Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, ] they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, ‘Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah’—not knowing what he said. While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, ‘This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!’ When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.
I sometimes wonder if we shy away from the Transfiguration a little; a mystical event on a mountainside, Moses and Elijah, dazzling glory, a cloud and the voice of God. It’s a lot to process; all this glory, the glory of Christ. Yet there beside the glory is the reminder of the Cross, the humanity, the sacrifice, the promise.
Hills and mountains are so often places of encounter with God. This is the story of a moment; a moment linked to the past and the future by its location on a mountain. We are reminded of other ‘mountain moments’ by Moses and Elijah both of whom encountered God on a mountainside. We are rooted in the past but we are also pointed towards a future hillside and Jesus’s departure. When we think about God as outside of time it can change our perspective on events in our own lives.
We are located within our own stories, we are rooted within our own past; we are heading towards our own future. We can remember the past, give thanks for it, take our lessons from it…but at the same time we need to look forward. We need to look to the future and to God’s promises.
We should help our churches do the same. To celebrate what has gone before, to celebrate what is happening now but, most importantly, to look to the future. It is easy to understand how Peter felt; awed by the appearance of Moses and Elijah, the vision of Jesus dressed in dazzling white. It is easy, perhaps, to understand why he wanted to build three dwellings and to stay on the mountain. That wasn’t the future God had planned for him; it was not what Christ was calling him to. Like Peter we are called to go out into the world; to leave our dwellings, our churches, and to shine with the dazzling hope of Christ for the people we meet.
Dazzling Christ, We give thanks or that which has gone before, for the people and communities that have made up our past. We give thanks for what is to come, for those we will meet and journey with. May we shine with your promise and hope for them. Amen
The Rev’d Jo Clare-Young is a URC minister in the North Yorkshire Coast Pastorate.