Luke 9: 28-36 (32-43a)
Epiphany Last C
RCL 10:00 HE 2B
WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO GET YOUR ATTENTION?
Credit: Our Church Times 2/16/92 p.l; 3/1/92 McCoy p.34 ("Worship,Planning,Themes .. Year C")
This is a classic letter written by a college student who was away from heme for the first time:
"Dear Mom and Dad:
I'm sorry it has been so long since my last letter, but I didn't want to worry you about the fire in my dorm. Then I was hospitalized for a concussion after I fell out of the window trying to escape the flames. The doctor says the injury shouldn't interfere with my pregnancy.
"Now that I've got your attention, let me assure you: there was no fire. I didn't fallout of the window, I have no concussion, and I'm not pregnant. I told you all those things to start off, because it's the end of the first quarter, I flunked history and biology, and I just wanted to put my failing grades into perspective.
"Your loving daughter, Susan."
"Now that I've got your attention," said Susan to her parents. What does it take to get your full attention? Most of us would say something like this: "Well, something very dramatic and hard to overlook."
How often we miss the power and drama of the Bible story, especially during the season now concluding, the Epiphany season. Yet there has been plenty to get our attention.
1. Think how the Epiphany season begins and ends. It is truly awe-inspiring and most dramatic. Wise men travel great distances and come to worship the child Jesus, as they follow a brilliant star. Majestic gifts are given. Who could miss the point of this beginning? It catches our attention. A thrilling tale it is, the Bible story of the coming of the Son of God.
2. Epiphany ends as dramatically as it began, with today's Gospel story. Jesus takes His inner circle of apostles, Peter,James and John; and on the mountain, before their-eyes, He is transfigured with a divine light, brighter than any nuclear light. Out of the cloud of confusion and mortality comes the voice of God: "This is my beloved Son; listen to Him." Who could miss the message? It gets our attention.
Our modern minds may boggle at some of the details, but the point is there for all of us to see. God can transfigure, is transfiguring our very lives, right now. Can you see it? Have you missed it before? Pay attention; for God is saying so much in these events.
We have all encountered men and women who have been in the presence of God, and their whole being radiates it. To be with them is to have our attention caught: Wow- what was that? It is good to be with them, but also a little unnerving - not because they make it unnerving, but because we are put in awe by their experience. Their encounter may have been through pain or self-sacrifice, through political or social struggle, through deep meditation or through artistic inspiration. Such men and women have an authority that draws people and catches their attention. Notice in the story in the first reading, how people were attracted to Moses: they all saw him, hut were afraid to come near till he spoke to them. Then all the leaders saw him and all the people came near.
When we meet people who have had a transforming experience, they get our attention: we know that they are the same persons, yet they seem changed. Jesus was the same person, at the Transfiguration, as the disciples had known all along, but what was changed was the capacity of the disciples to see Jesus: now for a short time they could see Him as He really was and is. And we might pray for the vision to see all sorts of things and people as they really are in their potential. We might pray for vision to see our friends, our spouse, our Church, or workplace, or school, our diocese, our country, transfigured if only for that fleeting moment, for the reflection of such a moment gives us strength to go on being faithful and loving. Like the face of Moses, our faces will shine long afterwards.
One thing I suggest to couples coming to prepare for marriage is this: has it eyer happened to you, even for a moment, that you have been lifted out of your own little concerns, into something bigger than either one of you? Usually the couple answers Yes; and I say, "Yes indeed - and you'll never forget that moment. For at that moment a little bit of heaven peeked through at you - the heaven for which your life and your marriage are preparing you, the heaven which I believe you will enjoy for ever."
Or have any of you here been lifted out of yourself as you look at a sunrise or sunset, a beautiful work of art, or as you listen to a piece of music? These moments of transfiguration get your full attention, and you never forget them.
And the disciples never forgot the event that today's Gospel speaks about. It is mentioned repeatedly in all the Gospels and in several other places. Here was Jesus, on the way to Jerusalem, to certain death if He carried through His plans to confront the authorities in the Temple in Jerusalem, to challenge them with the power of love. Here was Jesus - and He was transfigured before the disciples. The disciples caught a vision, saw what it was that Jesus was about, what He was up to what the goal was of all that He had done and said. And they would reflect on this experience again and again as they tried to make sense of the events that followed.
And you and I, here as Lent is about to begin, are given this story which so grabs our attention, as a glimpse of the glory that lies ahead, to sustain us through the pilgrimage of Lent, through Holy Week, Good Friday and Holy Saturday. If you will, this story is a glimpse of Resurrection-glory ahead of time. For that is something of what resurrection is about: it transfigures this world: the very dust itself is made to shine with a glory from beyond this world, and everything is raised to a whole new level of being. Good Friday is not the end. In today's Gospel, we are given a preview of the real and glorious end, in order better to accept and live through the present.
Baptism is the way in which we become part of this preview. And the Eucharist is how we receive the life-giving Body of Jesus into our mortal ones, "that He may dwell in us, and we in Him," He has given us all that we need, to follow Him. And as we keep His transfigured glory before us during these coming forty days of Lent, we shall be strengthened to follow Him and be changed into His likeness. For by embracing the Cross, we accept not only our humanity, but we also accept the means for our humanity to be transformed into glory.