Transfiguration of Our Lord - Exodus 34:29-35; 2 Corinthians 3:12—4:2; Luke 9:28-36
Updated: Mar 6, 2022
One of the most powerful moments in a pastor's ministry returns this week.
Once a year (normally), I look into the eyes of total strangers and familiar friends and tell each and all of them they are going to die:
Young children who will die someday;
Hearty, healthy young adults who will die someday;
Busy, overwhelmed career climbers, active empty nesters, and slow-moving, silver haired sages who will die someday.
I know that for somebody in line this will be the last time; I will next apply the cross again over their casket or urn before Ash Wednesday returns.
One by one, I trace the cross on their foreheads in ash and say, Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.
It is completely true, but it is not the complete truth.
There is also more to the story.
Perhaps another word for dust is glory.
Paul tells the Corinthians: And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed from one degree of glory to another... or as Charles Wesley summarized to sing it, changed from glory into glory.
On this Sunday of shining faces, maybe the church could add a new line to the liturgy:
Remember that you are glory, and to glory you shall return.
One danger, of course, is that we might only hear the second half of the sentence.
God's church has a recurring bad habit of locating glory in the afterlife, which is completely true, but is not the complete truth.
There is also glory now, in this life, the party before the afterparty, in every ordinary face around you.
We are usually too weighed down with sleep to notice it, too tired from our climbs up the mountain to see holiness constantly happening all around us.
We tend to treat the Transfiguration as a one-time, special event featuring Jesus, which is completely true, but is not the complete truth.
It is also a momentary unveiling of human eyes to see the way God sees all the time.
From cradle to casket, we are being changed and changed and changed again, from one degree of glory to another, and every degree, every season, every section of our journey—including the slogs of struggle and sadness that are nothing but dust and ash—is a degree of glory.