The Vicar's Pastoral Message for the Week of August 7th, 2022

Father Matthew Moretz (photo credit: Alan Barnett)

It was during the latter part of Jesus’s traveling ministry that something happened. Something that breaks apart most every conceptual box that could be an explanation. For what happened is so expansive, so dramatic, so off the grid of common experience, that it can be really alienating to even bring up this story, let alone dwell on it. It is the event we celebrate this Sunday, the feast day when we celebrate the Transfiguration: a shining moment that happened with Jesus and a few of his disciples on a Mountain in Galilee.

Believe me, it would make things so much simpler to just bracket this event off and move on to the more so-called “historical” events of Jesus’ life, pretend like this event didn’t matter much, because it is so unbelievable to a certain way of thinking.

But if you are travelling on the Way with Jesus, the path takes you to this mountain. This experience is featured in three of the Gospels, and also in one of the letters of the early church. It’s not going away. As part of the community of St. Thomas Church, there is no avoiding the Transfiguration, there’s no shoving this under the carpet.

And I think this is a good thing. Because, as odd as it is, as difficult to explain as it is, the Transfiguration goes to the heart of what Jesus is doing in the world, revealing the spiritual and interior reality that flows like a mighty river through his life, and ours if we let it.

For the vision we are celebrating Sunday, the Transfiguration, or in Greek the Metamorphosis, Jesus only invites a few of his disciples: three fishermen, the brothers, James and John of Zebedee, and Simon Peter. I don’t know if it was a sign of favoritism or a sign that these were the disciples of most concern.

For there would come a time when all people, the authorities and his closest friends (even Jesus gives voice to this) will feel as if God had forsaken them. What the disciples witnessed in the vision of the Transfiguration is a kind of assurance and confirmation that the shame and ugliness that is coming for Jesus in Jerusalem is actually a kind of beauty and a kind of glory that even the people closest to Jesus will have a hard time perceiving while it is happening. But afterwards, come Easter, come Pentecost, it would become all too vivid for them, leading up to the fire of His Spirit will circling the globe till kingdom come.

In the vision of the Transfiguration, we see revealed that life with God is beautiful and glorious, even though living it out may look like the exact opposite to the naked eye. With eyes of the Spirit, even crosses have some beauty to bear.

We also can take away from this vision that with Christ, with Moses and Elijah by his side, we are grounded in the past of all the holy people who have come before us, a great cloud of witnesses, holy guides and holy prophets, our lineage of visionaries.

And just like the disciples had to leave the comfort and safety of their vision, we too have to leave the comfort and safety of this church every Sunday, our own orchestrated vision of glory. But we can leave this comfort in trust that we can weather the storms of our lives. Fortified by our ancient and common vision of a way of living and loving in the world that darkness and the grave cannot overcome.

The Transfiguration is our vision of loving one another in Christ, enduring to the end, come what may. As in one of Peter’s letters which we will read this Sunday, “we would do well to be attentive to this vision as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in our hearts.”