Originally preached at Bloomington Inclusive Mass on August 10, 2014.
2 Peter 1:16-19 (The Message)
Luke 9:28-36 (The Message)
A Spiritual Reading by Marianne Williamson, that can be found here.
In the name of God, the Source of All Light, Life and Goodness…
Today we have gathered together to celebrate the Feast of The Transfiguration. The ideas of light, transfiguration and transformation are weaved throughout the Christian faith and may other universal religions. The biblical narrative of creation, found in Genesis and cherished by Jews and Christians alike and to a lesser degree Muslims, attempts to explain the appearance of the universe with a simple phrase: “Let there be light.” We are told light then came into existence at God’s own beckoning. Our modern scientific understanding of the universe, most often explained in the terminology of the Big Bang, had led us to discover a cosmic radiation that is deemed to be the oldest light in the universe. Our very existence, whether we turn to biblical or scientific resources shares the belief that our evolution, began with the appearance or manifestation of light. Regardless of our race, gender or sexuality we all hold the beauty and life-giving properties of light to be our common ancestry and reason for our continued existence. In the beginning was light and that light is still with us today.
Today’s Gospel reading shared with us the Christian understanding of Divine Light as manifested in the person of Jesus. We read of Jesus going off once again to pray on his own apart from the distractions of the crowd and the many needs placed on him. It is worth noticing that throughout the Gospels, Jesus required periods of thoughtful breathing, meditation and conversation with the Creator. Jesus did not operate in some magical way that superseded his very human needs for quietness, solitude and rest. Some of us could do well to remember - if Jesus needed to take “time outs,” we probably do too! So we see Jesus praying on a mountain, with his disciples a little ways off from him, and suddenly we are told an amazing event occurs. Two men, who had long since left this world, appeared on each side of him in a cloud of light, a bubble of brightness or what some might call an aura. Eventually, the sleepy disciples were awakened by the splendor of this sight and became very excited and very chatty, very quickly!
I think we can understand their excitement. Many of us speak of the splendor of God but rarely do we get to experience it in such otherworldly ways directly impacting our physical senses. The Gospel says Peter wouldn’t shut up and he started planning a construction site complete with real estate development in order to try and capture the light of the moment. It seems to me, Peter did not understand that this moment wasn’t meant to be captured - it was meant to be experienced. Jesus never uttered a word, according to the account given to us, and suddenly the mystical light, the aura, surrounds Peter and the other disciples, as well. A voice from within the holy light declares, “This is my chosen child, listen to him!” Needless to say Peter shut up and the disciples were left speechless!
This story has traditionally been used to affirm the doctrine of the Divinity of Christ. Many of us here affirm Jesus’ God status, albeit in differing manners and approaches, but all the same we find God and Jesus to be interconnected inexplicably and completely. I do not want to take away from that lens of understanding or unravel your theology, but I would like us to delve deeper into it. Let us travel beyond the Divinity of Christ and into the acknowledgement of the Divine found within us all. The Gospel tells us, at first, the light surrounded Jesus with his two unexpected guests who may symbolize the interconnected of all the ages. The story seems to infer these three discussed the ideas of resurrection and the destruction of darkness. They did so standing in the cloud of light, which many understand to be an embodiment of the Spirit, the source of all breath. Eventually upon the disciple’s awakening the cloud increased its foothold to not only surround Jesus and his guests but also the followers of Jesus. We are told in that moment the disciples became “deeply aware of God.”
The Transfiguration is not solely about explaining who Jesus is but equally seeks to recognize that all God’s people, who awaken from lethargy, are to be wrapped in the same light of God. The very same breath, the very same miraculous power that surrounded Jesus also seeks to surround you and I. This is an almost unbearable thought process and possibility for many of us. We are more than happy to call ourselves followers of Jesus, Christians, spiritual people, Buddhists, Catholics and the list goes on. We are happy to believe that God probably loves us and we are even happy to believe that we are called to do good deeds. But to accept that the very same Divine Light that manifested around Jesus is equally ours is…well, it’s shocking. Suddenly, we are talking not only about the Divinity of Christ but also the Divinity with each one of us. We are talking about manifesting the love God in this world no differently than Jesus did. We have to pause and acknowledge that God’s light seeks to overshadow you and I in the exact same way it did Jesus. And it requires of you and I the same it did of Jesus: to be a leader, a healer, a savior, a guide, a protector, a defender and a lover of all. Are you speechless, yet? You probably should be.
Our Epistle placed slightly different words in the mouth that came from the cloud of light. The Creator in the 2nd Epistle of Peter said of Jesus, and de-facto of you and I, “This is my child, marked by my love, focus of all my delight.” We have been marked by God’s love in the light of creation, the light of the universe. It matters not what your theological understanding is. It matters not what temple or church you were baptized, dedicated, circumcised or confirmed in. All that matters is that you are found to be on this earth, breathing with life inside you, and it is the warmth of light echoing from millions of years ago that continues to drive us forward toward all good things. In the words of Peter, we couldn’t be surer of this amazing truth! We may not have before us today a cloud of bright light. We may not hear an audible voice booming from the limestone walls. But all the same, we should be speechless and assured that the Divine Light surround us and calls each one of equally to be a child of God and to be a bearer of the spark of divinity! Athanasius, one of the great saints of Christianity, once said, “God became man so that man might become a god." This is the profound truth of the Transfiguration: the story calls us not only to recognize the Divinity within Christ but also to acknowledge our own Divine potential. The acknowledgment that proof of divinity, proof of God-likeness and God-oneness is not relegated to Jesus alone but offered to all. Anyone who will rub their eyes and greet the light placed before them has this incredible access to God within himself or herself. We have the opportunity, like the disciples, to become deeply aware of God.
We, you and I, are the focus of God’s delight. We are the product of the beautiful miracle of evolutionary creation which all began with the appearance of a previously unknown light. Light is our guide, light is our warmth and light is the hope of God within us. What will we do with this recognition that we are called to “manifest the glory of God within us,” as our spiritual reading stated? Will we allow our light to shine so that others may awaken and perceive the light beckoning them to wholeness and completion, to oneness with God? You and I must choose to awaken; we must choose to allow the Divine Light to operate inside us. In doing so we offer the gift of God to the entirety of creation. We remind one another of our unity and dependency upon God and each other. In the early 2000’s scientists solidified through careful research what they had presumed for some time, humanity is remarkably similar regardless of race or appearance. They reported that we are 99.9% exactly the same as everyone else on earth. There can be found a difference of only 0.1%. I would truly hope as people of the light, people of God, we would choose to operate within the acceptance of our unity and not our 0.1% difference. We are one united body of people-kind birthed in the light of love. How will you offer this awareness of the Divine Spark, the God potential, inside of you to someone who is sleeping? How will you help them discover their own God-potential?
The calling is profound. We stand speechless but not for long, for just as those disciples of old sought to share with the entire world the message of Jesus, we too must share with the entire world the promise of light. The light of God is not to be captured; it is to be experienced, lived and shared. To offer God’s light is to offer salvation. I close with this Parable of Buddha:
"In a village of one hundred houses a single light was burning. Then a neighbor came with his lamp to another's home and lit a lamp; and in this same way the light was communicated from house to house and the brightness in the village was increased. Thus the light of religion may be diffused without diminishing the one who communicates it. Let the bliss of your witness be diffused. Divide it."
It is time we light up Bloomington with the brilliance and love of a transforming and transfiguring God who cherishes all. Are you ready to be transfigured with the Christ?