What the Usual Suspects Saw

Matthew 17:1-9 – Transfiguration Sunday – for Sunday, February 26, 2017

“But Jesus came and touched them. ‘Get up,’ he said. ‘Don’t be afraid.’ When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.” (Matthew 17:7-8)

“Don’t be afraid.”

So Jesus said.

So we tell children when the creaks and groans from the house, in a winter’s storm, sounds like the approach of a monster.

So I’ve told groups of young hikers—accustomed to lights that easily switch on, televisions that glow with entertainment, and street lamps that brighten the neighborhood—when darkness shrouds the mountains and a flickering campfire is the only light.

So a million and more spouses have encouraged their beloved when they’ve headed inside a cancer center for another treatment.

Afraid we are. Of strange sounds. Of the dark. Of death.

Fear transfigures us.

Hope also does.

Once, midway through the Gospel accounts (in three of the four versions of the good news), Jesus invited the usual suspects—Peter, James, and John—up to the mountain with him. Though not on the peak for Moses’ forty days and nights, they lingered long enough to witness Jesus’ transfiguration. In a swirl of light and sound, of holy voices and legendary figures, Jesus’ countenance glowed, and his clothes shimmered as bright as the noonday sun. The child from Nazareth was proclaimed as one that pleased God.

The disciples, Matthew succinctly stated, “fell on their faces, filled with awe.” Continue reading →

I Am A Crooked Disciple

Luke 9:28-43 – Transfiguration Sunday – for Sunday, February 7, 2016

(“The next day, when Jesus, Peter, John, and James had come down from the mountain, a large crowd met Jesus.”)

Transfiguration of Jesus - Raphael
Transfiguration of Jesus – Raphael

Whenever preaching, teaching, or simply pondering the stretch of Luke’s Gospel that highlighted Jesus’ transfiguration, I’ve focused most of my efforts “up on a mountain.”

But today, I’m more fascinated with what happened after “Jesus, Peter, John, and James had come down from the mountain.”

My fascination is also fed by the leftover learning from the singular course in ancient Greek that I survived during seminary.

In the ninth chapter of Luke (along with Mark 9:2-8 and Matthew 17:1-8), the Gospel reader “views” Jesus’ sublime transfiguration on a mountain. This was witnessed by the inner circle of disciples, was likely a parallel (literally, metaphorically, or both) to Moses’ mountaintop moment with the Holy in Exodus 34:29-35, and included God’s blessing on Jesus’ ministry.

But enough about that life-altering and transcendent event!

Afterwards, Jesus hiked down the mountain, back into the mess and stress of humanity. While Peter, James, and John’s souls were still awhirl from the transfiguration (and their soles probably ached from pounding along a rocky trail), a stranger buttonholed Jesus. Continue reading →

The Light Of The gospel

2 Corinthians 4:3-6 – Transfiguration Sunday – for February 15, 2015

“The gods of this age has blinded the minds of those who don’t have faith so they couldn’t see the light of the gospel that reveals Christ’s glory.” (II Corinthians 4:4)

Rembrandt’s “Saint Paul at his Writing Desk.”
Rembrandt’s “Saint Paul at his Writing Desk.”

Paul likely never read a capital “G” Gospel.

The mercurial apostle lived and died before the second and third generation of believers began to circulate the manuscripts of what were eventually named Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John.

Paul, who wrote the earliest words of the Christian Testament, knew the Torah. He knew the prophets and their longings, all meticulously inscribed on parchment. Those writings, including the Psalms memorized for worship, were Paul’s reference points for the stories of faith that were written, taught, and proclaimed.

And yet he also had a story. Paul’s small “g” gospel tale was the good news, the light in the darkness.

In the reading of Paul’s letters, both the ones scholars are confident he wrote (like the Corinthians’ correspondence), and the ones likely written by others (like Ephesians), he offered meager glimpses about himself: a devout Jew, a trained Pharisee, his place of birth, and a location when the voice and vision of Christ knocked him senseless and knocked a sense of Christ into him. We also read of his travels across interconnected Roman roads, of his preaching and imprisonments, and always his correspondence. Always! And yet, how much do we know? Continue reading →