The transfiguration of Jesus is the culmination of the season of Epiphany, each week we have heard of the many ways God manifested themselves in the world, whether it be the calling of new disciples, the banishing of unclean spirits, or the healing of the sick; but how are these things a manifestation of God? The transfiguration of Jesus shows us that with God anything is possible, it shows us that God has the power to transform the ordinary into something powerful; but it also shows us that sometimes experiencing God is scary, especially when we are not prepared to face what we will see and hear.
As the ministry of Jesus unfolded, he was questioned, he was jeered, he was ignored, and ultimately the authorities came after him; they whipped him, they humiliated him, and in the end they drove iron spikes through his flesh; and after doing so they thought they had won; they thought that they had rid the world of a pest, as if Jesus were a rat, an annoyance; but he didn’t back down, he didn’t abandon the path God had laid before him just because it was difficult, or because it didn’t feel good to be an outsider, he pressed forward. He responded to their jeers and their questions and their ignorance with love, with compassion, and with truth.
Giving up, choosing the easy path, or the path that makes us feel good, is not following Jesus. God calls us to be beacons of faith, hope and love; to correct the injustices that we have inflicted on creation. God does not call us to be passive observers, to sit in our living rooms or in a pew as if God is going to fix the things that have broken creation and transformed it into the world we know. God has called us to do just the opposite, God has called us to take up the cross, to feel its weight, and to follow Christ in challenging the status quo, even though we know that doing so is going to be uncomfortable, it is going to be scary, it is going to be painful; challenging the status quo is not going to win us friends, it is not going to bring us fame and fortune, it is not going to make us feel good because challenging the status quo requires that we set aside our vision of the future, it requires that we set aside our political views, it requires that we accept our role in corrupting creation, it requires that we accept our own unwillingness to recognize that injustice exists and it requires that we repent for our complacency and ignorance.
If we learn nothing else from the life of Jesus, we must learn that God’s call is not an invitation to a life of ease, in fact it is the exact opposite. God’s call to us begins with a call to examine ourselves, to examine our role in corrupting creation, to take stock of how our views, our actions, or possibly inaction may cause harm to others. We are invited to examine ourselves through the lens of scripture to determine if our lives bring about healing for others; whether it casts out the unclean spirits of greed and selfishness; and whether we invite others to do the same. God has extended us an invitation to be different, an invitation to be transformed; but the transformation will not come easily, and it can only come through God’s grace because we are not strong enough to do it on our own.
Following our self-examination, we are called to action, we are called to expose and challenge injustice across the globe; we are called to assist God in restoring creation; not by being passive observers, but by taking up the cross and being active participants in the process. For this we turn to the example of Jesus, who did not look the other way or excuse the injustices he saw. He sought out the parts of society that had been shunned and almost forgotten and he healed them; he let them know that they too were worthy and beloved by God. He forced society to face their unjust and self-centered way of life, he warned them that they needed to change and because of this they killed him. They killed him because they thought that he threatened their way of life, which he did. He not only threatened it he changed it. Through his life, death, and resurrection we now know that it is possible to change. It is possible to both be transformed and to transform the world but doing so requires a willingness to do some hard work, it requires a willingness to endure questions and jeers, and even pain. It requires a willingness to ask uncomfortable questions about ourselves and our world and then have the courage to answer them truthfully. This is the scary part of encountering God’s transformative power, because to be transformed we must face ourselves.
We must face all the “isms” that reside within us, especially the ones we think we do not have. The people who jeered and beat Jesus were sure that they were right, they were positive that they knew what God wanted; they were blinded by their unwillingness to hear the hard questions, and they certainly had no interest in answering them. It is easier to dismiss things that we do not understand or that cause us pain than it is to face them; but if we do face them, and only when we face them, will we be able to fully experience the transformative power of God’s grace. The calling of the disciples, the healing of the sick and the banishing of unclean spirits are manifestations of God in the world because it is only with God’s grace, God’s support, God’s love that we can face who we really are. It is only with God’s grace that we can banish the unclean spirits of racism and all the other isms that reside within us and once we do that, once we face ourselves and accept that we need to change we will be transformed.