Up the mountain to a vision of glory. Down the mountain and back to work. That is where he led them.
Jesus had just been having a conversation with them. What are people saying about me? He’d asked.
They say you’re Elijah or one of the prophets come back. Come back to save us, come back to lead us.
But who do you say that I am? You are the Messiah.
And then he tells them that it means that he will suffer and die. Are you with me? Will you follow me?
Peter, James, and John, three apostles, go up the mountain with him. It is time for prayer.
And then he goes on ahead, and they see the vision.
Among the ancient prophets of Israel, Moses and Elijah stand out, as ones who spoke with God. Jesus is there with them. All three clothed in white.
And Peter thinks he gets it. He’s close. He sees that Jesus is one of the great prophets of Israel.
It is like the feast of booths – the one where you set up tents to dwell in, while you celebrate God’s presence with the people in the wilderness.
So why not stay here for a while?
But that is not what happens. The cloud descends.
The cloud signals – and covers – God’s presence.
It is the cloud of obscurity, the cloud of unknowing.
It is the cloud of revelation, the cloud of glory.
So no wonder they’re afraid.
When the cloud descends, everything is hidden.
And out of the cloud a voice speaks.
And what it says it said before: this is my chosen Son.
Listen to him!
God calls to them to a higher understanding, a higher purpose, than the one they knew.
They were friends of Jesus, followers of his way. And now they knew who he really was, what he would do.
Jesus was the redeemer of Israel – and more.
This was the midpoint of the story of Jesus’ ministry.
Baptized in the Jordan, calling the disciples and embarking on the mission in Galilee: all that was behind him.
Ahead of him: Jerusalem. The cross, the passion, death.
And then resurrection and ascension.
Here they were at the midpoint, at the crisis point, of Jesus’ vocation.
Would he accept the glory and the passion, the pain and the joy?
Jesus freely accepted the call of God. And he went forward.
To Jerusalem, and glory.
What happened on the mountain was a transfiguration, a change in appearance, one that revealed a reality beyond common knowing.
What happened on the mountain was a transformation, a change in being, which revealed the purpose of God.
We are called into that purpose. We are called into that transformation.
We are called to take our place in the larger purpose of God.
For we do not proclaim ourselves, we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord. For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Cor 4:5a, 6)
And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, from the Spirit. (2 Cor 3.18)
We too are in the middle of the story, in the confusion that precedes every transformation. We are in the middle of the story, from baptism to resurrection, from creation to Glory, to the completion of God’s purpose, when our faces will shine as we reflect that image of the invisible God who is found in Christ Jesus, as the light of Christ illuminates us and shines forth from us to a newly lightening world.
Jesus came to embrace humankind in the love of God. He came to proclaim and embody the coming of God’s reign.
And he came to call us into that work.
We are called, ourselves, to be transformed, to be fully his people.
We are called, individually, that we individually might be transformed into the image of the likeness of God.
That we might, in other words, become God’s people as he made us to be, as we are called to become.
We are called, together, that we together might become the agents of transformation, heralds of the presence of God in the world.
We are called, that the world God has made might be transformed into the joyful kingdom it was meant to be.
We are called to be a community of transformation.
We are called to call others. We are called to be church, first, for others – and then, for our fellowship together.
We are called into this holy mystery that we might take part in its working out in the world; as it works out in us, in our lives, in our words and acts.
So we are called for a purpose greater than ourselves. And we are called to live into that great calling which is ours in Christ Jesus.
It starts here.
The kingdom of heaven starts here.
If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.
Phil 3.1, 4.4-9
Finally, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near.
Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received ... and the God of peace will be with you.
And my God will fully satisfy every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen.