“And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white.” (Matthew 17:2)
Melanie was a stunning bride. Her gown was dazzling white and so very elegant. But it was the radiance of her face that struck me. Filled with anticipation and love and joy—and not a small amount of wedding-day jitters—she came down the aisle to Sean, her groom. I couldn't help but smile in the light of these two young people whose lives I was about to join together by performing the marriage ceremony.
Of course, part of my joy in celebrating with Sean and Melanie was the fact that the two of them had done me a pretty solid favor earlier in the week. The unusually high amount of snowfall we've had this winter here in the Great Northeast caused ice and snow to build up on the roof of the church fellowship hall. A sudden thaw brought gallons of runoff water through the cracked seams of our dilapidated structure, making the hall and my office look like the Brazilian Rain Forrest. While my secretary and I were running around with buckets and pans, trying to catch the drips, Melanie called to ask if her pre-marital counseling session was still on the schedule. “Oh yes, “ I told her, “but I don't know where I'll put you. My office ceiling is leaking like the Titanic.”
“That's okay,” she said. “My fiancee is a roofer. I'll send him right over.” Within an hour the leaks had been contained and the situation temporarily rectified. All that remained was for my church council to come up with a way to pay for the utterly ungodly expense of a new roof—which is actually a pretty depressing prospect.
But I wasn't thinking about any of that in the glow of the wedding ceremony. I know there are all kinds of creams and skin-care products which promise to give people “that radiant glow.” For my money, however, nothing makes a face shine like inner light—the light which comes from joy, peace, love, and contentment. And whether that light comes from the face of a bride, a happy child, a new parent, or a wise and serene elder, it is still the light of God. It is the glimpse of the Feast to Come which reminds us that all of our worries—even leaky fellowship hall roofs—are ephemeral.
In the gospel lesson which ends the post-Epiphany season, Jesus takes his close friends up the mountain on a little retreat. While they're there, they get a glimpse of God's glory shining out of their teacher's face and person. The vision is completely overwhelming. Not only do they see Jesus shine in God's radiance, but they see him with the pivotal figures of Israel's past, Moses and Elijah, the icons of the Law and the Prophets. If this weren't enough, the dazzling bright cloud of God's light totally covers them, and they hear the voice of God proclaim Jesus as Beloved Son. It's too much for these guys. They fall down in terrified exhaustion by the majesty of this experience.
When I think of this story, I always feel that the Transfiguration was not something which happened to Jesus. Rather, it was something which happened to Peter, James, and John. In the glow of God's love and goodness, manifested in the person of Jesus, they temporarily caught fire themselves. They were given a little taste, an exquisite moment of passion, a graceful gift to comfort and sustain them as they made the harrowing journey down the mountain to the valley of persecution, betrayal, and crucifixion.
In a world of violence, as I hear the news reports from Syria, Ukraine, and South Sudan, or even as I deal with the mundane irritants of leaky roofs and overburdened church budgets, I keep looking for those fleeting flashes of God's goodness. I don't want to shine so much as I need to be “shined” upon.
The light of a bride's smile, the glow of a happy Sunday School student, the warm shine of a face looking up at me from the Communion rail, all of these are mini Transfigurations. All of these are bits of the light of Christ which promised Resurrection even while the cross cast its ominous shadow nearby. All of these are promises of the light which scattered the darkness and spoke the cosmos into existence—the light meant for all of us.
And the light continues to shine from Jesus. So listen to him and be transfigured yourself.
Let your light shine a little, too. Take a minute to sign my petition for ecumenical sharing by clicking here.