Let us pray:
Fill us with your Spirit, that we may truly hear. Reveal yourself to us this morning, we pray. And may the words of my mouth and the meditation of all our hearts be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, our rock and our redeemer. In Your Son’s name we pray, Amen.
One of my favorite books* tells the story of Sophie, a young woman who lives with her stepmother and works at the family busines–until a witch comes and turns her into an old woman. Not wanting her family to see her like this, she goes on a journey until she ends up at a wizard’s castle. And this wizard is the kind of person that I really enjoy reading about but would never want to meet: he throws temper tantrums and almost destroys the castle when he has a cold because he’s so miserable. And Sophie stays long enough to realize that something strange is going on, and then long enough to realize that what it is is that the wizard has given his heart–I mean his physical, in his chest heart–to another.
Sophie discovers the truth. She realizes what is true, and is able to see at last what she couldn’t see before.
The Transfiguration, too, is a story of the truth revealed. The disciples have been invited up to the mountain with Jesus. They have been traveling through Israel with Jesus. They’ve seen him do miracles; they’ve seen him preach; they’ve heard the strange, beautiful things he has to say. By now they know that He is no ordinary man, but someone special. Just the chapter before Peter has seen enough to know that Jesus is the Messiah, the one who’s been told of and prophecied of. Peter is able to articulate that when Jesus asks who they believe he is.
But here, on this mountain, the disciples see Jesus as they’ve never seen Him before: his clothes are impossibly white, and He’s changed in some way that Mark doesn’t even feel capable of describing. The disciples see that Jesus is talking with Elijah and Moses, those two Old Testament giants and fathers of the faith, who were looked to as those who would point the way to the Messiah. And at the last, a voice from clouds in heaven tells them, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!””
This may be a transfiguration, a changing of Jesus before the disciples’ very eyes, but it is also a revealing, a revelation: the disciples see Jesus as He is: as the Son of God, as someone heavenly, steeped in Israel’s history but also far greater than it, as God’s beloved who has come to earth and who needs to be listened to.
This is very different from the experience the disciples have had of Jesus in the past, of traveling with him, walking around and talking, eating together, watching Him preach and heal. Instead, here they are seeing the truth. This is a vivid, visceral moment where they see and hear the truth.
And I see a lot of hope in this story, hope for us so many years later. Firstly that’s in this vivid experience–the disciples are given this moment, where they experience God in such a different way than they have before, a moment where they see who Jesus is and cannot deny it. They are given a glimpse of the truth.
And I see hope in what happens after this moment, too. The disciples continue to follow Jesus, but they continue to not really get it. At all. Just a few verses after the lectionary passage ends, when Jesus tells them of His coming death the disciples cannot understand how or why this is possible. They continue to not understand. When Jesus is arrested they run. Peter denies knowing Jesus at all. And yet–that doesn’t change what has been revealed to them. It doesn’t diminish the truth. And their failures don’t discourage God from chasing them anyway, inviting them into the church anyway, inviting them to take part in what God is doing anyway.
Sometimes the truth takes a while to grow in us. We don’t immediately understand what we’ve been told or what God has shown us. That doesn’t diminish that truth. And God’s grace is present as it grows.
Let us live by the truths revealed, and hope eternally in God’s grace for all those times when we forget them and shove them away. Let us live into the truths that God has shown us and shows us and will show us.
*Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones.