Glory Unveiled       

by Taylor Poindexter, Seminarian

Transfiguration, to be totally changed, to be totally different and yet recognizable. Christ’s transfiguration came on a mountain to which he and three disciples, Peter, John and James went to pray, to have a moment of peace. It seems that this quiet holy moment among dear friends became a little crowded, and quickly.

Moses and Elijah appear and Jesus’ appearance changes! A man who was likely a little weary from traveling and who had just hiked up a mountain is suddenly transformed into a vision, dazzling white, and his face was shining. Moses and Elijah talk with Jesus, and the disciples look on with awe-here their messiah is talking with two of the greatest figures, long gone, of their history. We don’t get the details, but they speak with him about the coming time of persecution, that would lead to his departure, his death. Place yourself on a desert mountain with these six figures, and imagine the bewilderment, everything has changed, everything has become more real. And maybe change is too simple a word. It is not as if Jesus was just ho-hum before this, but this is a sacred moment from which there is no turning back. The disciples cannot unsee the glory of the Lord, Jesus even if he wanted to cannot ignore his identity, and we, we cannot unsee this glimpse of the true reality of God in Christ.

British Poet Malcome Guite offers a poem about this moment:

For that one moment, ‘in and out of time’,
On that one mountain where all moments meet,
The daily veil that covers the sublime
In darkling glass fell dazzled at his feet.
There were no angels full of eyes and wings
Just living glory full of truth and grace.
The Love that dances at the heart of things
Shone out upon us from a human face
And to that light the light in us leaped up,
We felt it quicken somewhere deep within,
A sudden blaze of long-extinguished hope
Trembled and tingled through the tender skin.
Nor can this this blackened sky, this darkened scar
Eclipse that glimpse of how things really are.

The veil that makes it so hard to see was lifted, and the glory of God was revealed. It is one of those things that you cannot unsee. And it colors everything else. In two of my best friends I have seen a glimmer of this, when the world is changed. I have known these two since we were pre-teens, we went to school together, we went to college together, they got married last year and they just had a baby who they named Jillian. Because we’ve known each other so long and so deeply we know each other’s faces, each other’s moods and the way we see the world. And because I have known them so long I know that in a way they have been transfigured by their daughter. Their faces shine like a veil has been lifted. They look different as they are transformed by God’s love and their love for their child. Their view will never be the same, it will be guided by a love and responsibility that expands and narrows their understanding. And there are other things that you can’t unsee, when the world turns and you are left figuring out where it all fits together. When I returned home for Christmas in the midst of my first job in Baltimore, my brother in law said “you look like you’ve seen the eye of the tiger.” I’m not sure exactly what he meant but I figure that he thought my face had changed, my eyes looked different, my view of the world was different and it showed, I couldn’t unsee. There is no turning back.

Now when the veil is lifted and we see the truth, deeper than my examples here, when we see with the disciples that Jesus Christ shines with the light of God, we are transfixed, we look harder to see-what does it mean? Scholars often pose that this transfiguration was shoring up the disciples and Jesus for the hard journey ahead, on the road to Jesus’ death. Was it emboldening Christ, reminding him of who he was, giving him strength for the journey? In some real way this was a change in the person of Jesus, a readying , an equipping for his ministry as it changed from traveling and healing and sharing the knowledge of God, to his ministry in his final days, equipping the disciples, instituting the Lord’s supper, being handed over.

This transfiguration event was as big as the Exodus, when God made a covenant with the Israelites as he delivered them from slavery. Moses’ appearance at the transfiguration seems to signify the continuing reality of God’s saving nature. In this exodus, this departure, Jesus leads God’s people out of the slavery of sin and death. This is another time when God is leading God’s people to the promised land. Elijah, the prophet from 1st and 2nd Kings who so steadily works for Yaweh to be recognized as the true God, is there too. These figures, Moses, the law or covenant, Elijah, the prophet, and Jesus, the savior and redeemer talk about the coming trials.

And the disciples, they watch in fear and amazement, and the newest among them, Peter, out of a desire to hold this moment static, to revel in it longer, offers the suggestion, “let’s make a dwelling for you three here!” But even as he said it surely he recognized that this moment is passing, and that it can’t be clung to. The melancholy he must have felt. And we, passing through lent may too want to grasp for an image to hold onto, a figure that stays the same, a way of being that works. The passing away-nature of human life seems all too fast at times. Peter got that. He glimpsed the eternal light and reached for it. And in so doing he got a message from God who spoke from above, “this is my son, my chosen one: listen to him.” So he was left with a view that is forever changed, a glimpse of the eternal God and sacred history and he being in his new state was grasping. He was reckoning with what he had seen and can’t now unsee. The reality of God in Christ.

Paul offers encouragement and comfort to the community in Corinth, about a hundred years after Jesus’ transfiguration and his passion, and encourages them to let the light of this truth of God in Christ shine. He encourages them both to live without a veil, hiding their inner selves, but also not to see with a veil, but to see the light of Christ, shining white. To live boldly because of the transfiguration that they had heard of, that had transfigured their hearts.

To be aware of the light of Christ, and to look for the ways it is changing you and others. He writes “And 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; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.” The glory of the Lord, a light to enlighten the nations, Christ’s transfiguration is an insider look into the reality of God’s world, reaching back to the law and the prophets and forward into the redeeming work of God in Christ.

May the transfiguring of Christ embolden us to walk with him on the journey to Gethsemane and to Golgotha. Let our hearts be transfigured. Let us reckon with what we have seen. May the holy lent that we are approaching be attuned to the Glory of God, not a project, but a reckoning with the world and ourselves when our view is transfigured, when we cannot unsee the Glory of God. When we must follow the chosen one.