Exodus 34:29-35 • Psalm 99 • 2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2 • Luke 9:28-36, (37-43a)
Today's stories – all three – seem odd at first. They all describe the change in someone's appearance, Moses, Jesus, and even, in the Corinthians passage, one another, when God has drawn close. Perhaps this is less unusual than it seems at first glance. Think of someone fresh from vacation, who shows up at work looking tanned, relaxed, and well, transfigured. Think of family and friends gathered at the birth of a child, and faces shining with joy. Think even of the participants in the Netflix series Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, and the parallel transfiguration of habitats and people, occurring simultaneously as order and appreciation for their worlds are restored.
Traditionally, humans have looked to the mountains as a place for restoration and inspiration. Many things about both the Moses and the gospel stories will be familiar to those who have hiked into the hills. First, one becomes more attuned to and a part of the natural world. Then several things may follow. The absolute splendor and glory of one's surroundings. The sense of a presence unimaginably greater than oneself. The insight about one's life direction. And lastly, the fear as clouds descend and one's own powerlessness is clear.
The disciples who went up to the mountain with Jesus became overwhelmed by the experience, providing us with yet another example of the difficulty of being human. It is Jesus, of course, who is capable of not only recognizing but talking with Elijah and Moses, there to help him think about what was ahead: how his departure from this world was to fulfill his purpose here. Jesus is wise in taking time away from the pressures of life, time to experience nature's restorative power, and time to gather understanding and energy for his calling. After this distancing from the world to restore himself, he immediately returns to the demands of life, moving from the mountaintop to the cries of a father for his child, a child with symptoms of epilepsy whom the continually hapless disciples have failed to heal. Jesus immediately succeeds where they have failed, and the child is restored to his father.
The disciples wonder why they could not heal the child. How could they – and by extension, we – utterly miss the point? If we go up on the mountain, and in the middle of the most extraordinary of spiritual experiences, run around like the Three Stooges, thinking that we must build a booth or do something, what do we expect? That we can come down and heal others? Ultimately, transfiguration is not at all about doing, but being aware of oneself and the experience of the holy in the moment.
Where am I trying to hard, doing too much?
What am I doing this week to experience the natural world?
When do I experience the holy in my daily life?
When have I seen a transfiguration, a glow on the face of another? In myself?
What are my opportunities to get away from the pressures of life? How do I build more prayer into my life?
What do I need more clarity, more understanding of, for myself?
How have I grown in understanding from these readings?