15 February 2010


By Drew Paton

Mark 9: 2-9

Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.
As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.

The accounts of the transfiguration in Matthew, Mark and Luke are almost identical but it is Mark’s gospel which seems to provide the context that sheds the most light on this story. In Mark’s gospel Jesus seems always to be in a rush – “and straightaway he called them,” “they went to Capernaum straightaway,” “he boarded the ship straightaway,” – Jesus is constantly on the move, often traveling from place to place by night and telling his followers to “tell no one” about the miracles they have observed. In the gospel of Mark, even while Jesus challenges the status quo and carries out his courageous mission, he is on the run from a society which can neither understand nor accept his true and complete identity. But something amazing and powerful happens on the mountaintop in this story we know as “the transfiguration.” Jesus reveals himself. Jesus shows the fullness of who he is. There on the mountaintop, in the presence of some of his nearest and dearest, he becomes himself. Luke says his countenance was altered. Matthew says, his face shone like the sun. And in this act the glory of God was revealed.

I recently became acquainted with someone who has lived more than 30 years as a man. Several weeks ago, after a long, arduous, thoughtful and prayerful journey, this individual gave up the male name which she was given at birth, in exchange for a new feminine name. Shortly thereafter she began receiving hormone injections which will facilitate her outward transition towards embodied womanhood. She told me that since she’s been getting injections she feels like she’s glowing. She was. She grinned from ear to ear and said “people seem to look at me differently.” I found myself thinking of the transfiguration.

How often have we – as a society and as the church – been unable or unwilling to understand, accept, make space for and be transformed by the true, complete identities of our members? How often have we discouraged or disallowed the fullest, deepest expression of those selves – our own and those of others – selves crafted meticulously and gifted lovingly by our Creator? How many times and in how many ways have we kept people from truly and freely becoming themselves – the selves which God intended, the selves to which God has called them?

Jesus wasn’t simply showing off up on that mountain. Neither was he just asserting his authority. We know this because throughout the gospels Jesus resisted countless opportunities to do those things. It seems to me that the purpose of this act of self-revelation is consistent with the self-proclaimed purpose of Jesus’ entire life and ministry: to reveal the glory of God. Jesus showed the truth and entirety of himself in order to teach us about ourselves – to remind us who and whose we are – and to give us license and inspiration to do likewise. He did this, I believe, because he knew that the glory of God is made manifest when we become ourselves. This is what God wants for us.

My hope and prayer for the church and for our world is that we realize the rich resource which exists, by the grace of God, in each unique self and the profound power which results from the revelation and authentic living-out of those selves.

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