31 October 2016Matthew 17:1-8
“And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white.” (v. 2)
Psalm: Psalm 38:1-9
During a sabbatical visit to Russia I went into an Orthodox Church on the day of the Feast of the Transfiguration. The great doors behind the sanctuary were opened to reveal a great icon of the Transfiguration, showing Jesus in full heavenly glory. As glorious voices of the choir sang the Sanctus (Holy, Holy, Holy), the sunlight from the high windows fell upon the icon and it shone with a light that seemed to shimmer with holiness - I was transported in my imagination to the temple of the prophet Isaiah and to the Mount of Transfiguration.
This was a surprisingly moving experience for a Methodist, not least one who cherishes her Primitive Methodist heritage. I experienced the transcendent, awe-inspiring presence of God in a new way that morning. Perhaps I gained a small insight into the experience of Jesus' disciples as they witnessed him shine with the light of heaven - removing all shadows of doubt as to his divine nature. It's not surprising that Peter wanted to stay on the mountain top (verse 4) - to solidify the experience and make it something concrete, based in a real place, where it can be marked and preserved.
The difficulty with staying up on the mountain top is how disconnected we can become from the community of those who have not shared such an experience. It can be giddy and the mountain grandeur awe-inspiring, but the air can be thin and the view hazy and it takes a lot of work to maintain a mountain top as a place to live. Jesus urged the disciples to go back into the valleys and villages, that is where the mission is, where they are needed - in the midst of a community crying out for good news. The glimpses of glorious grace that come from time spent in the company of the divine Son of God become empty of meaning if they do not connect us more deeply with the world, which was created by God and in which God's mission is located.
- Can you remember a time when God seemed particularly present to you? What was it like?
- How do you connect the 'mountain-top' experiences of your faith, with the day to day practicalities of mission?
- How can our worship be a place where people might encounter the transcendent nature of God?