The transfigurations of Moses and Jesus point to the possibility of transcendence in our own lives and context, the other side of suffering within God’s grace. For Paul, this transcendence appears in our transformation into loving beings–within our human existence.
Our gospel reading (Lk 9:28-36) speaks of the transfiguration of Jesus. I can think of other persons transformed:
> The first Sunday of February is the time of the Superbowl. I think of Drew Brees, an accomplished quarterback. In his personal life, Brees was raised a Christian but stated that he only became committed at age 17 when he was at church with a torn ACL and was wondering who he was and what was his purpose in life. Brees was later faced other defeats such as being unwanted by the entire NFL in the 2001 Draft and later tearing his shoulder in 2005; however, Brees admits that these setbacks only strengthened his relationship with God. Brees spoke about his faith saying, “I live for God, for the faith that I have in Him. Knowing the sacrifices that Jesus Christ made on the cross for me and feeling like it’s in God’s hands, all I have to do is just give my best, commit the rest to Him. Everything else is taken care of. That takes the weight off anybody’s shoulders. It’s to give you confidence to know that you’ve got somebody looking out for you.”
On July 6, 2010, Brees released his first book, entitled Coming Back Stronger: Unleashing the Hidden Power of Adversity, co-authored by Chris Fabry and published by Tyndale. Coming Back Stronger opened at number 3 on the nonfiction bestseller list of The New York Times.
Nevertheless, he moved to New Orleans, Louisiana, and after Hurricane Katrina in August 2005, contributed significantly to building up educational opportunities for children in that city. He has many more personal giving accolades, which are visible (as above) through Google or Wikipedia.
Drew rebuilt his physical health, and his football career; and went on to the Super Bowl in 2010, the quarterback for the winning team of The Saints of New Orleans, Louisiana on Sunday 7 Feb 2010.
>I think of other people who have depended upon God’s grace as they journey through suffering. We remember this week Absalom Jones, who was born a slave in 1746, learned to read by means of the New Testament, and through his very effective evangelism came to be known as the ‘Bishop’ of Afro American Episcopalians. This week we also remember Fanny Crosby, a Methodist, blind at 8 years old, who became a prolific hymn writer including the renowned hymn Blessed Asssurance. Desmond Tutu, Beyers Naude, Dorothy Day of the Catholic Workers movement; and of Florence Nightingale of nursing fame.
> Think of Martin Luther, almost 500 years ago now. He felt tormented within himself, yet he is taken to be the originator of the Reformation; or of Therese of Avila and Therese of Lisieux. They are people who have depended upon God’s grace as they journey through suffering
>Think of St Augustine, further back in time – almost 1700 years ago now. In his book, “Confessions…” we read of his wayward early life, and then, as a bishop, of his continuing inner sense of ambiguity about himself. Yet he became one of the foremost exponents of the Christian faith in the history of the western Church.
>Think of St. Paul, who was probably responsible for the death of the first Christian martyr, St Stephen. Despite self recrimination, many persecutions and a possible period of depression, yet he became one of the greatest Christian missionaries of all time.
> There are many such people of all kinds who have been through a process of transfiguration! And to meet them, such people who have depended upon God’s grace as they journey through suffering, you find that they do glow with a kind of aura.
Luke’s gospel chapter 9 –and today’s reading of the Transfiguration–can be understood in the following ways:
First, by the words that Luke alone records of the dialogue between Moses the symbol of the law and Elijah that of the prophets. Jesus discussed the greater purpose of his life (that is his crucifixion) with Moses and Elijah; and the significance of his coming death for the entire corpus of the law (Torah) and the prophets (Neviim).
Secondly, consider Acts which is the story of the church parallel to the life of Jesus. It included the conversion of Paul. By this book of Acts, Luke is saying we are all to live a life parallel to the life of Jesus as we are filled and guided by the Holy Spirit.
So (in Acts) Paul found the greater purpose of Paul’s own life — namely to serve Jesus the Christ rather than persecute him and his people. Paul was transformed from a cruel religious killer into the person that wrote the renowned 1st Corinthians chapter 13 — the more excellent way of love.
How much have we have allowed ourselves to be transformed?
Members of Alcoholics Anonymous have overcome alcoholism.
We have also a transfiguration right before our eyes in each baptism when the candidates receive citizenship under that only reign which has no end.
So let us focus in a new way this morning on Jesus Christ, God’s chosen; in the face of our sufferings, let us listen to him and be guided and transformed by God’s grace. This is the true Christian joy: that in a moment, we can start again. We can take that power and move into our week filled with the transfiguration of Gods power and guided by God’s spirit.