Transfiguration (2 Peter 1:16-21; Mtt 17:1-9)
Feb 26, 2017 – UBC Digby – J G White
If we follow the Church Year, with more than just Christmas and Easter, we find days like today: Transfiguration Sunday! What is the Transfiguration? That shining moment of Jesus up on that hill. What Joyce just read, from Matthew 17.
It is kind of a turning point. After Peter and James and John see Christ shining there, talking with Moses and Elijah, their pathway is really towards Jerusalem. There, Jesus will face His rejection, His pain, His death. My New Testament professor, Dr. Allison Trites, calls the Transfiguration a Hinge of Holy History.
Jesus is the Light of the world, we say… we sing. God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. (1 John 1:50) Yet Christ also called us the light, or, called the light out of us. You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. (Matthew 5:14)
But not everyone feels like being a bright light. Many, many people think they are dark and sinful, down deep inside. The soul has to stay hidden, even from God, who is so holy and who can’t stand sinners.
In his 2001 book, Toxic Faith, Stephen Arterburn has a chapter called, ‘Twenty-One Beliefs of a Toxic Faith.’ First on his list is Conditional Love. God’s love and favour depend on my behaviour. Toxic!
Arterburn tells of a young man who came to see him. He felt extreme guilt over paying for a girlfriend’s abortion. Before that event, he believed he had a great future and that God wanted to use him. After the abortion, however, he doubted God had a place for him. He felt like a complete reject. He began to focus on his behaviour rather than on God’s love. He worked and worked to resume a place of favor. But no matter how hard he tried, it was never good enough. He kept coming up short. He asked Arterburn, “Will I ever know God’s love and acceptance again?” (p. 36)
Sin really has power. It can have the power to convince us: God no longer loves us, we really are evil at the core of our being, and we will never be good enough. Yet God loves us, so called, ‘guilty sinners.’ God finds us lovable and good, deep inside.
My recent study of Genesis 1, 2 & 3 drew me to a book on my shelf I’d not read, by Philip Newell. He writes about Celtic Christianity, an ancient tradition that we might best know from the stories and prayers of Saint Patrick. There is much more. Newell writes:
Too often in our Western religious traditions we have been given the impression that sin has had the power to undo what God has woven into the very fabric of being. Redemption in such models of spirituality is about light coming from afar to shine in what is essentially dark. In the Celtic tradition, on the other hand, redemption is about light being liberated from the heart of creation and from the essence of who we are. It has not been overcome by darkness. Rather, the light is held in terrible bondages within us, waiting to be set free. (J. Philip Newell, The Book of Creation: An introduction to Celtic Spirituality, 1999, p. 12)
This gets me wondering about some of the biblical phrases. Like today’s words from 2 Peter 1: You will do well to be attentive to [the prophetic message] as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. God’s light shines deep within, in our souls, might we say? A star rises in our hearts!
In the very creation stories of Genesis, we find that humans were created, and God saw that they were good. The psalmist sings to God, I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are Your works; that I know very well. Early in 2 Peter we are reminded of so much God gives us so that we may become participants in the divine nature! (1:4)
And even in the early chapters of the book of Romans, with all its talk of everyone sinning and falling short of God’s glory, it proclaims God’s love. God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. (5:8) Nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (8:39) Why do you think God loves you? You truly are valuable to God, beautiful to God, precious to God, wonderful to God. Made in the image of God; made to live life with God. God and God’s love are so close at hand.
One teacher of Christian meditation, James Finley, writes: God is already here, all about us and within us—the very source, ground, and fulfillment of our being. [But subject to the limitations of ego,] we tend not to experience the divine mystery of who we are, created in the image and likeness of God. We do not directly realize the God-given Godly nature of ourselves in our nothingness without God. This is why we meditate: that we might awaken to God’s presence all about us and within, as Saint Augustine phrased it, closer to us than we are to ourselves. (James Finley, Christian Meditation: Experiencing the Presence of God, 2004)
God loves us, and loves to enjoy us. The LORD takes pleasure in His people, says Psalm 149. Have you experienced this?
Just a few weeks ago I had a sudden awareness of this, right back here…
OK, so it’s choir practice on a Tuesday night. This was back in January sometime. We’d spent an hour, already, going over a number of anthems and songs. It is now ~7 pm. Cairine is trying to keep us rehearsing. Bill is chatting about singing the bass notes. Carol is asking to go over a few measures on page 4 because, well, probably because some other soprano has not got it right yet. Eddy is mumbling that we’ll be fine without going over that yet again. Linda and Mary are trying to mark with pencil where they sing and where they don’t sing. I have not noticed the altos; they are very quiet whether they sing or they talk.
And suddenly, as I am sitting back here, it hits me. Without warning, I have this sudden clear thought, or deep feeling. Or something. This sense of joy. That God is enjoying the Choir. That very minute. Jesus is really pleased, and laughing with us, and proud, and entertained, and happy. The Holy Spirit is having a little holy hootenany in our Choir rehearsal.
And I smirked, and felt real joy, and held on to the memory of the moment – it was but a moment for me. It was Love. This mysterious Deity we worship, really likes us deep inside, and thoroughly enjoys our company. A little light shines brightly from within each of us, and it is Jesus shining through.
So, I guess, we can stop and enjoy God too.
This Wednesday the western Church begins a season called Lent, that leads to Good Friday and Easter. It prepares us to visit Calvary again, and the empty tomb of our Saviour. This is tough love.
And it is a long journey. We have 40 days of Lent to remind us of Jesus 40 days of prayer and fasting, the Israelites’ 40 years in the wilderness, and so forth.
Lent is a time for spiritual practices. A season to make time for such things as: prayer, fasting, worship, meditation, sacrifice, contemplation, confession and forgiveness, or other activities.
The old tradition is to ask, ‘what am I giving up for Lent?’ This assumes the Christian will be fasting in one way or another. And this is good. Doing without a usual part of our diet or some other thing helps us devote ourselves to God in special ways.
But you do not have to give up chocolate in order to observe Lent. Me, I think I will give up a lot of my daily time on Facebook, and use that time for some silent Christian meditation every day. You? You could give up watching television, and take the time to read a lot of the Bible. Or fast from correcting anyone and anything, and allow Christ to remould your inner critic. Or, actually fast from food one day a week and use your meal times for prayer.
Any spiritual exercise we take on is for the sake of our daily walk with Jesus. Oh how He loves His special time with each of us! So, we do things to put ourselves in a place where the Spirit can do some soul work within us. We take quality time with God, so our inner light can be set free and shine out. And we can deepen our relationship with the Master.
My theme for the next five Sunday mornings will be Hearing God’s Voice. We will spend time with scriptures that will tell us:
- We were made for a relationship with God,
- Knowing God’s voice inspires peaceful action,
- How we recognise God’s voice,
- Knowing the will of God still gives us freedom,
- What we ask & answer when we talk with God.
Monday Bible Study will also explore this same theme using a six week curriculum based on Dallas Willard’s book, Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship With God. This starts on March 13th.
You are a beautiful thing, deep inside, precious to God, made by God. Taking time to quiet down, and know yourself, and know the Spirit of God, is time well spent. The light shines from within, the light God gives. It shines in the darkness and beautiful things happen. Healing. Forgiveness. Spiritual growth. Friendship with God. Love. Grace. Peace. Power.
Jesus is the Light of the world.
You are the light of the world.
May the Morningstar rise in your hearts.