Scripture: Luke 9:28-36 (NRSV)
Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, 'Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah'- not knowing what he said. While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, 'This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!' When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.
I had a friend in college who was painfully shy. Not just independent or introverted - the kind of person who enjoys their own company or who needs to recharge in a solo sort of way - my friend was one of those people who actually wanted to be closer to hustle and bustle, taking in the scene, meeting new people, and feeling like he was, as he said, "really in college." But whenever he tried, he found the experience terrifying and tongue-tying. Truly painful. He never lasted very long. In fact, there were times when we tried going out in a big group, only to see him passing back out of the door before the rest of us were even in. We his friends were full of suggestions and game to help in any way; to no avail. It was all too much.
All of which is to say, we were astonished when Denise called him up and asked him out for coffee. It was in the days before texting and email, so there was no way to summon the council of advisors for a consultation before sending our shy friend off to the Atticus Bookstore - he put on his coat with an air of puzzlement and off he went, out into a New Haven late afternoon. We wondered how soon we could expect him back. But he didn't come back quickly, at all. In fact, when he returned, two and a half hours later, it was clear that he was transformed. Not just hey-the-coffee-seemed-to-go-well-that's-cool. Transformed. His face shone with a kind of deep happiness that we had never seen in him. It was clear that his life was already different. Three years later, at the wedding, many of the guests refused to believe that actually, the groom had ever been shy, at all.
When the church celebrates the Transfiguration of Jesus, it's a story about how Jesus shows who he really is. He is changed, transfigured, before the disciples' very eyes. But I think we tell the story, not only because the veil is lifted to show who Jesus is, but because it reminds us how God's love shows who we truly are. The story reminds us that our faces should also be set aglow, because when we understand that we are loved by God, and seek to love God in return, we are transformed - our faces shine with a kind of deep happiness that is all too rarely seen in the world. It is the long-awaited beginning of God's future in our lives.
That's not just a message for the mountaintop. It's a message that exalts every valley, and makes the rough places plain. It's a message the world needs so very much to hear.
God, may your love warm us in the quiet of our hearts, and shine on our faces, so that we may bring the good news of your transformation to a world where so much seems stuck, dark, and unable to speak its truth. Amen
Senior Minister of the Second Congregational Church UCC in Greenwich, Connecticut