Bright and Shiny Moments

(Excerpt from a Transfiguration Sunday sermon given on 2/15/2015) Today’s Gospel tells of a bright and shiny moment. It reminds us that even on a bumpy road, even when we are scared, one moment can plant itself into our mind and we will never forget. We also have an opportunity to understand Jesus more clearly, as he reveals who he is to his disciples. I remember a bright and shiny experience. I was in North Dakota, and we had gone down to Fargo to visit a lady in the hospital. Her daughter was driving. As we got onto I-29 going North, there it was, The Aurora Borealis! – not the full sky panorama, but a wonderful greenish, blue formation above us. I asked the driver, “Is that it?” and she said, “Yes, that’s it.” I will always remember that wonderful experience. We think that the sudden and unexplained brightness of Jesus’ clothing signals the presence of God. Whiteness here indicates a light not accessible to human beings. The appearance of Moses and Elijah not only exceeds the limits of what is thought possible,ut also connects Jesus with two of Israel’s major prophetic figures. It is something new for Peter, James and John who did not witness the baptism. Peter’s desire to prolong the moment is well intended because he is still not sure that this plan of Jesus will work. The story of the transfiguration follows a period of healing, and of moving from place to place. It is really a kind of crossroads. He knows which way he needs to go, but will the disciples understand, then accept the road ahead? For one shining moment the disciples are granted a foretaste of Jesus’ coming glory.  While the text does not tell us what motivated Peter’s response, I cannot help but think that Peter wanted to hold onto this moment of glory and to stop Jesus’ downward journey toward suffering and death. One of my favorite writers, Frederick Buechner, says: “It is as strange a scene as there is in the Gospels. Even without the voice from the cloud to explain it, they had no doubt what they were witnessing. It was Jesus of Nazareth all right, the man they’d tramped many a dusty mile with, whose mother and brothers they knew, the one they’d seen as hungry, tired, and footsore as the rest of them. But it was also the Messiah, the Christ, in his glory. It was the holiness of the man shining through his humanness, his face so afire with it they were almost blinded.” Even with us something like that happens once in a while.  “The face of a man walking with his grandchild in the park, of a woman baking bread, of sometimes even the unlikeliest person listening to a concert, say, or standing barefoot in the sand watching the waves roll in, or just having a hotdog at a Saturday baseball game in July. Every once in a while, something so touching, so incandescent, so alive transfigures the human face that it’s almost beyond bearing.” (Excerpt from Frederick Buechner’s book Whistling in the Dark, Beyond Words. (2012)

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