Luke 9:28-36 The Transfiguration
Is it that people get to look like their dogs, or that they buy dogs which look like them? Or is it that the way we treat our dogs, because it’s similar to the way we treat ourselves that they start to look like us?
I do a lot of dog walking and see people out and about dog walking. And there is no doubt that our dogs reflect us in some way.
It seems, from this story of the transfiguration and the story of Moses from the Old Testament, that it is similar with us and God.
The closer we get to him, the more we get to look like him.
In the story of the transfiguration, we learn how Jesus was transformed before the faces of the disciples as he came into the presence of God. Luke records (verse 29) ‘and while he was praying the appearance of his face changed and his clothes became dazzling white’. Matthew says (17:2) ‘that he was transfigured before them and his face shone like the sun and his clothes became dazzling white. Mark says (9:2-8) ‘He was transfigured and his clothes became dazzling while such as no-one on earth could bleach them’.
Suddenly both Elijah and Moses appear and start to speak to him about his death.
Peter makes some idiotic remark about putting up shelters…and God speaks out of the cloud: ’This is my Son, my chosen listen to him’
We hear of a similar transformation in Moses from our Old Testament reading in Exodus 34.29 how as Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the tablets of stone the Israelites saw that ‘his face was shining’
In fact, they had to put a cloth over his face, which he removed when he was speaking to God and replaced when he was speaking to the people.
What is this shining face business about?
I am very aware that I am completely unconscious of how I look at any moment. In fact, this does get me into trouble from time to time. They say that actors spend hours and hours in front of a mirror so that that can see exactly what expression they show, whatever their mood. Unfortunately, I am not like that. I have no idea what my facial expressions are like. Indeed, one lady in the parish comments quite frequently, and not at all positively, on how I look when I am feeling grumpy…..
And the key thing to note about the transfiguration of Jesus is that the change is not from the outside, but from the inside…
This change is the work of the Holy Spirit, and it can happen to us, even though, of course, we will never look as amazing as Jesus did at his transfiguration, we can in a small way reflect his glory in our own appearance.
Father Raniero Cantalamessa, a monk who is preacher to the papal household, aged eighty-one, tells a story of how, after he had attended a conference on the Holy Spirit, he had been so engaged with God, that his face was shining….He got on the train to travel home and a woman on the train, a complete stranger with whom he had had no conversation, who was sitting opposite him, suddenly blurted out “Don’t think you can get me to believe in God, just by looking like that…..!”
When our hearts are filled with the Holy Spirit, it shows on our faces and it is compelling (or repelling) for others.
This isn’t an outward thing. It’s not about self discipline and being polite and considerate, its just that, if you have the Holy Spirit in your heart, He shows on your face…
I had a recent experience which made me think more about how (if we host the Holy Spirit in our hearts ) this can have an impact on those around us….
This is a very very trivial example….but struck me as being remarkable and I share it partly because it has never happened to me before or since, but I would like it to.
Lucy and I had been listening to a pod cast from a church in California called Bethel given by the pastor Bill Johnson. He was speaking about ‘Hosting the Presence of the Holy Spirit’.
He pointed out that the Holy Spirit is like a dove on our shoulder. He is easily spooked and as we move around as we say, do and think things, we need to take him into consideration, if he is to remain……
Lucy and I were in Oxfordshire, driving around and looking for a hotel we needed to book for a Friday night during the Summer. None of the hotels that we had contacted in advance or on line were willing to let us book for a Friday in the Summer, so far in advance without a booking on the Saturday night also. Perfectly reasonable….
We were feeling particularly filled with the Holy Spirit (which despite my job I am not nearly enough) as we stopped at this particularly lovely hotel and went in to speak to the manager about booking for a Friday night, assuming that we would get the usual brush off….
Now I don’t know what my face looked like….but the hotelier we met just could not stop smiling when he saw me. It wasn’t a look of mockery but a smile of delight….he seemed to be responding to something in me….and not just being polite.
It’s difficult to describe but I have never seen it before…
He said ‘Usually we don’t book for just Friday nights, but I am sure it wont be a problem to find someone for the Saturday and took our booking’
This is a very trivial example but as we draw closer to God, as Christ did at his Transfiguration, as we encounter God as Moses did on Mount Sinai, as we host the Holy Spirit in our hearts, like Cantalamessa, and as we take the Holy Spirit into consideration in everything we say, do, and think so that he is not spooked and driven away, we too in our small, imperfect way can have our appearance changed by the Holy Spirit and our encounters with others will be transformed.
(Mt 17:1–8; Mk 9:2–8; 2 Pet 1:16–18)
28 Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. 29 And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. 30 Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. 31 They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. 32 Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. 33 Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah”—not knowing what he said. 34 While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. 35 Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” 36 When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.
The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (Lk 9:28–36). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.