When and how does the light of Christ transfigure the ordinary, revealing the extraordinary loving work of God?
Perhaps it’s when a friend listens and cares.
Perhaps it’s when a church like Redeemer makes room in God’s building for survivor support groups and AA groups and more.
Or perhaps it’s when the teenage sisters Melati and Isabella Wijsen of Bali start a successful campaign to ban the plastic bags that were washing up on their country’s shores.
Or perhaps it’s when a trying time in our personal lives leads to deepening realizations about who we are and what really matters in life - all for the better.
Or perhaps it’s when the Pennsylvania Lutheran advocacy organization, LAMMPA works tirelessly alongside secular and religious partners to get legislation passed to protect victims of human trafficking.
Or perhaps it’s when Cicely Saunders, a nurse and devoted Anglican helps to start would become the modern Hospice movement, developing and bringing compassionate end of life care to hundreds of thousands of people around the world. Clearly, Cicely’s life was changed through encountering the presence of God.
Indeed, the common denominator in all of these stories is the Light of God shining forth to change the darkness: God’s countenance changing all who come in contact with it.
And that’s the way God works, getting up close to the good in us and in this world and transforming, transfiguring it to be even better. Getting up close to the bad in us and in this world and transforming, transfiguring and redeeming it until even the darkness begins to reveal the light.
We hear in our first lesson today about how Moses was changed after receiving the Ten Commandments from God, and how every time he spent time talking with God the Israelites saw his face shining afterwards.
We hear in our gospel lesson about how Jesus was transfigured in God’s presence. This Jesus was and is “God from God, True Light from True Light,” the One “Begotten, not made” as we will say again in the Apostles Creed in just a few minutes; and sure enough, Jesus’ divinity shone forth through his earthly human shell, changing those around him, revealing the prophets of old who stood by him.
No wonder Martin Luther King Jr. Spoke of being changed on the mountaintop. We just can’t be met by God and not be changed.
I mean we can try. And maybe some part of us, the part stuck in sin, is always trying to keep ourselves from being changed.
Maybe there’s always at least a part of us that, like the apostle Peter, is trying to put God and Jesus back in their Tent where they belong, where they are safely within the bounds of our control and what we understand and want to do with our lives.
But God’s not going back into any tent, and this redeeming, transfiguring, from-the-cross-made-possible-work is too radically life-changing for anyone to keep to themselves.
Jesus asks the disciples not to tell anyone what they’ve seen, but how can we not tell the story of Jesus? How can we not tell the stories of friends caring, churches supporting those in need, youth teaching us to care for the environment, advocacy and help for those trapped by human trafficking. How can we not climb to the top of every hillside and cry out with a loud voice, “I know that my Redeemer lives. I have seen the Truth revealed in love that redeems and transfigures all who are near to it.”
In every way, dear Jesus, we would by your grace become more faith-filled and obedient to following your loving ways. In every way we would obey you as you seek to work your love by the cross for us and through us. We would, with your help, respond to God’s voice from the cloud that tells the disciples and us to “listen to Him.”
It may not always be easy, being changed by the Light of God for the sake of the world. Yet as the apostle Paul writes to the Corinthians, the “Spirit of God…makes it so that we do not lose heart” (2 Corinithians, 4:1)
Cicely Saunders, who I mentioned as one of the founders of the modern Hospice movement, at a time when personal struggles threatened to take her down, said that “the practice of deeper faith and trust in the Power of God’s love made it so that the wind that you’d always been fighting against was suddenly at your back, helping you along the way.” (pg.22, Compassionate Caregiving, Baugher)
By God’s grace, this very morning again, we have been brought close to the transfiguring and changing countenance and Light of God through Christ. And we are being sent to proclaim what we have seen and how we have been changed. And how this Love and grace and mercy and wisdom and truth and justice - God intends them for all people, for the entire world, the entire Universe.
The Light of Christ is indeed transfiguring and changing the very fabric of the universe around us, revealing the extraordinary through the ordinary, revealing the faithfulness and grace of God. If this does not drive us to our knees in prayer, to our feet rejoicing and praising God, and out onto the streets to tell others of this good, good news as we build verdant communities to change the world for the better, then what ever will?