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Transfiguration Sunday Reflections

Jesus, Moses, Elijah on the mountain
What happens on the mountain

The first story we heard on Transfiguration Sunday was of Moses coming down from the mountain, his face shining, and the people astonished.

We remembered that before this episode, the people had been wandering through the land for a long time. More recently, Moses had been spending time withdrawn into the presence of God, away from the people. The people began to feel that Moses had abandoned them – that God had abandoned them. And they fashioned an idol from gold, for something tangible to which to direct their praise and allegiance.

Why might it be important to show Moses so transformed by his coming close into the presence of God?

Perhaps, feeling abandoned, the people need to know – to see in a radical and confronting way – that God is present, if somewhat held at a distance because of God’s holiness? Have they found their wanderings difficult, wondered if God has abandoned them?

what happens on the mountain

does not stay on the mountain

but with you.

In the Hebrew Bible / Old Testament, going up on a mountain was a physical act one could undertake to prepare oneself for encountering God. It was a withdrawing from the ordinary every day life, from the community or one’s family: a withdrawing into the presence of God with intention. This is an embodied, whole person, focusing of attention on the Sacred. And one does not come down from the mountain unchanged: what happens on the mountain, does not stay on the mountain, but with you.

Climbing the mountain

Here we are on a mountain again. The physicality of climbing the mountain. The withdrawing away from the crowd; withdrawing into God’s presence. The surprise and mystery of encounter with God through Jesus.

Take a moment to consider to what places you withdraw to prepare for encounter with God; the journey, the walk up the mountain, preparation. How do you withdraw, pay attention, intentionally give your focus to the Sacred?

I wonder, how is our worship this morning a withdrawing, a journey into the presence of God, preparation for encounter with God through our discerning together in our AGM this morning?

Where else do you go to replenish, open yourself to transformation that you will carry with you when you ‘come down from the mountain’?

Peter, James, and John, we are told, were astonished beyond understanding. It seems very wise of Jesus to ask them to wait until they understood with more depth before speaking of this encounter with others.

Changing light

We are about to move from Epiphany into Lent.

Lent might be considered a withdrawing away from the crowded lives we lead, with its spiritual practice of fasting in one way or another. Giving up something like the disciplined physical walk up a mountain that focuses our attention on the Sacred in a particular way.

Easter will break open the presence of God in our midst with astonishing light to transform any darkness. It is a radical story, a radical act, this life after, life beyond, death, this resurrection. We need time to prepare to hear that story again, to be transformed by that light again.

And though Lent, with its overtones of wilderness, repentance, and the struggles of the practices of fasting, seems a season of darkness – light is still present. gentler, perhaps, subtle, suggested, softer. its hints helping our eyes adjust before that astonishing light of Easter Day.


So Lent prepares us for the mountain – Easter Day – and for the return from the mountain, for change, for carrying our transformation into the rest of the year, like the newness of life we will celebrate in the Easter season.

What practices will we take on this Lent, to prepare ourselves for transformation, for light, for life?

Our congregation is invited into a simple practice in our Lenten study this year – simply, profoundly, reading the Bible together, paying attention, withdrawing into the Story.

Is this a year you might give something up? Choose to simplify your daily life in some way, do without some luxury, pay attention to how you choose what is enough for you, how you might help others to have enough, when they do not at present …

Lent is the journey, the walking up the mountain. We do not walk alone – God is with us, and we have our community. When the moment comes, we will not leave the mountain unchanged – may the walk through Lent transform us for the courageous carrying of Holy light into the world. Amen.

labyrinth in stones