The Feast of the Transfiguration has always been a favorite of mine. My first preaching assignment in seminary was on Luke 9:28-36, the story of the Transfiguration. And from the beginning I loved this story and all that it said about Jesus. I love to imagine Jesus revealed in all this glory, transfigured and shining like the sun. I love the way that the two greats of the Hebrew Bible, Moses and Elijah, appear next to Jesus, surrounding him with the great cloud of witnesses that have gone before. I love the part where the heavens are torn open and the voice of God thunders through the air: “This is my Son, the Beloved, listen to him!”
I have always loved this story, but I encountered this feast in a new and different way nine years ago. Because nine years ago, on the Feast of the Transfiguration, my daughter Isabelle was born.
It wasn’t the day that she was supposed to come into the world. She was due on August 9, a Feria, a date when there is no feast in the Episcopal Church’s calendar. But she had her own time (or, more rightly, God has God’s own time), and the Feast of the Transfiguration became her natal feast. Every year on this great feast of our Lord, my family celebrates Isabelle. We give her gifts, we bake her cakes, we sing her happy birthday. And, of course, that is meet and right, because there is nothing I’d rather celebrate than this amazing, incredible person I get to know.
But here’s the thing about that Feast of the Transfiguration nine years ago. It didn’t just reveal Isabelle, in all her glory, to the world. It changed me, forever. On this day nine years ago, I was transfigured; I was transformed and re-made. My entire identity shifted; I became a mom. It changed the way that I spend my time and spend my money and spend my energy. It changed who I am and how I relate to the world. It changed my body and my mind and my soul. Isabelle was the one who was born, who came into the world on this day, as the voice of God thundered in my ears: “This is my daughter, the Beloved.” But I was the one who was transfigured.
So it was in my life, and so it is, I believe in all of ours. In fact, I think we learn this when we explore the biblical story. On the Feast of the Transfiguration, Jesus is transfigured: beautifully, powerfully, wonderfully. But he’s not the only one. The disciples who see him, fall to the ground with fear and trembling. Jesus is revealed to them in all his glory, and they (I have to imagine) are also transfigured, changed by what they see and know. The Jesus they see that day is burned onto their brains, burrowed into their lives, and they will never be the same.
That’s how it should be with all of us. Jesus’ transfiguration should transfigure and transform us. We should be just as changed by our encounter with the risen Lord as the disciples were on this day thousands of years ago. And we should be just as changed by our relationship with Jesus as we are by our encounters with the transfiguring people in our lives: our spouses, our children, our friends. In fact, “Christian” should be an even more transformative identity than “mother” or “father” or “spouse” or any of the other names and relationships by which we identify ourselves.
The transfigured Jesus should transfigure all of us, shifting our entire identities. It should change the way that we spend our time and spend our money and spend our energy. It should change who we are and how we relate to the world. It should change our bodies and our minds and our souls.
So today I wonder:
- What are the transfiguration moments in your life?
- How has knowing Jesus transfigured you?