Transition, Transformationand Transfiguration

Transition, Transformation and Transfiguration

Pastor Mitch Coggin February 11, 2024 Last Epiphany

Today we are standing in a doorway. Ahead of us is the season of Lent. We will be reminded to courageously look deep within and see ourselves as broken and flawed.

Transfiguration Sunday and the approaching season of Lent provide an opportunity for our assumptions to be transformed in the light of Christ. Lent is an opportunity to lift the veil, to listen deeply and differently through these forty days between Ash Wednesday and Easter.

Today we consider the terms transition, transformation, and transfiguration. I suggest that transition means: the process of changing from one condition to another. Transformation is a more dramatic change in form or appearance that may be thorough but is not necessarily better. Transfiguration is a complete change in form or appearance into a more beautiful or spiritual state.

Today we read the story of the Transfiguration of Jesus that is difficult to understand. We might diminish the significance as it seems to have little relevance to our own story.

To better understand, let’s go back a few steps to when Jesus wanted to go up the mountain with these disciples. Their experience of six days before would have still been simmering in their hearts and especially Peter’s. That is when Jesus asked the disciples, “Who do people say that I am?”

The disciples answered, “John the Baptist, Elijah, or one of the prophets.”

Jesus pressed, “Who do you say that I am?”

Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the son of the living God.”

“Blessed are you, Simon, no mere human showed this to you. My Father in heaven showed this to you.” Jesus continued to explain to the disciples what would happen to him, his suffering and eventual crucifixion and resurrection.

Peter was the first to object and say, “Never Lord.”

A few days later, Jesus invited three of his disciples Peter, James, and his brother John, to join him at the top of Mt. Tabor. Suddenly, something unexplainable happens, Jesus was transfigured before them,” his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them.” The Greek word used here, metamorpho, means to change the outside to match the inside.

Moses and Elijah, two figures known to any Hebrew, appear with Jesus, talking with him. Somehow, the disciples knew that this moment, this place had a spiritual significance they couldn’t have explained it even if their lives depended upon it.

Peter, as usual, speaks first and offers his idea. “Lord, let’s set up three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” Peter wanted to hold on to this sacred moment forever. The disciples want to keep these significant parts of their religious history they felt made them secure.

“Then a bright cloud overshadowed them and out of it a voice saying, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!’ Suddenly, they looked around, they saw no one with them anymore, but only Jesus. As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead could mean.”

The disciples didn’t understand what Jesus “rising from the dead” meant. They wanted Jesus to always be with them without the pain, the agony, and the loss if Jesus died. What happened on the mountain is a doorway for our own understanding about Jesus’ transfiguration, the disciples’ response, and what it has to do with our lives now. We all want to connect with the past that has been formative for us. In both the New Testament and Old Testament stories, we see the tension between past and present and the tension between the transitional moment and a preview of the fullness of life to come.

The Old Testament scripture today is also about spiritual transformation. Elijah’s ministry comes to an end and Elisha prepares to take his mantle of leadership. In both scriptures, we encounter that purposeful silence into which God speaks, not necessarily a right answer but a deeper relationship of trust.

Elisha, who has been selected by God to follow Elijah as the Prophet. Before Elijah is taken away to heaven, accompanies Elijah though three historical places in the Hebrew people’s history. At each stop, Elijah said to Elisha, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” Elisha isn’t aware of the loss he is about to experience.

Elisha keeps being reminded, “Do you know that today the Lord will take your master away from you?” Each time, Elisha tells the prophets who bring the bad news, “Be silent.” Each time, Elisha denies that Elijah is going away and tells Elijah he will not leave him.

Elijah is nearing the end of his life and after they crossed the river Jordan Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me what I may do for you, before I am taken from you.”

And Elisha said, “I want a double portion of your spirit.”

Then Elijah is taken away into the clouds and Elisha is face the loss of his mentor. Wherever we are in our spiritual transformation, like Elisha, we experience loss and grief as we move as we move to our new calling.

We, as a church, seem to be on the cusp of what happened in transfiguration. On one side the disciples and Elisha were trying to hold the moment and keep things as they were by holding on to historical figures who meant so much. We, too, are overwhelmed with the voices and ways we can think about our history and our moving toward new leadership.

What do we need to move toward a re-creation of our spiritual life and our walk with Christ?

We are called to sit with each other, to listen, to ask questions that help us discern that God is indeed present and understands our challenges. We are reminded there is a hope beyond our understanding that God has yet to reveal. We stand in the doorway between what has been and what will become.