When my son was small, he loved to play with transformers, not just the cars that became warriors but all transforming toys. His favorites were a bunch of eggs that with the right twists and turns became dinosaurs. I’m pretty sure this was the earliest sign of the engineer and mechanic in him. He can design, build, and fix almost anything.
He’s currently working on a project to transform an old kerosene camping lantern of my granddaddy’s into a table lamp. I have carried this lantern with me, moved it from place to place for over 20 years and it’s high time I let it be useful again. It’s a bit rusty, the cap for filling it with fuel is missing, the moving parts are quite stiff and creaky, and there’s an old dirt-dobber nest in it, but the glass globe is in tact. This lantern means a lot to me because it was something my granddaddy used (it’s like having my grandmother’s measuring cups and spoons) and I can picture him carrying it to shine light on family and scout camping trips. I can’t wait for it to shine again in a new way in my home.
In our reading today from Mark’s telling of the good news story, Jesus and three of his closest followers went up on a mountain to pray together. While they were there, Jesus was transfigured1 right before their eyes. We don’t know exactly what happened but he changed, both his clothes and his physical appearance2. Jesus’ true identity was revealed. The boundary between God’s Kingdom and the here-and-now was removed.
I so enjoy Peter’s reaction to this amazing event. He’s so much like many of us. He wants to preserve what he’s witnessed. He wants to freeze the moment in time because he can’t imagine anything better than what he’s seeing. Peter wants to build houses for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah as if to contain the glory of God he’s just witnessed first hand. How often do we attempt to do the same?
But in each telling of the good news story by Mark, Luke, and Matthew, they all follow this episode with Jesus leading them back to the crowds and healing a boy possessed by demons.
Following Jesus isn’t about staying on the mountain and containing God for our own use but going back out to shine the light of God’s love. Jesus calls us to follow so that we can help build God’s kingdom on earth as in heaven by deepening our own relationship with God and sharing the life-giving love of God with others.
We don’t grow in our relationship with God by building chapels on mountains. God’s love for everyone and all creation can’t be contained. We live into our relationship with God by serving God’s children and shining God’s love in the everyday, ordinary moments of life. We live into our relationship with God by getting out of ourselves and into this hurting world. We live into our relationship with God by following Jesus to feed and heal and comfort others.
And when, together with God’s help, we are all other-focused, we find that our own needs are met far more abundantly that we could have ever imagined trying to fill our own needs our own way. Jesus asked Peter, James, and John along not so they could brag about what they’d been privileged to witness (Jesus actually tells them not to tell anyone) but so that they could live what they witnessed once back down the mountain. They witnessed Jesus’ transfiguration so they could continue in their transformation. And we witness each year on this Sunday before the beginning of Lent.
My granddaddy’s lantern wasn’t made to be stored away but to give light and I’m so glad my son has the ability to transform it so it can fulfill its intended purpose.
Each and every one of us is created to shine the light of God’s love as we live what we learn from Jesus.
Our transformation is ongoing for our entire life as we follow Jesus (re)discovering our true selves as God’s beloved children. Sometimes Jesus invites us to the mountain but the vast majority of our time is following Jesus ‘to the crowds’ in our day to day ordinary routines and schedules, shining the light of God’s love, healing the hurt and suffering in this world. Amen.
P.S. I’ll be doing daily posts during the season of Lent and I’d love for you to join me in this season of renewal and growth. You can check out the original invitation here and I encourage you to check out the other “getting ready” posts: Why Lent?, Questions and Answers, and What’s Love Got to do with It?. You can subscribe and the daily reflections will be sent to your email.
1word nerd alert: the Greek word metomorphoo is translated both as transfigure and transform (see Romans 12 and 2 Corinthians 3). The English meaning of each word is basically the same with transfigure being a complete change in appearance and transform being a change in appearance.
2Luke (9) and Matthew’s (17) telling of this same story say his face changed as well as his clothes.