This past Sunday was 'Transfiguration Sunday." Our sermon from the day can be found here. One of the few places you may discover the word 'Transfiguration' outside of the religious sphere is in the Harry Potter series of books.
At Hogwarts Academy 'Transfiguration' is a branch of magic that focuses on the alteration of the form or appearance of an object, via the alteration of the object's molecular structure. Humans can be transfigured into werewolves, objects in the seen world can become invisible. And, as this video clip demonstrates, animals can be turned into objects... though not always with 100% success when it comes to Ron Weasley.
The Gospel account of Transfiguration can be found in Matthew 17:1-9 and its veracity is testified to in one of the later New Testament writings, 2 Peter 1:16-21. The author of 2 Peter insists that the mountain-top appearance of Moses and Elijah with Jesus was no magic trick, but a milestone moment in the disciple's pilgrimage to come to terms with the significance of the person of Jesus Christ.
For many of us, such strange events on mountaintops seem to have about as much reality to them as a scene in a Harry Potter movie. We may even fear that rather than making the gospel account more believable, they make it seem even further removed from the reality of our daily lives. And should we even attempt to replicate such an event we probably fear our efforts would be about as successful as those of Mr. Weasley!
So maybe it is helpful to ask why the gospel authors (and the author of 2 Peter) felt that this was such an important story to tell. Traditionally three aspects have been pointed out.
Firstly, that the story reveals to us a Jesus who is a bridge between the world of the temporal and the eternal. Heaven connects with earth and earth with heaven. For a brief moment in time, the mist of separation is cleared and the story moves outside of time. No wonder that one of the disciples, Peter, wanted to capture the moment and stay on the mountain.
Many of us are fortunate enough to have had those experiences when we felt a strong connection to something much larger than ourselves. It can be on a mountain top. It can be through a conversation. It can come when we're watching a movie, listening to a piece of music or reading a book. For a moment the mist clears and we feel we are seeing something in a totally different way. Call it an epiphany... or a transfiguration... or even just describe it as magical... such are moments to accept the goosebumps and be thankful.
Secondly, there is a voice that is heard inviting us to "Listen"... in particular to listen to Jesus. Amongst all the words in the world (and even all the words in the biblical books) we can neglect to give the words of Jesus the particular significance they appear to demand. His teaching is the heart of the gospel. Instead of becoming bogged down in the intricacies of theological interpretation, maybe we could just focus on a few of His BIGGIES... like "Love God", "Love Neighbor" and "Love your enemy". It would be magical if we could simply embrace those three!
Thirdly, the appearance of Moses and Elijah stresses that God is God of the living, not of the dead. I love the notion that every time we worship, despite the often empty pews, we are in the presence of a great cloud of unseen witnesses. Saints and angels of every generation! Let us pray that for each of us there may be those moments when eternity breaks in and we get a glimpse that there's more to this life than the mundane.
For some music “Transfiguration” by Hillsong Worship.
Prayer: “Lord, life can be very ordinary. Break through and transform our every day lives with Your extraordinary love. Remind us that we are Your much-loved children and having nothing to fear. Remind us You are with us. Amen.”