciples not in Jesus’ inner, inner circle. However, I would contend on this Transfiguration Sunday that we, too, have been eye witnesses to God’s radiant majesty, haven’t we?

Isn’t this question at the heart of the Transfiguration, the heart of our faith, the heart of our testimony, purpose and very life? Where have you seen the blinding light of Jesus Christ and heard the voice from heaven so clearly that you’ve been awestruck? Terrified? Transformed? Please tell me you’ve got some examples. Please, in the midst of a week with news of the death of a young, gifted, father of four, I need a follower of the Triune God to tell me what God has to say about love and family and life and death. Point me, please, to the lamp shining in a dark place, a place like Syria or Sudan or Yemen or maybe the hospital unit or prison cell where someone sits alone and afraid. What prophetic message has been fully confirmed in you – to share with me and with so many who are aching for the unquestionable peace and presence of not only the God of compassion, but the God of power and might?

Please, unlock the heavenly data in the cloud, and make it go viral. Crack the encrypted code and throw security to the wind and share, share, share. We are waiting in the valley and Moses and Peter and James and John and Jesus have been gone for what feels like a very long time. No wonder idols start to look like a viable option. Desperate times call for desperate measures and, God knows (yes, God knows) many are desperate without access to the glory and the glow, the word and the wonder, of sitting on the top of the world.

What about the people left behind? Do any of you eyewitnesses have a word, a vision, a message, a light? The Son of Man has been raised from the dead, so the time for keeping it to yourself has lapsed. Shout out what you know. The needy crowd not privy to the expansive view, the big picture, the sweeping arch of salvation history, are eager to hear.

It is Transfiguration Sunday, a foreshadowing of glory that might offer a glimpse of hope amid the horror of Good Friday and Holy Saturday, data from the cloud that can be recovered when everything else is lost. Isn’t the time right to access it now? Don’t we need a resounding affirmation of belovedness – Christ’s, ours, that of others – when the drum beat of hate is relentless? Wouldn’t we do well to feel the warmth emanating from the shining face of Jesus when turning our backs on the least and the lost has become the default stance of the world? Wouldn’t a reminder of the law and the prophets, the call to love God and neighbor, be welcomed during a season when isolation and isolationism rule the day?

Please, tell me, there are some among you who are eyewitnesses to the majesty of God. Please, tell me, there are some who are willing to stand up on Sunday with a prophetic message fully confirmed, men and women moved by the Holy Spirit to speak the Word of God.

Tell me what you have seen and heard. Don’t hold back. Make it as evident as a lamp shining in a dark place. Be attentive and share the heavenly data that heretofore has been in the cloud. Bring it from the mountaintop down to the valley, the ones with dry bones, the ones with anxious crowds, the ones filled with idolatrous sinners and the would-be-faithful, too.

During this in-between time of already but not yet, those of us who’ve had a glimpse of the glory of God can’t be shy about sharing it. There is too much at stake, too many languishing in darkness, too many unaware of Jesus’ saving grace or their own belovedness, too many begging for mercy or nurturing grudges, so preach with power as eyewitnesses to the majesty of God.

Right after Jesus, Peter, James and John come down from that transcendent hike, a man comes out of the crowd and kneels before Jesus, begging for mercy for his son who “suffers terribly.” The disciples had failed to cure this boy. Jesus heals the man’s son. The disciples ask why they’d be unable to do so and Jesus tells them they’d lacked faith. I wonder if Matthew puts this story directly after the Transfiguration to remind those of us who’ve witnessed the glory of God, been taught the law of love and heard the prophet’s call to justice what’s at stake in our courageous claiming of faith. People are suffering terribly and we are to respond boldly, publicly and in ways that bring the possibility of transformative healing.

Please tell me you’ve witnessed those responses.

I know I have. I have been in an airport waiting to board a plane when a group of strangers helped entertain a cranky toddler so that her exhausted mom could rest. I saw a teenager hand over the $20 she was going to use for a movie ticket and popcorn to a elderly man who’d asked if she had any change she could spare. I have seen estranged families rally, show up and come together when illness or death made all those causes of schism suddenly irrelevant. I have heard of truck drivers making a way through traffic so that a bereaved family wouldn’t miss their loved one’s funeral. I have known congregations who’ve cooked, cleaned, built, advocated, kept vigil, prayed and protested for friends and strangers alike. All of these are glimpses of the shining face of Jesus, the saving love of God and the prophetic power of the Holy Spirit. Haven’t you been an eyewitness to this majesty of God, too?

If so, you’ve been given access to the heavenly data in the cloud. Don’t keep it secure: Share it boldly, widely, loudly, fully. The Son of Man has been raised from the dead so now is the time to share the vision.

This week:

  1. What do you make of Jesus having an inner, inner circle? Look at the other passages where Peter, James and John are present. What is the significance of those occasions? Any commonalities?
  2. Receiving the law and commandment is a group effort. Take a look at the verses just prior to the ones appointed for today. It wasn’t only Moses who witnessed God. What is significant about that?
  3. Have you ever been awestruck, or afraid, of God’s presence? When have you had an unquestionable sense of God’s presence? Glory? Voice?
  4. Look up other verses where “shining face” is used. What do you discover? (Numbers 6:25; Exodus 34:30; Ecclesiastes 8:1; Acts 6:15)
  5. Read these prayers for Transfiguration Sunday.
  6. Look up hymns for Transfiguration Sunday. What common themes do you notice?

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