2021-02-14 Epiphany 5
Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Valentine’s Day lining up with the Transfiguration of our Lord. Who’da thunk that would ever be the case?! Love and light all in the same place. St. Valentine was a Pastor who was known for his ministry and outreach to persecuted Christians. I read somewhere that he would leave messages for people on heart shaped notes, giving way to our tradition of giving Valentine’s cards. We’re not sure if that is 100% the case or not. We do know that he was martyred for the Christian faith on February 14 way back in 269AD. He never was the patron saint of romantic love that everyone associates him with now though. That idea came much later, most likely from Geoffrey Chaucer or the medieval thinking that love birds would pair up mid-February. Regardless, Valentine’s Day as we know it has been around for a good long while. As Valentines and chocolates and flowers pave the way to wedding plans and wedding veils, St. Valentine never disappoints!
But speaking of veils, that leads us to our main event for Transfiguration. The season of light and revealing that we have been steeped in now for many weeks is coming to a glorious end. Today reminds us that “God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all” (1JN 1:5). Jesus reveals Himself to the disciples in the glory of uncreated light on the Mount of Transfiguration. The “veil is lifted” and Peter, James and John get a glimpse of the dazzling glory of God. The Law of Moses, the preaching and signs of the Prophets like Elijah, they all point to Jesus.
As our Lord reveals the light of His divine nature, it is described in the original language as a metamorphosis. Think caterpillar into a butterfly. An ugly little worm eats and eats and eats, makes a chrysalis and 2 weeks later, viola! A gorgeous butterfly emerges, revealing who this little worm was all along. St. Mark tells us “His clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them” (9:3).
This grand revealing is why we commemorate the Transfiguration today. It’s a snapshot of Who the revealed Redeemer is and also what lies in store for His people who follow and trust in Him. It’s a mountain top view of the valleys that are all around us - especially the great valley of Lent that lies just before us. We remember exactly Who our Saviour is, though He be veiled in human flesh. It’s quite the scenario. This amazing display of Christ’s glory. It’s easy to praise God when things like this happen, when we are up on the mountain tops of life and things are going well for us. But often we find ourselves walking through the valleys and dark times of life. And when we do, we can easily forget that our Lord is still the same powerful God who revealed Himself on the mountain top. We can become distracted and feel very alone when difficulties and hard times roll our way. We can forget completely that the veil has been lifted and we start to slip down into thinking that life is totally up to us and our abilities, rather than relying on our Lord’s power and strength to see us through.
A guy booked an appointment to go see his doctor. 2 months later when the appointment time arrived, he went to his doctor and expressed the following concern: “Doc, I’m really worried! You gotta help me. Every time I drink a cup of coffee, I feel this sharp, stabbing pain in my eye! Do you think it’s serious!?” The doctor replied, after a wee pause, “No, just try taking the spoon out of your cup first!”
It’s crazy how blind to the obvious we can be sometimes. You go to the pantry and you can’t see what you’re looking for, even though it’s right in front of you. The same thing goes for our spiritual lives as well. Sin is much like a veil that blinds us to the truth. It convinces us that we know better for ourselves than God does and makes us do all kinds of stupid things. We continually miss the mark of God’s perfection in our sin. Our relationships suffer, our tempers get short and we forget that God has made us His children by our Baptism. We forget that God has called us to participate in His divine nature. His light has come into our world and into our hearts, but when we sin, we put the blinders on to His kingdom. We separate ourselves away from His grace and His ways.
God knows this better than we know ourselves and this is why we need Jesus to come and continually lighten our lives so that we don’t descend into the darkness of the valleys that lie all around us. Jesus said that we are “in the world” but not “of the world.” This means that we strive with everything we have to live in God’s light and salvation rather than practicing the wickedness of the world. It’s a very difficult calling, and most days we’d rather simply dwell in our sins and wallow in our iniquities. But to do so is to put on the veil again, blind ourselves to God’s working in our lives. St. Paul tells us “when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed” (2Cor 3:16). We begin to see the horrendity of our sins - and also the fullness of God’s light and forgiveness for them in Christ our Lord.
And this really is the Christian life this side of eternity. It’s a life of mountain top experiences with God and the dark valley drudgery of our sins. It’s a roller coaster of ups and downs. Sometimes we feel like Peter, James and John, very close to the Lord, fully illuminated with the Holy Spirit. Other times, we feel like Job, down in the dumps and totally veiled from God completely. This will continue to be the human condition until our Lord returns to take us to be with Himself. However, in the mean time and the in between time, St. Paul says this: “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2Cor 3:18).
Transformation. Transfiguration. These are the ways of the Kingdom of God. The season of Epiphany has illuminated our hearts and minds to God’s ways. It has assured us of His grace that covers our multitude of sin. It gives us the light and warmth of His presence. The veil of sin has been lifted and we behold our Lord who showed Himself in glory for our salvation. But He is also the same Lord who would not spare Himself but readily gave up His own life for us on the cross.
And this is the next journey we embark on as the valley of Lent is before us. Our Lord calls us to follow Him from the mountain to the plain to the valley. Jesus bids us to pick up our own cross and follow Him. For the way of the Messiah is indeed the way of glory, but it is also the way of suffering and humility. With the veil of sin lifted from our eyes, we continue to walk with our Lord from the brightness of the transfiguration into the ‘bright sadness’ of the journey to the cross. To God be the glory now and forever more. Amen!