Traditionally this is Transfiguration Sunday . . . the gospel reading for this day focuses on the meeting on the mountain between Elijah, Moses, and Jesus in which Jesus was transfigured. “Transfigured” means “to change the appearance of something or someone” . . . in this case Jesus we are told that not only his clothing changed, but also his physical features—in particular, his face—to a dazzling white. The writer of the Gospel of Mark states, “. . . and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them.” Over in the Gospel of Matthew the writer remarks, “There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white the light.” In Luke’s Gospel the writer tells us, “As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning.” It sounds as if Jesus got all shiny and bright.
In this moment the “holy” is revealed . . . the “holy” is exposed . . . and it shines like a bright, blinding light that radiates forth out of Jesus’ being. The light shines and all see. So often the “holy” is symbolized by “light”. In the writings and stories of the mystics and religious, the “holy” is the “light” that breaks the darkness. In many gospel hymns, it is always the darkest before the light of the dawn breaks through. In looking at many of the paintings and artwork of Jesus, what is it that we see radiating from the image of Jesus . . . what is that aura that surrounds him? It is light. “Light” symbolizes the “holy”.
It is a “light” that is in all of us.
The Apostle Paul tells us: “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” In other words, this “holiness” . . . this “light” . . . is within all of us as the followers of Jesus. And, because this “light”—this “holiness”, is within us, it is our responsibility and calling to let it shine.
In my mind I picture ourselves like a lantern. When lighting a lantern we begin with a small flame at the base of the lamp . . . a small, flickering flame that doesn’t put much light out. By turning the wick up, making it bigger, it produces more light . . . it reveals much more . . . it allows us to see. That is what we are called to do with this little light of faith that is seeded within each and every one of us as the followers of Jesus. We are to shine.
Remember the story in the Gospel of Matthew (22:36-40) when Jesus gets asked the question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Remember how Jesus responded? Jesus said: “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
We are to let our “light” shine . . . this little “light” that is within each and every one of us.
So, we begin with ourselves. We begin with our own faith. We begin with our own relationship with God. We are called upon to turn up the wick. We are to turn up the light within us until it transforms . . . changes us . . . and makes us into who God created us to be as God’s children. As Jesus stated, “This is the first and greatest commandment.”
In the Transfiguration Story, we are given a glimpse of what could be. In Paul’s words he pulls back the curtains and allows us a glimpse of what can be. There is hope . . . there is potential . . . and, there is opportunity. It is no surprise that these are among the “holy” words that are shared this morning in our worship service . . . this possibility of transformation and change. We are on the brink of moving from one season of the church year into another . . . from the revelation of God being available to all through God’s desire to be in relationship with all of God’s creation to a season in which the faithful followers of Jesus are called upon to examine their lives and grow closer in their personal relationships with God. We move from Epiphany to Lent . . . from revelation to examination. From “I really, really like this God that is revealed” to “what do I have to do to make it happen?”
We are on the nexus from here to there, and there is hope.
We begin with ourselves. We begin with our relationship with God. We examine, discern, and pray . . . and, then, we do it a little more. We explore our relationship with God: Is it what I want it to be? Am I living a relationship that brings me closer and deeper with God? Are God and I “tight” in our relationship, or are we just casual acquaintances? Am I building a roaring fire of faith, or am I just fanning the wick to barely keep it burning? We work on building our relationship with God “with all our hearts and with all our souls and with all our minds.” We learn to love God and to love ourselves.
That is the only place that we can begin. We begin where we are. Until we can learn to love God and ourselves, we can never enter into the second important commandment . . . to “love your neighbor as yourself.” Only when we build the “light” within ourselves can we ever allow it to shine forth and be seen by others.
On this Transfiguration Sunday we enter into an “opportunity” to work on letting our faith grow and shine in ourselves and the world around us. We have an opportunity to break the darkness within ourselves and become a beacon in the lives of others. And, we begin with ourselves.
As the children’s song goes:
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine
Every day, every day, I’m going let my little light shine
Let us go forth and let our lights shine. Amen.