3/4/12, Lent as a Call to Transfiguration

Gen 22:1-18, Rom 8:31b-34, Mk 9:2-10

Each week of Lent the scripture readings call us to reflect on a piece of Jesus’ journey. We ask ourselves how that piece of the Christ-story speaks to our own spiritual experience.  Beginning on Ash Wednesday with a reminder that from dust we came and to dust we shall return, we are invited to journey with Christ from the beginnings of his ministry in Galilee to Jerusalem, where his life’s purpose is fulfilled.

 Last week, the first week in Lent, the readings focused on baptism.  Jesus’ baptism by John was recalled, along with God’s affirmation of him in that experience.  Following his baptism, which represented his call out of past occupations into a specific ministry, Jesus was immediately drawn out into the wilderness for 40 days of “testing.”

 These two stories ask us to remember the beginnings of our faith.  Baptized into Christ, we are to let go of personal identity.  We are baptized into a faith life that is marked by divine purpose.  We take on the person and work of Christ, which is to take on the roles of prophet-priest-king. 

Our Lenten journey invites us to do this every day of our lives--to die to an old way of being and be born into a new way of being.  Remind yourself constantly of your baptism.

But baptism is just the beginning of our Lenten journey.  We are going on with Jesus all the way to the cross.  As we travel, we can expect to have Jesus teach us about what to expect on the path. We also observe actions on his part that can become examples for our own lives.  As Lent progresses, observe the scriptures carefully for these teachings and examples.

The Gospel passage we read today tells us about Jesus going up a mountain with three disciples where he was “transfigured.”  What does that word mean anyway?  It is translated in that way from the Greek word metamorpho, which means to change into another form.  We call this metamorphosis.  Another way to translate it would be “transformation.”

 Metamorphosis- transformation-transfiguration:  These are all ways in which we try to describe what happens when the seeming appearance or reality of an object or person reveals itself as something different.  The three disciples, who had been with Jesus for three years of travels and teaching saw him in a way they’d never seen before.  They saw his outside human appearance briefly match the inner reality of spiritual glory that had been there all along.

What can this story tell us about our own experience of the spiritual life?

Many of us wrestle with years of theological teaching in which we came to picture Jesus as so fully God from the very beginning of his life that of course he would have no problem choosing to live a purposeful life of purity and integrity and self-sacrifice.  But think that through a little more deeply. If Jesus was fully human he would HAVE to have been challenged by the same things that challenge us all as human beings.  Scripture says we are all created in the image of God. I wonder what it means that the very same image of God imprinted that we believe is in each of us is the image that Jesus carried.  This is the image that was confirmed in him at his baptismal call when the Spirit descended.  When Jesus was tested in the wilderness, was that when he determined to yield personal identity, to give himself over completely to God’s purpose?  Did Jesus, by being fully human, grow into being fully God? Was the moment of “transfiguration” on the mountain when his disciples were allowed to see, perhaps in a mystical moment, the revealed glory of God into which Jesus had fully grown over 33 years as a result of his full love of and yielding to God?

Just about everyone has experienced those moments when we see the world with new eyes. Something happens that fills us with wonder and we are overcome with a sense of the sacred.   These are mystical moments when we get a glimpse that there is much more to this humdrum, painfilled world than our everyday experience tells us. In these mystical moments, we catch the promise of transfiguration, transformation, metamorphosis that is always happening but not seen in the glory of its completeness. We want to give ourselves over to the promise of this completeness.

This seems to be an important possibility for us to reflect on during Lent.  In this transfiguration story, maybe we are being shown that life is an ongoing transformative process.  Maybe we are being asked to understand that as we choose- each moment, each day- to live as Jesus taught and demonstrated, God’s potential in us can be fulfilled.  There are theological words that attempt to name this process but the phrase I like best is the one I grew up with: we are on the way to becoming all that in Christ, we already are! 

Jesus apparently walked down off that mountain with his disciples looking like the same person that had gone up with them, but they had caught a glimpse of something new.  As we follow Jesus on the rest of our Lenten journey, we will see Jesus continuing to teach them about the necessity of suffering and showing them what it meant to live as citizens of the Kingdom of God.  We will see him demonstrating constant choices of love and justice and non-violent peacemaking as he goes all the way to the cross in faithfulness to his baptismal call. Yet, in this moment of transfiguration the disciples had caught a glimpse of the inside glory that compelled Jesus.  They began to know that a similar process of transformation could be chosen by them.  Eventually, they overcame their fear and made that choice… to become the image of God that they already were. 

In our American culture, we are so stuck in me-ness.  How am I doing in God?  I think that the promise of this completeness for which we long applies to not only individuals, but to The Church and to humanity as a whole.  All of creation is on the way to becoming the fullness of God that it has potential to be.  In our little lives, in our families, in our church, in our nation:  the Lenten journey asks us if we will hold on to the image of transfiguration that we’ve glimpsed and participate in it as we fulfill our baptismal calls.  Can we believe that the Church is still on the way to becoming all that God intends it to be: the beautiful Bride of Christ? That’s the transfigured image of glory towards which we are called to live as Lumen Christi!

By Sandi DeMaster