Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Transformation now and at our deaths

“In sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life
Through our Lord Jesus Christ
who will transform our frail bodies
That they may be conformed to his glorious body”

The truth of it is that we do not know what will happen - we understand the earlier part of this prayer - “earth to earth, dust to dust, ashes to ashes” all the more so in our world of usual cremation for this much is clear. We can touch it, see it but what then? In this passage from the story of the transfiguration, Jesus has taken his closest disciples, Peter, James and John up the mountain to show them something. Here is the pictorial, theatrical, enactment of the  teaching that Jesus gave them just a few verses earlier:

“The son of man must undergo great suffering and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and scribes and be killed and on the third day be raised.”

As I said last week, heaven is beyond our understanding, (all the more so resurrection) and we need different ways of grasping Jesus’ words. Moses, Elijah and Jesus were talking, as Luke expresses it, of his departure. This word used is “exodus” - recalling the setting free of the the tribes of Israel from slavery in Egypt. “They were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.” They appeared in glory - the passion is announced not with misery or foreboding but with transformation. Jesus is transformed to such a surpassing and Godlike brightness so in the words of Cyril of Alexandria, his garments glittered with rays of fire and seemed to flash like lightning. Notice they are speaking of accomplishment, not failure. Moses represents the law, Elijah the prophets and they are alongside similarly transformed. All this is shown to the disciples and then from a cloud comes a voice:

“This is my son, my chosen; listen to him.”

We are reminded of the account of Jesus’ baptism where again we find a visual teaching: Jesus is seen rising from the water, the holy spirit in the form of a dove descends upon him and a voice came from heaven “THis is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.”

In both cases, the beginning of Jesus ministry and the beginning of his passion, they are announced unmistakably, and here on the mountain top with Peter and James and John we see a glimpse of the promise of eternal life. In glory and radiance, a tiny sliver of all that we find impossible, we are shown the tip of it all, the beginning of the promise.

Listen to Him

For he will transform us now through his ministry and teaching and and at our death through his resurrection.