Despair and Hope!

No More Demons!
February 3, 2024
Blown and Windswept by the Spirit!
February 17, 2024
No More Demons!
February 3, 2024
Blown and Windswept by the Spirit!
February 17, 2024

I wonder what the transfiguration of Jesus would look like to our eyes and minds today if we were present as this happened.  As we reflect on the divinity and humanity of Jesus, what would convince you that something truly extraordinary had happened, and at the same time, convince you to keep quiet about it? 

As I look at news clips on the Russian war in Ukraine and the Israeli war against Hamas in Gaza, the lights in the night sky take on a new meaning with the bombs and explosions lighting up the darkness of sky.  The brightness and blinding quality of the light give a different shape and understanding to the light and darkness we normally associate with the transfiguration.   I have also been reminded once again, that white garments were the colour of mourning in ancient times.

The story of the transfiguration of Jesus told by Mark’s gospel, 9:2-9 removes the daily unquestioned separation with which we live, between Jesus and another reality, plunging us into a world of mystery and awe, darkness and light, clouds and visibility, questions, statements and silence.  Our voices and imaginations are stilled as we imagine such an encounter with God.    We wonder what might be different today.

In the second letter of Paul to the Corinthians, Paul writes about those who have been blinded by this world, no longer able to see or discern or hear:

In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 

For it is 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.’ (2 Cor. 4:4,6)

God spoke out of the cloud, a place where we often we find ourselves as people of faith, a place to which we can relate.

This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!  (Mark 9:7)

It is often in the darkest places where we hear God speak most clearly, and know God is present.   Living a life of faith is frequently like travelling in a cloud.  For many, the lack of clarity about faith is easily identified with feeling like being in a cloud.  If mystics like the anonymous author of ‘The Cloud of the Unknowing’ and St John of the Cross are right, we should expect the experience of being overshadowed by a cloud to be the normal way of being in a life of faith, as we become more at home with God’s hiddenness.

Jesus, together with Peter, James and John stood at the top of the mountain, and the three disciples saw Jesus transfigured and standing alongside Elijah and Moses, both of whose circumstances of death were unknown.  Moses climbed Mt Nebo, saw the promised land, and died, ‘but no one knows his burial place to this day’ (Deut. 34:6),  while Elijah ‘ascended in a whirlwind into heaven’ where his death was not seen (2 Kings 2:11).

Jesus’ death was even more extraordinary, being in the full glare of the public gaze, shameful, painful and undeniable.  Here on this mountaintop, Jesus is revealed to the disciples as the Son of God, as the one who is greater than even these two revered, spiritual prophets and leaders, Moses and Elijah. 

The light and brightness of God’s divinity, was reduced into the darkness and silence of Golgotha.  The world stopped and the heavens were torn and separated. 

Peter’s earlier protestations about the identity of Jesus as the Messiah, the anointed one, the Son of God, are also silenced by the wickedness and evil of the world as it seeks to end this protest, this great cry of love and anguish from God.

The implications of discipleship are profound.  How are we living our lives, in the current darkness, in the clouds, among the bombs and explosions, the homelessness, poverty, illness, violence and death?  Are we listening to God’s Son speaking to us or are we among those whose hearing and sight are veiled so we can no longer hear and see?  Have we been blinded and deafened by the gods of this world to what is going on around us and to us.  Are we following in Jesus’ way? 

Jesus took the longer route as the Son of God, even though he was greater than both Moses and Elijah, a path which sent him through a garden of agony, and only then to the cross.   Paul tells us: 

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed but not driven to despair, persecuted but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed, always carrying in the body, the death of Jesus, so the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies.  For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh.  2 Cor. 4:8-12

The disciples on the mountaintop, were likely hoping for an easier way.  They did not realise that even as they glimpse God’s glory on the mountaintop, God’s glory will also be revealed to them in their long and painful journey with Christ Jesus.  That is the mystery of God’s glory.  God chooses to be made known not only on the mountaintops, but also in the valley of the shadow of death.  I ask again, what might a transfigured Jesus look like today?  I suspect he would be the child killed in the war zone, the mother weeping over her starving, dying children, the father beset by unemployment and despair, the refugee drowning in the Mediterranean, the homeless one in a tent, as we hear God say:  

This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!  (Mark 9:7)

We are more often in the valleys than on mountaintops; we too are despairing, questioning and doubting, feeling beaten by the world; but we are never destroyed in God, only ever loved, beloved and listened to in Jesus’ transfigured, resurrected name. The Lord be with you.


Reference:

Jarvis, C.A., Johnson, E.E. [Gen. Eds]. 2014. Feasting on the Gospels: Mark. Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, Kentucky, USA.

Lucy Morris
Lucy Morris
Anglican Priest, International Speaker, Published Author, Social Justice Advocate and Activist.

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