From the second letter of Corinthians, hear this powerful affirmation: no matter how filled with doubt, uncertainty, or fear you may be or feel; no matter how misunderstood or persecuted you may feel; no matter how afflicted in mind, body or spirit you may be; You have everything you need to live joyfully, purpose fully and authentically for who you are. And we, collectively, have everything we need to transform our community, city, and world.
Why? Because – whoever you are and wherever you are on your life and spiritual journey you are a child of the living God, God in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit is with you on your journey, and as Holocaust survivor and author of Man’s Search for Meaning Viktor Frankl reminds us “Everything can be taken from us but one thing: the last of human freedoms - to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances and choose how we will be on the way.”
I believe that this is the point – of our life stories and purpose, of our faith stories, of Jesus’ story from birth through death and resurrection. And I believe that it is the point of this story of Jesus’ miraculous transfiguration.
Life interrupts and confronts us, asks us how we will respond, and challenges us to choose how we will not only respond, but how we see ourselves in relationship with every moment, circumstance, person and being we encounter on the way. Choose to react and see ourselves as voiceless and powerless or choose to risk our best and deepest selves to bring love to life, light to darkness, and a hope that shatters the loneliness and silences of others we encounter on the way.
According to the Gospel of Mark, before this miraculous transformation that happens on the mountain top, first the disciples and Jesus pass through one of those deep valley places. Jesus is there teaching and sharing that his earthly ministry will soon end. He will be persecuted, endure great suffering, be rejected, killed, and will rise again. Peter - uncertain, uncomfortable, and afraid for Jesus’ life or perhaps his own life - pulls Jesus aside and – as we often do – Peter tries to shut Jesus up, as though silencing the uncomfortable stories and painful reality will somehow make it less true.
Jesus calls Peter out. Explains what following is all about. And then invites Peter, John and James to accompany him to see and to witness this miraculous transformation to alleviate their doubt. It is here in this moment, as with our own journeys, filled with fear, worry, uncertainty and doubt. When all appears lost or slipping away, as life interrupts, the clouds part, and suddenly we can see life more clearly. For Peter, James and John Jesus appears to be completely transfigured, transformed in and through and by the brightest of light. They glimpse more fully for who Jesus is as the light of the world, light of love and the light of hope burning brightly with, in and through each of us.
Victor Frankl describes such a moment from the depths and challenges of his own experience. “It was dark. We were being marched to a work sight outside the concentration camp. Feet were wet and sore. We supported one another on the journey that no one might fall and receive a beating or worse. The man marching next to me whispered: ‘If our wives could see us now! I do hope they are better off in their camps.’" His mind wandered as he began to think of his own wife. The miles went by, the sun began to rise and the image of his wife gave him hope and spurred him on. In the midst of grief, loss, fear and darkness; life seemed brighter, more radiant and even more “luminous than the morning sun.” He says for the first time in his life he saw the truth – “love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which we can aspire as our salvation.” Because individually and collectively we have the freedom to choose how we respond to life, we have the power to transform how see ourselves and others and therefore how we can be in relationship and bring healing to the world.
Only it isn’t easy.
For John, James and Peter – especially Peter and for us - it means working through fear and loss, remaining present to uncomfortable truths, and overcoming the temptation to remain safely in the comfort of what we believe we know about who we and others are and are called to be. Peter responds, as people have and continue to respond throughout history, by digging in, getting busy and seeking external assurance, affirmation and validation. He says something like “It’s good, praiseworthy and exceptionally satisfying to be here!” And as we too often do, he has this moment of profound connection and wants to somehow capture and contain the moment, build a memorial, shrine, sanctuary, tent or temple to ensure our comfort, create a place where we feel safe and establish some sense of permanence amid our otherwise fleeting lives and circuitous journeys.
And notice what happens in that moment. The light dims, cloud rolls in and he and we are again reminded to listen to and follow not our way, or the way of fear, safety, convenience and comfort - but the way of the One. “For we do not proclaim ourselves;” the Apostle Paul reminds us, “we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus' sake. For it is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness," who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.’”
In Mathew’s telling of this story, in this moment Jesus touches Peter and assures them all – assures us all - “be not afraid.” He then invites them and us to accompany one another on this journey, to risk our best and deepest selves as we let go what was and begin to see not only Jesus, but ourselves and others, our role and our purpose in a whole new light - the light of Love, the light of Hope, the light of Christ proclaimed more “luminous than the morning sun.” The light that shines most brightly as it lives in us and is magnified through us not on some holy hill, comfortable tent or temple, shrine or sanctuary we build; but rather as we risk our best and deepest selves to bring and be the light of love as we touch and encourage others we accompany in and through the deep, low and often lonely valley places in our lives, relationships, community, city and world.
Because of who God is and who Jesus is, because of who you are and who we are called to be together; we already have everything we need. Perhaps, Marianne Williamson sums it up best, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world… And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
May God bless you and keep you on this journey.