The vagaries of the calendar and the cycles of the moon bring in an early Lent and Easter this year, and so the transfiguration has come early too, cutting short the season of Sundays after Epiphany. Unexpectedly, we find ourselves back up on the mountain with Jesus. We were just there to hear him describing those who populate the kingdom of heaven. Now he returns, not with all the disciples this time, but only the insider troika of Peter, James and John.
When Sister Mary Corita was asked to submit a piece of her artwork for consideration in the Vatican exhibit at the 1964 New York World’s Fair, she chose to do a piece on the Beatitudes. Although it was not finally selected for the exhibit, the 4’ by 40’ banner is a dynamic, vibrant testament to Christ’s message.
Once again, Jesus is led by the Spirit into the wilderness for a critical encounter. This time he meets not Satan, but a most unlikely angel. In the heat of the day, a messenger of God joins him for a life-giving exchange.
We are a nation of spiritual seekers. We are hungry to learn about the life of the spirit, although many of us hesitate to translate that hunger into institutional allegiance. The majority of us are “unchurched.” Others are drawn to “seekers’ churches.” Still others are exploring the life of the spirit within a denomination and a tradition.
Lent tears us from the glow of Christmastide and Epiphany and propels us into a harsh new season. The early warning signs—the flight into Egypt, Rachel’s uncontrollable wailing, the talk of the cost of discipleship—were easy to gloss over while the “Noels” were still ringing in our ears.
The transfiguration story is dramatically staged on a mountain peak
lit with a bright, even blinding light. The mountain setting is
familiar: as an Arizona native, the landmarks of my world were Squaw
Peak, Camelback, North Mountain and South Mountain.
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