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Reflections, Images, and Videos for Transfiguration Sunday, February 26

March 2, 2017

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crxs01At our 8:30 and 10 a.m. Services on February 26, we celebrated the Feast of the Transfiguration of Our Lord – the last Sunday after Epiphany and the last Sunday before Lent. Our Services had the focus of both Seasons. We witnessed the manifestation of the glory of Our Lord as the beloved Son of God, and of his infinite love, shown by his pouring himself out for us on the Cross for us; and reflected on our own identity as beloved children of God who manifest his glory as we allow love’s light to shine through us. 

Embedded below are the videos we watched before our 10 a.m. Service to prepare for worship.

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Embedded below is the Gospel passage that we read at our 8:30 and 10 a.m. Services.

[Here’s an adapted version of the reflection that I shared after this was read.]

This past week I saw this item on the News.

This reminded me of the emotions my wife and I struggled with before our daughter’s birth. She was due March 17, St. Patrick’s Day, very appropriate for a mother who’s name is Patricia Gail! We had a 90 minute drive to the Hospital, cross country in central Alberta, in the month of March. We were worried about the possibility of a blizzard, or Gail’s giving birth on the way to the Hospital, as happened in the above video.

10498556_10152335685776847_5823188927878223209_oOn March 2, Gail packed her suitcase for the hospital, just in case. And then that very night, 2 weeks early, Gail’s labour pains began. We tried to sleep, but finally, around 3 a.m. we decided to go to the Hospital. On the way, Gail’s labour pains slowed down, and we thought the doctor might say Gail was having was false labour. Actually, we both hoped the doctor would say this! There was the desire to keep things the way they were for just a little longer, the fear that we weren’t ready for what was about to happen. It was like the feeling you have starting a ride down roller coaster: once you start, you know there’s no stopping! We were told: No – a little person wanted to be born that day. This year, on March 3, we’re celebrating the 25th birthday of our beloved daughter, Alyssa, with whom we’re delighted.

We’re looking at a different kind of birthing today – but one bringing with it the same fears and same joys.

Today is the Last Sunday after Epiphany, the Feast of the Transfiguration of Jesus. In the Season of Epiphany, the focus is the revealing of Jesus’ glory as the Light of the world. In Lent, the focus on God’s love as revealed in the mystery of the Cross. We see both here.

Verse 1 begins:  “Six days later.” Such specific time designation is rare in the Synoptics outside of the Passion narrative. It connects the present passage with what has just taken place. And what happened just before this was a turning point in Jesus’ time with the disciples.  

i-amIn Matthew 16, Jesus asked, “Who do people say that I am?” Peter replied: “You are the Messiah.” Jesus affirmed this answer, but then started to reveal what kind of Messiah he was: “From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”

Peter tried to say No: “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” But Jesus rebuked him and told all the disciples that they, too, were called to choose the way of the Cross – but that it was the way not of death but life: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”

Christ carrying cross up Calvary on Good Friday over dark and stormy sky

Jesus concluded by speaking of himself as the “Son of Man,” who would come in the glory of the Father, and promised: “Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”

Six days after all this happened, the incident described in today’s Gospel Reading took place!

Verse 1 continues: “Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves.” We see here the intimacy of Jesus with these three. Ulrich Luz comments that they’re “present at this, the high point, and Gethsemane, the low point, of the story of Jesus.”

Verse 2 adds: “And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white.

slide_butterfly1The Greek word translated “transfigured” is metamorphoo. It meansto change into another form,” “a change in outward appearance from a change within.” (Think of “metamorphosis.”) We mustn’t pass by without being struck by the awesomeness of this! Jesus is not shining like the moon by reflecting light. No: like the sun, he’s generating light! The 3 disciples witness a foretaste of the Resurrection, the Kingdom coming with power, as Jesus had promised them.

Verse 3 then says: “Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him.” And they’re not just talking about the weather! They’re not talking about their own actions. Luke 9:31 says: “Moses and Elijah appeared in glory and were speaking of Jesus’ departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.” The word translated “departure” is actually exodus. They’re discussing the “Exodus” Jesus was about to accomplish in Jerusalem, how he was going to deliver and set free people in bondage through his death on the Cross.

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Verse 4 continues: “Then Peter said to Jesus, ‘Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.'” Luke 9:33 tells us that Peter said this: “Just as they [Moses and Elijah] were leaving him.” Remember what Jesus, Moses, and Elijah are discussing: the Cross, exactly what Peter had tried to avoid talking about – indeed, what he had tried to rebuke Jesus for talking about earlier. 

Peter responds, saying, “Can’t we just stay here?!” Munachi Ezeogu wrote: “We tend to think that when Peter said, ‘It is good for us to be here’ he was thinking about the beauty of the place. But Peter was probably thinking not of the beauty of the mountain top but its safety for his master.” And himself. Peter asks: “Can’t we just freeze frame this – stay here on the mountain top and avoid the challenges to come?!” According to Mark’s Gospel, “He did not know what to say, for they were terrified.” 

Peter is overwhelmed with fear. But, remember the context! Peter is actually trying to prevent his own redemption – the Exodus, the Deliverance, Jesus is going to accomplish! Like Gail and I 25 years ago, he’s trying to delay or avoid the life that’s to be born.

