Today I want to talk about transfiguration, it is a big religious word that ranks right up there with eschatology and soteriology and yet, I think, should be part of our daily practice as Christians.
Transfiguration, from Latin transfiguratio, is primarily a religious term, and refers to the experience of momentary divine radiance. The most famous account of transfiguration is the Transfiguration of Jesus. (Wikipedia)
Lets read that passage from Marks gospel:
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[b] 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.
There it is, Jesus has taken a moment to pray on a mountaintop as he often did, this time he brought his three closest disciples and as they reached the top they experienced a momentary divine radiance.
For some reason, at that particular moment they could not only see what is on the surface, but they could also see beyond into the spiritual realm. They used prophetic vision or perhaps prophetic imagination to see what could be or what is also true on a deeper level.
This is our calling as Christians, to walk by faith (trust) and not by sight.
This is not a call to close our eyes and wish for a better world (pie in the sky when you die) rather it is a call to open our eyes and see the mess, the brokenness, the grit and the grime and then with the help of our spirit push beyond that and see, truly see what could be, what is possible. To see through the lens of divine love and compassion.
Theologian Walter Brueggeman claims that it is in our grief and lament over what is that we can start imagining what could be, and in that state of grief and hope find this liminal space of divine love and grace in the midst of a broken world.
“The prophet engages in futuring fantasy. The prophet does not ask if the vision can be implemented, for questions of implementation are of no consequence until the vision can be imagined. The imagination must come before the implementation. Our culture is competent to implement almost anything and to imagine almost nothing. The same royal consciousness that make it possible to implement anything and everything is the one that shrinks imagination because imagination is a danger. Thus every totalitarian regime is frightened of the artist. It is the vocation of the prophet to keep alive the ministry of imagination, to keep on conjuring and proposing futures alternative to the single one the king wants to urge as the only thinkable one.” (Walter Brueggemann, Prophetic imagination)
Here we are called to aggressively lament and by that critique the world around us. Thereby, as Brueggemann states, both arouse curiosity but also threaten the status quo with the most dangerous weapon of all: an idea of a different world. Peter Rollins describes this process as Christian violonce
Christian violence is the public expression of love; it is that work which ruptures systems of abuse, robbing them of their power and efficiency. It is manifest in the formation of insurrectionary groups that live out a radically different mode of social relation, one that challenges the system by offering an alternative vision of the world. It is as Paul says not a battle against flesh and blood but an ideological battle of worldview. (Peter Rollins, Insurrection)
So we have looked at Jesus transfigured and talked about seeing the world transfigured. Brian Mclaren states that this transfiguration is not something we can manufacture it is a gift, a blessing from above. However I tend to think that we can learn to live in this space in this state.
We can achieve this by practising transfiguration and as with so many other things it must start with the self. We need to start seeing ourselves as divine and glorious beings.
It is important to note here that this is not some New Agey positive thinking where I just think/believe something hard enough and it will be true. It is done by spiritual intuition or prophetic vision. I need to start seeing what is really true. The qualities that are present within myself (and the world and others) the seeds of possibility within our persons and circumstances. By giving these seeds nourishment they will grow and we will become that which we see. The situation will evolve into that possibility.
Open your heart to the divine reality
With this in mind lets walk through the rest of this week awakened to the divine quality in everything around us. We need to open our hearts and see, then we need to cast the vision to the people around us so they see it also and in the telling of what the world is really like it will become.
Let me finish with this quote from Mclaren:
So often we do not see it. But then, suddenly, we do. We look with our hearts, not just our eyes, and there it is, as if it had been there all along, among us, within us, near, here: the kingdom of this world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, his Messiah, his liberating King. The world has not yet become the kingdom, and yet we see that it has. It is in that tension—perhaps the most truly creative tension in the world—that the secret message of Jesus dances, glimmers, shines, and calls us to live: seeing the kingdom here, and seeking and praying for it to come. In light of all we’ve considered together … perhaps we can see it (again) for the first time. (Brian D. Mclaren, The secret message of Jesus)