Transfiguration Year C Feb. 14, 2010 Exodus 34:29-35 The Rev. Benton Quest
Have you ever allowed yourself the gift of watching very young children? Have you just watched? Watched them play? Watched them encounter the world? Watched them encounter their own body? There is just a magic about them. I think the magic we see in little children is their knowledge that they are loved by God. Some of you may think I am going crazy to say that little children can know that they are loved by God. For the little tiny baby, they don’t even know that their foot is their foot! How can they know that they are loved by God?
In some ways, I think it is in childhood that we most deeply know God’s love. When we are little, we have to rely on others. We have to rely on parents, siblings, relatives, and God to take care of our needs. We are so enthralled with the new things of the world that we don’t really think what is around us, we are just enthralled in the act of living!
And when you look at a baby, they just seem to radiate a light about them. They have a smile and at the same time a determination about them. But it is in this joy in life and the exploring of life that we see the how children reveling in the love of God.
Eventually this light starts to go away. Children go into the world and learn that some things are acceptable and others are not acceptable. Children learn that to be cool, they need to talk in certain ways, wear certain clothes, do certain things. They begin to forget that they are wonderful, lovable, special creatures of God.
This process continues on throughout life. We hear that we must succeed to be valuable. We are told that unless we use Fabreeze or our house will be avoided by others. We are told that in polite company one never discusses politics or religion.
Often, by the time we are “all grown up” our light has been almost totally hidden. We have forgotten how special we are. We have forgotten how loved we are. We have forgotten that God is there for us and has been there throughout our lives. The shining face of awe and wonder we had as children gets hidden behind a veil.
In today’s first reading, we find Moses hiding behind a veil, too. Moses had been in the presence of God. Moses had been talking with the Big Guy. Now, although Moses didn’t get to see God’s face, just the sight of God’s back caused Moses’ face to become so shining that others were afraid to look at him. So in deference to the people around him, Moses kept his face covered and only removed the veil when he was in the presence of the Lord.
I wonder why Moses covers his face. The Bible tells us that it is because people are frightened by Moses’ appearance, but is that it? Were the people really frightened? Or was it that Moses didn’t want to make anyone feel uncomfortable? So instead of proudly displaying the light of God, he hid it behind a veil.
We are similar in our hiding. As I stated earlier, as children we quickly learn how to bury our joy of God’s love. And as we grow we continue to keep the light behind a veil. Unfortunately, I think after a while we have hidden our light for so long that we get to the point where even we forget that the light is in us. But never doubt the light is still in you! Although Moses hid his shining face, it was still there, under the veil. Although we may have hidden our light for so long that we cannot remember what it is like, God still knows it is there and God still sees it!
We can begin to feel the light when we come before God. In our first reading we are told that although Moses kept his face covered when he was with the people, he did remove the veil when he was in the presence of the Lord. Moses could again reclaim the light in his life when he went before the Lord. We also hear in the gospel reading that Jesus was transfigured while praying. When Jesus came before God in prayer, the light that was in him then showed through not only Jesus’ face, but also in his clothing. When the world causes us to forget our light, we have a way of reclaiming that light. When we come to God in prayer, we can begin to let down our veil and begin to reclaim the light that is within us.
When we think about seeing the glory of God and the light in our lives, we have an even greater experience of God than did Moses! Although Moses had the opportunity to speak with God, Moses only had the opportunity to see the back of God. It was said that a human could not see the face of God and live. But we are here to claim the opposite! We have seen the face of God, we have even looked into his eyes! In looking at the person of Jesus, we have seen the face of God!
While they were on the mountaintop, Peter John, and James were able to see Jesus glorified. This experience changed their lives. Once they had this experience on the mountaintop, they could never go back. Even if they wanted to ignore what they saw, they couldn’t. In biblical times, three people are all you need to prove the veracity of an occurrence. So since there were three people there to witness the transfiguration, the truth of the occurrence cannot be questioned.
We first stood on the mountaintop in our baptism. It was at this time that we first experience Jesus as the Son of God, the Glorified Christ. It is at our baptism that we first experience the light of Christ. It is at our baptism where our light first shines!
Then our light is replenished by when we come together as a community to worship and when we pray alone. These practices help to ease the power our world has on us and the tendency to veil our light. When we are together as a community we can let our light shine!
It is also this light that the world needs to see. We are coming to the end of the season of Epiphany, the season of light. If you remember, Epiphany began with the light of the star in Bethlehem and it ends with the light of the Glorified Christ. We may want to keep this light to ourselves but this is not why the light came into the world. In the gospel reading, Peter wanted to create three tents or booths so that Jesus, Moses, and Elijah would stay on the mountaintop. But we are told that Peter did not know what he said. They cannot stay on top of the mountain, they must go down into the valley.
We need to go out into the world also. We cannot stay here in our beautiful church and keep the light for ourselves. We need to go out. But we also need to keep our light shining! People will be looking for the light. People need to see the light. God wants to use us to be that light to other people! My dream is that we can let our light so shine that people driving by will wonder what is going on inside. That we will be so bright in the light of Jesus that people will look at our face and wonder where the light has come from. My hope is that we will let our light shine and not put a veil over it. We are in the presence of God. We have been given this light. Let’s use our light to be that Epiphany star, that transfiguring light, to lead others to Christ.