Transfiguration                                              8/6/17 Epiphany, Norfolk

Today is the Feast of the Transfiguration. It is celebrated in our Church Calendar, and the Roman calendar, on August 6th. Normally, it falls on a weekday, but this year, it’s Sunday. And that did not get by the head of our Altar Guild, Jim Fisher, who several weeks ago came to me with a chuckle, because I would not be able to escape the Feast of the Transfiguration this year. Oh, Jim knows me too well. We’ve been in this place together long enough that he knows that I stumble all over myself when it comes to the Transfiguration.

It’s the story that I just read to you from the Gospel of Luke. Peter, and John, and James accompany Jesus up “the mountain” – some feel it is Mt. Tabor, some feel it is Mt. Horeb –
to pray. While they are praying, Moses and Elijah join Jesus. Heaven knows how they knew it was Moses and Elijah, but whatever. Jesus’ appearance changes, and his clothes become dazzling white and he talks to Moses and Elijah. Then a cloud envelops them, and a voice – presumably God – says: “This is my Son, my Chosen: Listen to him!” And Moses and Elijah disappear, and everything is back to normal.

Now, I cannot begin to explain that! But that doesn’t mean it’s not important. It appears in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. And that gives it awesome credibility.

The thing that seems to me to be most important is that after this event, Jesus ends his ministry in Galilee, turns south, and heads to Jerusalem where he is tried and crucified. He has had this nice little “wandering ministry” up in Galilee, away from the Romans, and the temple, and all of the upheaval in Jerusalem. He’s been safe. He’s been happy. But after this event, he leaves all of that and heads to his death. Something happened in that event that changed him. It changed his purpose. It changed his ministry. It changed his understanding of his life. It changed his future.

They call the event the “Transfiguration” because we’re told he looked different. But the real importance of it was that it changed (or transformed) everything about his life, including his understanding of his ministry.

Last week Bob Everett and I took the train up to DC to visit a couple of the Smithsonian museums. At the Museum of Natural History we watched the Imax movie “Amazon Adventure 3D.” Their 3D happened to be broken, but we both still enjoyed a great movie.

It is the true story of Henry Bates who was an explorer and naturalist. He lived during the time of Darwin and the early fascination with evolution. Henry Bates was so intrigued with it, that he journeyed to the Amazon jungle and spent 11 years studying and doing research on issues surrounding evolution.

One of the things that fascinated Bates was why an animal or insect would evolve to look or behave like something that it’s not. We were watching on a 6 story screen, and the camera zoomed in to show the head of a poisonous snake dangling from a tree branch. But as the camera panned to the left, it became amazingly clear that the dangling snake head was the tail of a caterpillar. It had evolved to look like a snake for its protection and survival. Bates became fascinated by two seemingly identical butterflies with the exact same markings. But Bates noticed that one stood on 2 legs and one stood on 4 legs. As he
studied them, he discovered that they were each different species. The one that stood on 2 legs tasted terrible. Birds and lizards and frogs knew not to eat that one. But the one of 4 legs was tasty, and it had evolved to look like that nasty one so it wouldn’t be eaten. And the same thing has happened throughout nature. And I think it happens to us, too.

When Todd and I visited Sewanee this past Spring, we attended the Senior Class Banquet. We sat with a delightful woman and her husband. Her name was Molly Payne Hardin. She was a middle aged woman who would be graduating and ordained Deacon within days. I’ve followed her on Facebook. Yesterday she was ordained to the priesthood, and I sent her congratulations. She’ll be a great priest.

But what happened to “transfigure” Molly Payne Hardin from wife, mother, daughter – to priest? There had to be an “evolution.” As Jesus left his ministry in Galilee and turned south to face his destiny, Molly left her family, and probably job, to return to school and become a priest. And she didn’t have generations to do this like the butterfly.

I’ve tried to think back into my own life to understand my “transfiguration” from a young happy school teacher to a young happy priest. What happened? I think it was too long ago, and I think we can’t see it clearly in ourselves.

And like the caterpillar that transfigured itself over a period of generations to look like a snake, for survival, we, too, transfigure or evolve for safety and survival. We do what we have to do to survive.  Countless times people have asked me if I am an introvert or an extrovert. And they often are surprised when I tell them that I am very much an introvert. For survival, and to “function”, I’ve learned to be assertive and function as an extrovert, out of necessity.

So, whatever happened to Jesus on that mountain, happens to us, too. I can’t explain it, but it demonstrates God acting in our lives, and that’s important. Jesus turned and moved to face his destiny. We turn, from time to time, and face our destiny, as well.

The Gospel writer presents Jesus’ transfiguration as a holy, mystical event. And I think ours is, too. When God moves in our lives, or the lives of people we know, don’t throw stones at it. It just might be God speaking on our Mount Tabor.

Amen

Posted August 8, 2017 by Church of the Epiphany in Epiphany Moments

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