If you’ve ever ventured into the Sacristy here at the parish, you’ll notice two stained-glass windows above the sink and piscina; they feature two venerable Saints, James the Less and Augustine of Canterbury, but even upon first glance there’s something familiar about the models used for the images. If you are itching to check it out for yourself, I’ll give you a spoiler alert, even though it’s incredibly obvious when you see them, cover your ears: those venerable Saints are obviously glass portraits of Washington and Lincoln, two of the most recognizable people in American history, if not all of history.
Two of the most famous people in Israel’s history were Moses and Elijah, but note that I said famous, not recognizable. Considering today’s Gospel reading from Luke, the episode we call the Transfiguration, “it’s always been a mystery to me how the disciples recognized Moses and Elijah. It goes without saying they had no way to recognize them physically. It’s not like Moses had gotten his face onto the $1 bill or that Elijah had had his visage plastered all over the place in Israel the way we Americans do with Abraham Lincoln’s face. We are so familiar with Lincoln that we recognize even his silhouetted profile in an instant. But the disciples could have had no such visual associations with either Moses or Elijah. (In more cheeky moments I’ve wondered about these two men sporting “Hello! My Name Is _____” stick-on name badges. This, however, also seems unlikely.)
“However it all happened, Luke alone tells us that these two showed up to encourage Jesus, to remind him that they, too, along with all the hosts of heaven were gearing up for the fulfillment of everything God had been aiming to accomplish ever since sin and evil showed up in this creation to sully God’s good intentions. The way Luke frames it, the whole dazzling event ends up being kind of sweet in its own way, as though the Father—sensing the apprehension of the Son—sent down some reinforcements to buck him up and help him make it across the finish line. It’s the kind of thing a loving Father does for his beloved Son. That Jesus perhaps needed this boost is testament to his true humanity. That Jesus did indeed go on to suffer and die is testament to his true divinity. That he will eventually be raised again bodily gets at both and assures us that the salvation about which Moses and Elijah showed up to discuss with Jesus is just the truest and grandest thing you could ever imagine!”1
One of the mysteries of the Transfiguration is the appearance of Jesus on that mountain. Luke tells us that Jesus and couple of the disciples went up to the top of the mountain, and as Jesus “was praying, the appearance of his countenance was altered, and his raiment became dazzling white.”
Our Church Fathers very carefully called this episode the Transfiguration, as opposed to the Transformation; Jesus was not one thing transformed into another thing, but rather He was revealed, His divine nature allowed to be seen, if only by a few and for a few moments.
Jesus did not need to be transformed – that’s our gig. Like St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “we all, who … contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory…”
What a wonderful thing to contemplate – that in being in relationship with Jesus, in seeing Him like Peter and James and John did on that mountain, that we too can become like Him, holy and dazzling, yes, but also humble and sacrificial, giving up ourselves for the transformation of our world.
We’ve got our annual meeting today, and we’re going to talk about a lot of important things. Our parish is a home and a refuge, the very tabernacle of God, the mountaintop on which we see Jesus for who He is. It’s also stone and mortar, glass and wood; it’s also all of us, the living and the dead; it’s the ministries found within and without, and it’s the physical legacy of those who came before us in the Faith, and our legacy to those who will follow. We’re going to talk about what it takes to further all of those things, the time and the money and the effort, because without time and money and effort, what we do is just not possible. But the real measurement is found in how well we are following our anointed Lord and Savior, in what we are doing to proclaim release and recovery and liberty in His Name, in how we are transformed and how we are transforming our community. But to meet that measure, we need your voice in that room and in the world.
1Scott Hoezee, This Week http://cep.calvinseminary.edu/sermon-starters/last-epiphany-c/