Scripture for Sunday (Transfiguration): Exodus 34.29-35; Psalm 99; 2 Corinthians 3.12-4.2; Luke 9.28-36
Someone said at the Synod meeting of our Archdeaconry last week that, “these are really nice people.” And, indeed, they are. Representatives from something like 33 chaplaincies, including ours, were gathered for three days or worship, study, information dissemination and gathering and, most important of all, sharing aspects of our life as fellow disciples of Jesus Christ enfolded within the Anglican church.
In fact they are just like most of us. They come from a variety of backgrounds and interests; they have a range of ages, although the number of people under the age of 60 is not large. And we see them in their role as Synod representatives, willing to serve their chaplaincies, their Archdeaconry, their Diocese – their Church – by devoting time and energy to this role.
Nevertheless, I wouldn’t mind betting that they are also just like us in their own chaplaincies, with perceptions of each that are framed by the context and role in which they are seen. Most nice people are just like us: flawed and fallible human beings, with our good sides and our annoying characteristics. We do not always get along as well as we should. We are not always as tolerant of one another’s imperfections as we ought to be. We do not always forgive one another’s sins (or trespasses – we are in a new month!) as we would like ours to be forgiven.
The challenge is to see one another as God sees us – not through rose-tinted glasses, but without any illusions – and be willing to see the potential in who we are and what we can be. Because when we do that, it is transformative.
Three disciples went up the mountain with Jesus, and for a moment, had a glimpse of Jesus as God could see him. He was, in fact, no different before, during, or after the transfiguration: it was their perception that was altered. They simply saw him in a different light: God’s light.
When we allow ourselves to move beyond the confines of the human tendency to judge one another, we can try to see the grace within each other. We can be in communion with one another not simply as fellow worshippers who happen to arrive at or near the altar rail together, but as fellow pilgrims, supporting one another on our journeys of life.
This does not just apply to other people, however – even though as we are called to be a community of faith, how we live with and interact with one another is vital to the health of the body of Christ in the world, the church at large. It applies to us, too.
If we allow ourselves the somewhat risky opportunity of a close conversation with God, then we are likely to find that we may have to look in the mirror and see not only an honest appraisal of our flawed and fallible nature, but also a startling reflection of what God sees in us – the potential that we carry within us as beautifully crafted creatures of God. This is risky, because if we see the potential, then we have to discern and decide what to do about it. It may change us, and change is not always comfortable.
Here is the real challenge for us: can we, as individuals, take the step towards the intensity of close conversation with God, accepting the consequence (i.e. risk) that we may be changed without even realising it, making those around us anxious?
Are we, as individuals, prepared to accept transformation in others, understanding that God may be working in them in ways that we cannot completely understand or appreciate?
Can we, as a congregation, take steps that may draw us closer to God and God’s will for us, understanding that there will be some who see change in us, and find it uncomfortable, difficult, or even offensive or fearful?
Are we, collectively, able to accept the challenge to look for the light of transformation or transfiguration in those around us, or will we snuff it out with the extinguishing damp of cynicism and apathy, just because we don’t stay on the mountain top?
Can we look more deeply within ourselves and at others to allow the transfiguration to occur: allow what is in there to shine through?
What God possesses is the skill and vision to take our brokenness and put it back together into something whole. And often, God sees something far more beautiful within us than we see in ourselves, or in one another. Then God, the great restorer, will carefully and painstakingly, take the pieces and reassemble them into the beautiful creature – the chosen one, the beloved child – that God sees in our creation.
There is one prerequisite. Instead of trying to fix ourselves, we have to be willing both to acknowledge the brokenness and to submit ourselves to the restorer for repair. And we have to be willing to look at one another and try to see what the restorer sees in us, even when we are broken: something rather more than simply nice people – rather, a vision of completeness, of radiance.
It’s there. It just needs a bit of cleaning, a bit of restoration – and a bit of transfiguration in the eyes of the beholders