Verse 5 then says: “While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!'” (The “bright cloud” reminds us of the stories of the Shekinah Glory as it appeared to the people of Israel in the Wilderness, Tabernacle, and Temple.)

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These words spoken by the Father are a repeat of the words the Father spoke at Jesus’ Baptism. King and Suffering Servant – from Psalm 2 and Isaiah 42 – are combined, plus the words “Son whom I love” – possibly an echo of Genesis 22.

R. T. France comments on the words translated “with him I am well pleased:” “[The Greek phrase is] an expression of warm approval and love; it expresses a settled opinion rather than a temporary pleasure.” I like translating this “with whom I’m delighted.” The Father is here expressing the delight of a parent in their child. One friend used to paraphrase the Father’s words as That’s my boy!”

The Father is affirming the Son, just as he did at his Baptism – when Jesus chose to identify himself with us, and walk the road on which, he has just before this told his disciples he’s still walking – the way that leads to the Cross. The words are identical – with the addition at the end (perhaps an allusion to Deuteronomy 18:15) of “Listen to him!” 

How easy it is for miscommunication to occur, as these commercials remind us.

Misunderstandings happen so easily at the best of times!

But even more so when you’re afraid of what the person is trying to communicate to you. When Jesus tried to tell his disciples about the upcoming cross, and about their own calling to take up their own crosses, the disciples didn’t want to hear what Jesus was saying to them.

ac5cba5df1a44679191058021b4b2886Verses 6-7 give the disciples’ reaction and Jesus’ response: “When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, ‘Get up and do not be afraid.'”

The disciples were overcome by fear: fear of change, suffering, and – most of all – death moved them to be afraid of growth, to desire to keep things the same.

I think that we can all relate to this – as individuals and as a Parish. At our Parish Council Focus Day on February 28, we looked at ways the Holy Spirit is moving us past our comfort zones to be a church that is welcoming, inviting, and missional – to be poured out in love, as we’ve been created to be. It can be overwhelming, frightening.

13643794Jesus understands. “Listen to him”, the disciples are told. And the first words Jesus says are, “Get up and do not be (in the Greek, it’s actually “stop being”) afraid.” He speaks words of encouragement to them. He touches them.

Verse 8 continues: “And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone.” (The way “alone” is placed as the last word in Greek emphasizes it.)

They don’t see all three any more. One thing only is important. Jesus is all we need – not Jesus plus anything. He has all the grace we need. As it says in the song: “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in his wonderful face”, and all anxieties and fears melt away.

“Listen to him” is a call to relationship of intimacy with Jesus. After this passage, Jesus and the disciples will be descending the mountain to immediate noise and need – to the Cross itself.

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I remember stumbling a few years ago across a website called “escapereality.com,” which began its “About Us” section with the words: “Escape from reality to travel the world.” I think this is how Peter was viewing this time on the mountain – and why he wanted it to keep on going. But this intimate time with Jesus was not to help the disciples escape reality, but to equip them to face it. 

Jesus gave the disciples time away. He gives us them, too. But the promise is for a walk of intimate fellowship with him that can exist and continue in the midst of the world – of reality – the way it is. Our days are not to consist in taking in a few gulps of fresh air, and the rest of the time having to hold our breath! Our lives aren’t meant to have a sense of God’s Presence in Quiet Time devotions or Retreats, but then no sense of God once this peace and quiet is disturbed.  

We’re to walk with him, and listen to him – even though and when it’s hard. And even though we are afraid, to continue to follow.

heartAs we do, we too will be transfigured.

Becoming who we are called to be, as individuals, as a Parish, can be frightening, painful – we may not want to listen. Growth is painful. But the way of transformation is the way of the Cross – the way of new life, is the way of death. We go through Good Friday to get to Easter. With Jesus’ life inside us,  Jesus’ love is formed within us.

“Changed from glory into glory, till at last we see thy face, till we cast our crowns before thee, lost in wonder, love, and praise …” This is our destiny!

With our Baptism, we begin a journey in which we walk into the unknown. But we don’t need to be afraid, for the One whose glory outshines the sun is travelling with us. He went to the Cross to share his life with us, so that, buried with him in our Baptisms, we may rise in his life for evermore, and hear the words that were spoken to him, spoken to us as well: “You are my beloved child. With you I’m delighted.” May we not be afraid of the life God has for us, the life to be birthed in and through us. Amen. 

I invite us to spend the next few minutes in reflection, as we listen to a song about the deep mystery of this birthing, the breaking open of the heart by love that brings about life, “All at Once,” performed by Phil Keaggy.

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triple-c-serviceOur 10 a.m. Holy Eucharist was a Triple C Service (“Christ-centred, Creative, and Compact). Reflecting the “Creative” portion of the Triple C,  many parts of the Liturgy were different from our usual Sunday Services. One such place was this Transfiguration Sunday Affirmation of Faith, which we said together after the Reflection.

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We left our 10 a.m. Service with the following music sending us forth into the world to shine with the light of Our Lord’s love. In the final piece, the choir sings forth our last “Alleluias” until the Great Vigil of Easter.

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