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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.

Any face can shine at any time.

War and other, smaller scale murders tragically destroy this.

Poverty, and sometimes charity, ignore and insult this.

Rape and abuse warp, exploit, and damage this.

Neglect and the frantic idolatry of productivity miss and dismiss this.

But day after day of us not seeing or appreciating glory doesn't mean it's not there; the world is charged with the grandeur of God, Hopkins reminds us, and Scripture repeatedly pinpoints it in the human face, which is often the last place we think, or want, to look.

Late at night, in pitch darkness, Jacob wrestled with a stranger who disappeared before dawn and refused to leave a business card.

Jacob named the place where it happened Face of God, then looked up to face the music.

His twin brother, big hairy scary Esau, was running toward him.

Jacob, who stole his birthright, had been running away from him for decades.

Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept.

Jacob said, truly to see your face is like seeing the face of God.

He got away as quickly as he could.

Marianne Williamson writes:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?

Actually, who are you not to be?

You are a child of God.

Your playing small does not serve the world.

There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you.

We are all meant to shine, as children do.

We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.

It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone.

The disciples were terrified.

The people around Moses were afraid to come near him.

The driver at the stop sign spots the beggar with the cardboard sign and desperately tries to avoid eye contact with glory.

The soldier facing the enemy tries to see the enemy without a face.

Glory overwhelms us, so we try a thousand ways to reduce, redirect, redecorate, resist it.

We veil it with platitudes and pragmatism, excuses and escape hatches, but thanks be to God, we cannot run away from it forever.

Once a year, the church reminds us that the face of God will find us.

And embrace us, kiss us, weep on our neck and make a fuss over us, astonish and

overwhelm us with love so pure and intense it terrifies and dazzles us.

Remember that you are glory, and to glory you shall return.

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