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"Can you see the light?"

If you are looking in the wrong place you will miss the light, the glow that reveals God.


[1] “Rooftop #4” by Carol Aust
[1] “Rooftop #4” by Carol Aust

Mark 9:2-9 and 2 Corinthians 4:3-6

February 11, 2024

Dr. Todd R. Wright


Paul was not one of the three disciples who followed Jesus up the mountain and witnessed the transfiguration. He did not see the radiant light of Jesus like they did. But that doesn’t mean he hasn’t seen Christ’s glory. He has. And he wants the Corinthians to see it and be dazzled by it. But he is convinced that some see it, and some do not.


That failure is not an eyesight problem (as if glasses would help); or a scheduling problem (as if they just missed the moment); but a spiritual problem. Here’s what I mean:


If you are looking in the wrong place you will miss the light, the glow that reveals God.


Paul is saying to the saints and sinners in Corinth, you will miss it if you are resigned to sitting in the darkness, comfortable in the gloom, glad for the shadows that hide your deeds or cover up the evil deeds of others. You might as well be blind to God’s kingdom-bringing work.


Paul goes further in the verse after our lectionary text. Eugene Peterson puts it this way in the Message: “If you look at us, you might miss the brightness. We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives.” So don’t expect to be blown away by our glory, he seems to be saying. We are not the bright light you need to convince you of God’s holiness. Jesus is.

 

I think Mark would have agreed. Peter, James, and John saw Jesus lit up. They stood on the mountain top and saw him transfigured. One minute he was the guy they had followed from the lakeshore – footsore and dusty and covered in homespun, just like them. And the next, he shimmered.


Scott Hoezee compares that moment to a Super Bowl halftime show – like tonight when Usher takes the stage. It will be dazzling![2]


“It’s not the kind of thing designed for radio,” Hoezee chuckles.


But then he goes on: “And yet, at the climax of one of the Bible’s grandest visual light shows of glory, God the Father comes and [doesn’t] advise that the disciples look at Jesus. Nope, [God says,] ‘Listen to him.’”


Wasn’t the light enough? Why do they need to listen?

 

Six days earlier, Jesus had told them that he was going to undergo great suffering, be rejected by the religious leaders, and be killed. And almost before he finished, Peter rebuked him. He had glimpsed who Jesus was before the rest of them and proclaimed him the Messiah!


He scolded Jesus because he couldn’t square the vision of Jesus as the Messiah with Jesus suffering and dying. He couldn’t believe the words he was hearing out of Jesus’ mouth.


To make things worse, Jesus had called him satan – tempter. It broke Peter’s heart and confused the rest of the disciples – was he the Messiah or not?


They were all still questioning their senses almost a week later when Jesus took them up a high mountain.

 

There on that mountain, where earth almost touches heaven, their eyes were opened, dazzled with incandescent light, wowed with visions of heroes from the past, overwhelmed with the voice of God.


It all works together to point them to Jesus’ previous words back down in the valley.


Trust your eyes – Jesus is more than your traveling companion. But trust what he says, too. He is a Messiah who will suffer and die. That ugly truth doesn’t discredit what you are seeing.


In fact, that truth transforms what they are seeing. The light is not just to dazzle; it is to comfort. It will act like a torch to guide them through the darkness that is coming, through the evil that will threaten to undermine everything they believed, through heart-breaking despair!

 

They needed that light.


So do we, as we face darkness and doubts in the days ahead, individually and as a people.


This is a story for us.


That’s why Mark tells it to his worshiping community, and the gospel preserves it for all.


Don’t believe it?


Melinda Quivik asserts strongly: “Every time we gather for worship, we are the disciples on the mountain seeing the carpenter from Nazareth who became our teacher bathed in light.”[3]


Can you see the light? Where? When?

 

The late Frederick Buechner, Presbyterian pastor and author, thinks we do when we see that same holiness shining through the humanness of our neighbors. He writes, “Even with us, something like [the Transfiguration] happens once in a while. [You see it in] the face of a man walking his child in the park, [in] a woman picking peas in the garden, [on a] person listening to a concert, or standing barefoot in the sand watching the waves roll in ... Every so often, something so touching, so incandescent, so alive transfigures the human face that it’s almost beyond bearing.”[4]


Have you seen that light? Have you been lit up by that kind of light?

 

It can happen any time God is present, but especially, I think, when we are doing ministry.


As proof of that Hoezee writes, “Even on days when the disciples and Jesus were by no means having a mountaintop experience and when dazzling garments whiter than white were nowhere to be seen, even then when Jesus smiled kindly at lepers, looked pained to see a ‘sinner’ being shunned by the Temple establishment, or looked winsome after telling a hurting prostitute to go in peace because her sins were forgiven, there was a sense in which the disciples were seeing the face of the divine transfigured in those [perfectly] ordinary moments. They were seeing hints of glory. They were seeing true God of true God, vividly and surprisingly and, yes, dazzlingly on display in God’s One and Only Son, full of grace and truth.”[5]


Have you seen that light, that hint of glory, in ordinary acts of ministry?

 

I am convinced that we need that light.


We are entering a dark stretch in the gospel story. Over the next few weeks Jesus will go down into the valley and everything he predicted will come to pass – rejection and arrest, a sham trial, and his death on a cross. And we will walk with him.


The light of Transfiguration allows us to see in all that darkness and reflect on his words.


It helps us to hold on, especially if, unlike the disciples, we listen all the way to the end – because the last of the string of words six days before the mountain was a promise of resurrection, so that all that darkness will give way to the dawn of hope!


Some will see that truth and embrace it; some people never do.


May the Transfiguration do its blessing work in you! Amen


[1] “Rooftop #4” by Carol Aust
[2] Here and following from his reflections on the text for cepreaching.org, 2/11/18
[3] From her reflections on the text for workingpreacher.org, 2/14/21
[4] From Whistling in the Dark, a doubters dictionary, page 120
[5] Also from his reflections for cepreaching.org, 2/11/18

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