Feast of the

Transfiguration. The readings for today lead into the Transfiguration with part of a vision of the mythical prophet Daniel. It was written during the persecution of the people of God by that awful little tyrant Antiochus IV Epiphanies. It was he who perpetrated what the-Bible calls the abomination of desolation when he erected a statue of Zeus in the Temple at Jerusalem around 167 BC.

A similar threat was made by Caligula who wanted a statue of himself in the Temple a couple of hundred years later - which would have been even worse, after all he was far uglier than Zeus. Anyway, the prophet in his vision sees the mysterious figure of the Son of Man enthroned at the court of God, the Ancient of Days. This figure, the Son of Man, has been the subject of a vast amount of theological discussion over the centuries. But whatever, it does represent one who will assure the eternal reign of the Most High and one also who represents humanity taken up into the heavenly places of God's glory. This far Christians is the explanation of Jesus using the title in reference to himself. Similarly it represents all who stuffer now for their faith, but who will rejoice hereafter with heavenly glory.

We see in the Epistle reading from the Second Letter of S. Peter that the events of the Transfiguration had served to confirm the faith of those Apostles whom Jesus had taken with him. S. Peter and the others who were there had seen, and S. Peter wants to share this experience and conviction with his fellow Christians. He wants to assure them that Christ is no myth, but a living person who can lead them to the light.. This assurance of the living Lord will lead into the assurance also of his return in glory, with power. Sometimes of course there can be the feeling that these letters written two, thousand years ago to people of whom we have little knowledge somehow lack relevance for people today. But the fact is that they are written to us as much as they were to the original recipients. The contents are as relevant to us as they were to those who walked in the faith before us. The people who first heard these letters read were people such as ourselves, in the world, surrounded by people of false belief or no belief, who were intent on questioning and undermining the faith of believers. But S. Peter can say I was there and I saw; I know the Lord.

This event we know as the Transfiguration occurred near Caesarea Philippi because that is near where S. Peter made his confession of Jesus as the Messiah. This we learn from the Gospel of Mark. Just to the north of Caesarea is Mt. Hermon so it seems likely that this is the mountain climbed by Jesus with his three friends exactly one week later. The recording of this precise interval of time is an indication that the Gospel writers considered the two events to be linked. The events on the mountain were to be an impressive confirmation of Jesus' teaching at Caesarea. In response to Peter's proclamation of Jesus` Messiah ship, Jesus made three main points. First, that the Messiah would suffer; that his disciples must be ready to share in his suffering; and that his suffering, and theirs, must be seen against a backdrop of ultimate and assured glory. Here, in this experience on the mountainside, they have a fore­taste of the glory to come. And a voice from heaven bids them to take heed of what God’s Son is saying to them. The voice from heaven clearly links this Transfiguration event on the mountain to Jesus' baptism in the Jordan at the very beginning of his ministry. At that time when Jesus had received his commission to be both Messiah and Servant of the Lord, the same voice had confirmed him in his mission. Now, on the mountainside when he has begun to reveal to his disciples what this mission is and where it is taking him, the voice again comes to confirm his wards to his hearers.

But, is the Transfiguration then merely a stage, in the disciple instruction and teaching? I think not. It was also a time of deep crisis in the life of faith of Jesus himself. S. Luke points to this when he tells us that Jesus went up the mountain to pray. The researches of that wonderful Anglican mystic Evelyn Underhill who is beginning to be read once again, and others, have shown that the intense devotions of saints and mystics are often accompanied by physical transformation and a luminous glow. Jesus' experience here was so profound that the disciples in that susceptible state between waking and sleep were drawn into it. The very fact that Jesus chose these three friends who were later to go with him to Gethsemane suggests that then, as now, he anticipated some trial on the spiritual plane that would make him glad of their presence. S. Luke gives us an idea of the nature of the trial when he tells us that Moses and Elijah appeared andspoke with Jesus of the trial which awaited him and of what he would accomplish through his death in Jerusalem. This was not the first time that Jesus had faced the prospect of death in the accomplishment of his mission. From the beginning he had accepted the prophecy of the Suffering Servant as being the guiding principle of his ministry. But it is one thing to believe that obedience to God's will can lead eventually to rejection and death; it is quite another to embrace that prospect as an immediate human fact. The Greek word used by S. Luke here for death is an unusual one - exodos - and his use of it clearly links it to its use in the OT where it speaks of God's deliverance of his people from slavery in Egypt. At Jerusalem Jesus will deliver God's people from an even greater bondage than that of Egypt: the spiritual bondage which threatens us all and is total. Jesus' walk until new had been one of absolute obedience to his Father, but these paths had been similar to those of his forerunners such as Moses and Elijah. But now he stood at the brink of a new experience; he had to travel a path which had never been trod before, a path which would lead to the spiritual agony of the Garden of Gethsemane and beyond to the Cross of Calvary. And from now on he would be utterly alone: he set his face towards Jerusalem, and the cloud of the divine presence overshadowed him and his.

This Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord is not merely a recalling of this experience of Jesus on the mountainside, of the shining light, of the divine glory. It reminds us that perseverance m the service of the Father leads to the vision of glory. The vision experienced by the disciples was only a fleeting glimpse, but one which they treasured always. It may well be that we have experienced something of the glorious vision also.

But following the experience of the vision comes the command, Listen to him. Listening must be something we do day by day, it is a present task: seeing is for the end of time. In the here and now it in the faces of those who do listen and obey the woard of God to them, that the eternal face of God can be seen. It is they who increasingly reflect the image of God in which they were created as they grow closer to him in their walk with him.