You just heard the story. Jesus takes Peter, James, and John up a mountain so that they can pray. While praying, Jesus’ appearance changes. Suddenly Jesus’ face and even his clothes shine with the glory of God. Heroes from the Old Testament appear with him. A cloud overshadows the little group. A voice speaks from heaven. This is big stuff.
In case we need it, this passage reminds us who Jesus really is. This story reveals Jesus as the only-begotten Son of God, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God. On the mountain, Jesus is revealed as God incarnate.
Peter’s response to that revelation is not perfect, but it is not entirely inappropriate either. Face to face with the glory of God, Peter and the others are overwhelmed. They are frightened. They do not know what to do or say.
At a safe distance, we can gently mock Peter and the others. But up close and personal, the glory of God can be overwhelming, and the proper response is awe, reverence, and worship.
But there is more to this story than a celebration of Jesus’ unique, divine glory. This story is not only about Jesus, the only begotten Son of God. This story is also about us, who are also beloved children of God. This story is about the transfiguration that happens whenever people encounter God.
I wish we knew more about what happened inside Peter, James, and John when they saw Jesus shining with the glory of God. My guess is, they were changed in some way. My guess is, they too were transfigured when they witnessed the glory of God shining in the face of Jesus Christ.
That, at any rate, is what happened to Moses when he witnessed the glory of God.
Our Old Testament reading is strikingly similar to the gospel story. In both, a man goes up a mountain to commune with God. In both, the appearance of the man changes so that his face shines with the glory of God. In both, people who witness the change are frightened and do not know what to say or do.
But there are two important differences between the Old Testament transfiguration and the Gospel transfiguration.
The first difference is that, unlike Jesus but like us, Moses is an ordinary human being.
Moses was a mighty man of God. With God’s help, Moses was able to do great things. But where Jesus can shine with his own divine glory, Moses shines with a reflected glory. When Moses’ face shines, it is not Moses’ greatness on display. It is God’s greatness on display.
The second difference between the Old and New Testament transfigurations is that Moses is unaware of what has happened to him. “As he came down from the mountain . . . , Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God.”
So here is the lesson from the Old Testament. Jesus is not the only one who can shine with the glory of God. A human being like Moses can also shine with the glory of God, and may not even know it.
Then Paul brings it home. In our reading from Second Corinthians, Paul tells us that ordinary Christians can and do experience what Moses experienced that day on Mount Sinai. “All of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.” “All of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.”
Jesus’ transfiguration teaches us not only about who he is, but about who we are and who we are becoming. Moses’ transfiguration is not just a strange story from a time long ago; it is our story. It is about what happens to us and in us, through the grace of God.
Like Jesus, like Moses, we see the glory of the Lord. For most of us most of the time, we only see God’s glory in a mirror. We just catch glimpses of God’s glory. But those glimpses, brief though they may be, those glimpses can change us.
When we pray, when we share in the sacraments, when we come together in worship or fellowship, when we do acts of love, God’s glory shines. God’s glory touches us. God’s glory changes us just a little bit. God’s glory begins a work of transformation in us. God’s glory begins to fill us and to shine out of us.
And a lot of the time, we do not even know it.
Our readings for this morning are all about the transformation that God works in us as we live the Christian life. And for most of us, that transformation begins with baptism.
At our 10:00 service, we will baptize Silas Grant. And in that moment, God will touch little Silas. Silas will, in some small way, be transformed a bit more into the image of God from one degree of glory to another.
And, of course, Silas will not know it.
Thankfully, we will.
Our job in the coming years will be to help Silas know it too.
And sometimes, even after Silas is old enough to know, he will forget. He will forget God. He will wander off course. We all do.
Our job, particularly in those times, will be to remind Silas that God’s glory can and does shine in his face. Our job will be to remind Silas that he is invited to a life of transformation from one degree of glory to another. Our job will be to remind Silas that God has begun a glorious work in him, and that God will eventually bring that work to completion. Our job will be to remind Silas that he is a son of God, that he is chosen by God, that he is beloved by God.
And if we are to do our job properly, if we are to remind Silas of all those things, then we will have to be on the lookout for the glimpses of God’s glory that shine in Silas’ face even when he may not know.
And, of course, that is not true only for Silas.
God shines in all of our faces, and mostly we do not know it.
Think what a difference it could make in your life if you could hold in your head and in your heart the promise that God’s glory is shining in your face, that you are being transformed from one degree of glory to another, that you are a beloved child of God.
That is God’s promise to us.
And think what a difference you could make in the lives of others if you made a conscious effort to see God’s glory in the face of every person you met every day, if you made a conscious effort to see that person being transformed from one degree of glory to another, if you made a conscious effort to relate to that person as a beloved child of God.
That is our calling as Christians.
May Silas, may all of us, live in the knowledge of God’s promise to transform us from one degree of glory to another. And may we all learn to see God’s promise at work in the lives of others.
In Christ’s name. Amen.
Passage: Luke 9:28-36