In Pastor Kim's sermon last Sunday, she said, "The transfiguration of Christ transforms us."
I've been thinking about that ever since. So I went back and re-read the accounts of Jesus's transformation, found in all three of the synoptic gospels. Each describes how the clothes Jesus wore suddenly became white. In the New International Version, Luke states that the clothes became "as bright as a flash of lightning." Matthew describes them as "white as the light." And Mark says they became "dazzling white."
So I've been thinking about light.
As I write, I'm sitting at the kitchen table in front of a window of our little cottage in southern Indiana. The sky is blue, the sunlight plays upon the bare branches of my favorite Sycamore tree, and -- though it's only February -- I'm hearing birdsong that I haven't heard since winter began.
It feels as if spring will soon be here, that the light is returning.
And yet... we are heading into the darkness of Lent.
This is not to suggest, of course, that we all walk around thinking gloomy thoughts for 40 days! After all, Easter Sunday is coming! But traditionally, Lent is the time when followers of Jesus reflect upon what his ministry-including his suffering, death and resurrection-has done for us. We reflect upon our own lives, how well they measure up to our calling to follow him.
Pastor Kim also said in her sermon that, through the transfiguration of Jesus, we're able to see the world transformed every moment of every day, if we just look. Transformed by kindness, acts of love, generosity, smiles. Transformed when-as in the story about her encounter with a young boy on a plane-we take the time just to be nice to one another! (If you didn't hear the sermon, I encourage you to access it from the church website, where past sermons are archived.)
Yesterday, I attended the funeral of a good man. It was truly a celebration of his life, and of our joy in knowing that he is now with Jesus, whom he loved. A celebration, certainly. But one tinged also with deep sadness, as those whose lives he touched began to grieve his absence. Perhaps you've known that kind of grief.
It seems to me that so many people are going through great difficulties right now. It has been a rough year so far. Illness, death, addiction, broken relationships. So much suffering and struggling that it can sometimes feel as if we will never come through the other side.
Shining on that mountaintop. Knowing what lies ahead, yes. But knowing what waits on the other side.
We who follow him know that we too walk in the light of God's presence, even when the path is dark. We, too, have been transformed. We can become the light for other people.
I read this poem today, and it spoke so deeply to me about the hope and grace and love we can give to others who are in pain. About the difference we can make in someone's life. We, who have been transformed by God, can shine the Light into the world.
The poem is titled, "For the Sake of Strangers," written by Dorianne Laux.
No matter what the grief, its weight,
we are obliged to carry it.
We rise and gather momentum, the dull strength
that pushes us through crowds.
And then the young boy gives me directions
so avidly. A woman holds the glass door open,
waiting patiently for my empty body to pass through.
All day it continues, each kindness
reaching toward another-a stranger
singing to no one as I pass on the path, trees
offering their blossoms, a child
who lifts his almond eyes and smiles.
Somehow they always find me, seem even
to be waiting, determined to keep me
from myself, from the thing that calls to me
as it must have once called to them-
this temptation to step off the edge
and fall weightless, away from the world.
Friends, Lent is a time when we contemplate the darkness. Darkness in the world that condemned Jesus to death on a cross. Darkness in us, when we are struggling to live. Darkness in others, who may be suffering in ways we can only imagine.
"The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."
We, who have been transformed by the Love of God, are that light. Let's shine!