Meditation on This Sunday's Gospel
by Kristin Berkey-Abbott
The readings for Sunday, February 14, 2010:
First Reading: Exodus 34:29-35
Psalm: Psalm 99
Second Reading: 2 Corinthians 3:12--4:2
Gospel: Luke 9:28-36 [37-43a]
All of the readings for this Sunday talk of transfigurations, and in addition, it's Valentine's Day, which celebrates transfiguration in a different way. How are you longing to be transfigured these days?
At work, I'm surrounded by people who are on various kinds of diets. They involve strange potions and sessions with guides and unusual foods prepared in unusual ways. All this, so my colleagues can be transfigured into a thinner version of themselves.
Many of us love Valentine's Day because we hope that love will transfigure us in similar ways. Someone will come along who can overlook our faults and will focus on the reasons that we are loveable. Many of us go through our lives in various states of self-loathing, and Valentine's Day holds out the promise that not everyone judges us as harshly as we judge ourselves.
That's the message of the Gospel, too, isn't it? God loves us, just as we are. And yet God has a much bigger vision at the same time--for the world and for us. God, too, has a transfiguring dream.
In Peter, we see the human tendency to hang on to those transfiguring moments: "Let's build booths! Let's stay here awhile!"
We see this tendency in our self-improvement attempts. We want to return to earlier times when we felt transfigured, when we felt that anything might be possible: a thinner self, a smarter self, a more attractive self. Sometimes we see this tendency play out in darker ways. We grow tired of our families who know us so well, so we are tempted to find love in the arms of someone new, someone who can make us feel transfigured again.
We can see this tendency in church too. We fall in love with a new church, and then as we grow more familiar with the church and its members, we want something more. We go church shopping for that church that can make us feel the thrill of transfiguration again.
Throughout the Scriptures, we see this tension between the mountain top and the flat land experience. We feel the thrill of meeting God, and then we have to figure out how to live our daily lives afterwards. Some of us will spend our lives in permanent quest mode, going from one mountain top to the next, looking for spiritual thrill. Some of us will try to convince ourselves that the mountain top experience wasn't real, that it didn't matter, that it wasn't as profound as we know that it was. Some of us will try to live our daily lives transfigured: at our best, people, convinced that we have some yoga regime or diet that they need to know about, will ask us for our secret.
Many of us approach Lent in that spirit of transfiguration. We give up something for Lent or we add something for Lent, hoping to feel that thrill of transfiguration. But once Lent is over, we shouldn't forget our Lenten disciplines. It's too easy to let our daily lives take over. It's too easy to forget the Gospel message of transfiguration and resurrection. God calls us to transfigured lives so that we can help in the repair of the world.