Letting It Sink In

Letting It Sink In


The Rev. Erick R. Olsen has served as Pastor of Church of Christ Congregational, Norfolk, CT, since 2003. In addition to being active in the Litchfield North Association and in the wider church, he enjoys running, coffee, bouldering, reading, and time with his wife Tina and their children, Elias, Ellie, and Olivia (and their dog Zoe).

Scripture: Matthew 17:1-9 (NRSV)

Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. Then Peter said to Jesus, "Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah." While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, "This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!" When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, "Get up and do not be afraid."  And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone.

As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, "Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead."

Reflection: Letting It Sink In


Why would Jesus do this? Why bother to deliver an exhilarating, life-changing experience like the Transfiguration – and then insist that the disciples not tell anyone?

As he maddeningly does in a few other Gospel stories, Jesus seeks to prevent word about him from spreading. Why? Wouldn’t – doesn’t – the Word in the Flesh want us to share the power of God’s love incarnate?
Perhaps the key to this conundrum lies in the fact that we are told to wait until the Son of Man rises from the dead. We are instructed to wait for Easter, to wait through Lent.
Between now and the Resurrection, we are invited to use these weeks to think about God’s love as it is revealed to us through this Transfiguration story. This is not an invitation to secrecy – but rather a chance for us to internalize God’s awesomeness and God’s love for us, time to let it really sink in.
We are invited to contemplate or prayerfully consider this teaching in order to claim it for ourselves and make it our own. Sharing comes later. We are able to love more fully as we trust more deeply in the truth that God loves us first. We own the gift in order to give well.
The gift that we receive is love – as is made clear in the first part of this Transfiguration story. We are told that Christ’s clothing becomes dazzling white beyond any bleaching possible on earth. This seems weirdly like a commercial until we pause and consider that it may be a kind of antidote to advertising that makes us feel lacking. Here we are reminded that God is in the business of restoring us in a way beyond any product.
No matter who we are we are welcome here, called into reconciliation. As much as any such Gospel story is about the specialness of Christ – this Good News is also about Christ pointing to God and to what God does for and through us.
In our story, Peter wants to build memorials and make three markers: one for Jesus, one for Moses, one for Elijah. This fits how we deal with memorable events, right?

Along with this, though, in the story’s very next breath – we hear the voice that we assume is from God – saying what we’ve been waiting to hear: “I love this child of God. Listen to him.”
We are beloved in Christ – and our call is to hear what he says. Suppose we took time this Lent to hear with new ears:

            The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand.
I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.
Love one another as I have loved you.

Central to the Transfiguration story and key to our understanding of it is this proclamation that Christ is beloved, or as it says in the Message, he is marked by God’s love. We as members of his body are beloved and marked in this same way.
Maybe all we do this Lent is focus on this: looking within to rediscover our beloved nature. We don’t of course do this to feel privileged or better-than. Our call is to own this beloved identity enough so that we’re willing to follow Jesus fully through to Easter. I will be thinking about that for these next few weeks.


Bless me this Lent, Lord, with quiet time to listen for the truth that I am loved. Transfigure us with love enough to share in ways that heal and help. Amen.


New Prayer Requests:

We ask churches and church leaders to join us in the following prayers either by sharing them during worship, printing them in bulletins, or sharing them in some other way. To make a prayer request, please contact Marlene Gasdia-Cochrane at cochranem@sneucc.org.

Prayers of Intercession:

  • For the people of Ukraine whose lives continue to be shattered by war.
  • For those grieving or suffering due to the ~5,100 gun violence deaths that happened in the US since the start of the new year.
  • For those suffering due to the Turkey–Syria earthquake, where at least 35,000 people are known to have lost their lives, with thousands more injured.
  • For the friends and family of The Rev. Charles E. Ihloff who passed away on January 29, 2023.  Chuck served the  Congregational Church of South Hadley Falls, MA, for 20 years, as well as churches in Connecticut and Maine.
  • For the friends and family of Susan Violet Furness who passed away on  January 15, 2023.  Susan worked for the CT Conference Office of the United Church of Christ, retiring after 29 years as Registrar.
  • For the friends and family of The Rev. Dr. Richard Clinton Diehl who died on January 13, 2023.  Richard was a United Church of Christ minister, serving churches in Connecticut for more than forty years.  
  • For the friends and family of The Rev. Thomas L. Stiers , who died on January 10, 2023.  For almost 30 years, Tom served the First Congregational Church of Greenwich in Old Greenwich, CT.

Prayers of Joy and Thanksgiving:

This Week in History:

February 14, 270 AD (1,753 years ago): St. Valentine, a holy priest in Rome in the days of Emperor Claudius II – who against the emperor's decree performed marriages for young lovers in secret – is said to have been executed. [History

“Study the past if you would define the future.”

Erick R. Olsen

pastor of the Church of Christ, Congregational, in Norfolk, CT

February 13, 2023
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