It’s a Mystery

RCL – Transfiguration – 2/19/12

2 Kings 2:1-12
Psalm 50:1-6
2 Corinthians 4:3-6
Mark 9:2-9

Let me say at the outset, that I find these mystical texts to be both fascinating and disturbing. Elisha’s vision of fiery chariots and Peter’s, James’, and John’s vision of a glowing Jesus talking with Moses and Elijah are so far from my daily experiences they leave me speechless. I like to believe that I have a deal with God: These things will not ever happen to me. Thank you. I am willing to take them on faith because the idea that they could happen, really scares me enough that I don’t want any proof. However, there is more to the story than the scary stuff. There is a message here, particularly in the gospel, which deserves attention.

There were several events in the news this week that I can’t quite let go of. I listened as people gave their views on the soccer riots in Egypt where 74 people died on Feb. 2. It seems that most people blamed the police or military for not preventing the riots. After that I heard about rioting and looting in Athens that left ancient buildings in ash. These riots were a response to the passing of  more “Austerity Laws” that are an attempt to bolster Greece’s floundering economy and draw support from the European Union. The voices I heard were filled with anger and despair. Then I heard about the bombing in Bangkok which led directly to a story about the tensions between Israel and Iran.

And if these international stories were not enough to make me wonder about the state of humanity, there were some national stories that also had me puzzled. I don’t feel the need to elaborate much, but politics are almost more of a mystery to me than Transfiguration. It seems politicians seldom remember that there are lives attached to the dollars in the budgets. When cuts are made to healthcare, people suffer. When cuts are made to social services, people suffer. When policies don’t take health and safety into consideration, people suffer. The politicians seem to continue to live their lives unaffected.

When I think of these news stories juxtaposed with the Transfiguration story, I find hope. I realize that holding these news articles and the scripture together are not typical and my conclusion is probably not what is expected. But let me attempt to explain my thinking.

Jesus took Peter, James, and John up to the top of a mountain to have time away from the crowds and busyness. I think it was also to give them what they needed. Perhaps they were still confused about Jesus’ full identity. Perhaps they were so busy managing the crowds that they had yet to pay full attention. Jesus revealed to them his full glory as the Christ to make it abundantly clear to them. They were terrified and probably didn’t know whether to worship, run away, or faint dead away. Whatever else happened on that mountain, they had a deeper knowledge of the Christ in their presence. They left that place changed people.

This is where the hope is for me. What if all of us who call ourselves Christians, seek out transfiguration in all our relationships? What if we took time to look for the Christ, the sacred, the image of God, within every other person? I know it seems impossible and beyond our grasp. But if we at least try…

Maybe no one would have died in Egypt because the crowd would not have lost control and blame would not need to be assigned if people saw one another as sacred beings. Maybe Athens would not be smoldering if resources could be freely shared between nations because all are holy and none should live in the despair of economic depression. Maybe Bangkok would not have been bombed and Iran and Israel could be at peace with each other if they stopped seeing enemies and started seeing each other as beloved.

And much closer to home, maybe hatred wouldn’t be spewed from the mouths of presidential candidates and budgets would be adjusted to support the weakest members of society if those who claim to be Christians sought out the Christ in others.

Transfiguration remains a mystery to me as it occurred on that long-ago mountaintop. I’m fine with that, really. But I take it as a challenge to invite the Christ into all my relationships and watch for transfiguration. It won’t change anyone, but it could change me. And isn’t that the point, anyway?

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