ST. AUGUSTINE’S EPISCOPAL CHURCH
THE REVEREND BARRY GRIFFIN, RECTOR
In our church calendar, today it the feast of The Transfiguration. On August 6 the church commemorates what happened to Jesus at his transfiguration. Luke tells us that, “while he was praying , the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white.”
Jesus was then joined by two others: Moses, the ancient giver of the Hebrew Law; and Elijah, the great Hebrew prophet. “They appeared in glory and were speaking of Jesus’ departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.”
These extraordinary events did not happen in secret. All these things were witnessed by three of Jesus’ disciples: Peter, James, and John. What happened to them was perhaps equally extraordinary. Luke sums it up in four simple words: “they saw his glory.”
They saw Jesus’ glory. This was something new. Yes, they had seen his miracles. They had seen Jesus heal the sick and paralyzed, raise the dead, and calm the stormy sea. They knew what Jesus could do. Jesus could do miraculous deeds.
And yes, they were beginning to have at least some understanding of Jesus’ true nature. Just prior to the transfiguration, Jesus questioned his disciples, “But who do you say that I am?”
It was Peter who replied, “The Messiah of God.” Peter was just beginning to comprehend the true identity of this miracle worker from Nazareth.
They knew what he could do. Concerning his nature, they had at least some clue. But today is different. Today is something new. Today, on the Mount of Transfiguration, they see his glory. They see his true colors shining through.
Have you ever seen someone else’s true colors? Have you ever seen someone else’s glory? Another person’s glory is something to behold.
Notice how I phrased the question. I did not say, “have you ever seen someone in glory?”
Luke does not say the disciples saw Jesus in glory. Luke says “they saw his glory.”
This distinction is not insignificant. It implies something quite profound. It suggests this: there is no such thing as generic glory. One size does not fit all. Glory is a unique and individual attribute. The disciples saw his glory. They saw Jesus as they’d never seen Jesus before. They saw his true colors.
Have you ever seen someone else’s glory? Have you seen their true colors shining through? Another person’s glory is something to behold.
I think that’s why so many people get so choked up at baptisms, especially the baptisms of infants and children. When you’re at a baptism, and you see parents and family members and sponsors whose faces positively glow, you are witnessing truth made manifest. You are beholding these people as they stand in their glory. And no wonder you get choked up. You’ve just gotten a glimpse, a fleeting glimpse, of Jesus’ transfiguration. You’ve seen his glory in their love.
And when you’re at a wedding? Oh Lord. After a wedding very few people remember the beautiful flowers or the inspirational music or the attendants fashionable dresses. Strange as it seems, very few people remember the brilliant sermon delivered by the priest.
Very few people remember these things. Instead, they remember something far more noticeable, and infinitely more significant. They remember the faces of the couple, for when two people love each other, it shows. You see it in their faces. Whether extroverted or quite shy, their faces glow. That’s what people remember.
I’ve attended weddings where there were no flowers, no music, and no attendants in nice dresses. There was not even a sermon. You know something? I didn’t miss any of those things because I saw and heard much more in the faces of the two people about to be married.
I saw two people standing in their glory. I saw their true colors shining through. I saw truth made manifest, and I caught a fleeting glimpse of Jesus’ transfiguration. I saw his glory in their love.
Jesus’ transfiguration is discernible both at baptisms and at weddings. It is often see at burials, too.
Consider the topic of discussion on the Mount of Transfiguration. Luke tells us that Jesus, Moses and Elijah “were speaking of Jesus’ departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.”
Soon after Jesus’ descent from the Mount of Transfiguration, Luke writes: “when the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.” Jesus “faced” Jerusalem. In other words, Jesus faced torture and impending death. He did not run from his destiny. He embraced it.
At the transfiguration, the topic of discourse was impending death. It still is.
The Book of Common Prayer teaches us about Christian burial. It teaches this: the liturgy for the dead is an Easter liturgy. It finds all its meaning in the resurrection. Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we, too, shall be raised.”
We, too, shall stand in glory. As Paul writes in his epistle to the Corinthians: “all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another…” We’re being transfigured, too.
The great hymnist Charles Wesley paraphrased these words of Saint Paul and used them to conclude what may be his finest hymn:
“Changed from glory into glory, till in heaven we take our place, till we cast our crowns before thee, lost in wonder, love and praise.”
The transfiguration was not a one-time event. We see it at baptisms, at weddings, at burial services, and any number of places we might least expect it.
If Paul has it right, you are being transformed, changed from glory into glory.
Your true colors are shining through. Truth is being made manifest in you, and that is something to behold.
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