"And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white."
"And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white." (Luke 9.29)
God's glory is hidden within our ordinary lives, but it is revealed through his word and through the presence of his Son Jesus Christ. God wants to transform each one of us into the likeness of his Son Jesus Christ. This requires the radical operation of divine love. Here together we are called to open our hearts and lives to that transforming power so that we may shine as lights in the world to the glory of God the Father. The Christian life is a call not just to follow certain religious rules and regulations; instead Christ's call is to be totally transformed by the fire of living love.
The Transfiguration of Jesus is just such a transformation, which the Church celebrates on 6th August each year. Before their eyes the apostles saw Jesus as he really is – the glorious Son of Man, the one on whom God bestows all might, glory honour, authority and power. Jesus is surrounded by Moses and Elijah and this is very important for several reasons. Both of them had been transformed by the glory of God in a similar way. We read in Exodus 30 :34 that when Moses emerged from the Tent of Meeting his face was so radiant that it had to be covered with a veil. In 2 Kings2:11-12 we read that at his death Elijah was gathered up to heaven, consumed in a whirlwind and chariot of fire. The presence of the two prophets is important because they are the two pillars of the whole Old Testament.
Moses speaks God's law and Elijah speaks the prophetic word of God. As such they speak with God's authority. Jesus appears between them because he comes to fulfil the law and the prophets. Moses and Elijah are also important because of the presence of Peter and the other apostles. In the second letter of Peter 1:16 the writer speaks with apostolic authority claiming that he does so because he was at the transfiguration. In other words, the apostle speaks with the same authority that was given to Moses and Elijah.
St. Paul confirms this in his letter to the Ephesians 2:20 when he teaches that the authority of the church is built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. All of this is crucial to the actual event of transfiguration. By the virtue of this supernatural experience Jesus is showing that transfiguration is possible for his followers. Moses and Elijah were sinful men who were transformed by the glory and power of God. As a result they became God's spokesmen on earth. At Pentecost when the fire comes down from heaven Peter too will be transformed from impetuous, outspoken fisherman to the Apostle who can confirm the faith of the brethren and be the rock on which Christ will build his Church - Acts 2. For a brief moment Jesus was seen in his full glory, and was also a pointer to a greater breakthrough.
Christ is given all power and authority and glory so that we might share in that same power and glory. How does this happen? Again, the answer is there in the gospel. Jesus was transformed while he was at prayer. It has been said, "We soon become like the thing we worship." So it is in worship that this transformation begins to take place. As we kneel before the glorious and powerful Christ the fire of his Spirit works in our hearts to burn up all the straw and purify all the gold. It is our task to come before him with an open heart - willing for this to happen. So when we, day by day, live as Jesus asks us to, when we serve one another and praise our God, we are united with the God who longs to transform us into the image of his Son - alive with the Spirit of God.
The Revd Canon Jeremy Paisey
All Saints’ Episcopal Church Buckie