By Father Casey
Every year we mark the end of Epiphany by hearing the story of the Transfiguration. Given that we are named for this manifestation of Christ’s glory, it is always a highlight in our church. I always spend some extra time gazing up at the Transfigured Christ this weekend, particularly since the triptych will soon be veiled for Lent. We have taken care to include more footage of the triptych in our video this weekend, so you can ponder this image and focus upon the One who revealed his divine identity in crystalline brilliance.
I don’t know about you, but these days I could stand for a bit more glory and awe. Maybe it has to do with all the restrictions on our lives, and the way we spend most of our time, including when we worship God, in the same few places. Maybe it’s my restless spirit (I’m an Enneagram 7 for those who care), and my eagerness for new spiritual adventures. Maybe it’s just the intense cold. Whatever the reason, I’m even more jealous than usual of those three disciples who climbed the mountain with Jesus and witnessed his transfiguration.
But as I recently gazed up at the triptych, I noticed something hovering at the top of the panels that I had seen many times before but never really absorbed…the words of God the Father to the disciples as they gazed upon the radiant Christ: “This is my Son, the Beloved, listen to him.”
What a funny thing to say! Not, “This is my Son, look at him!” Not, “This is my Son, bow down and worship him.” God says, “This is my Son, listen to him.” Which has me thinking that what we all need right now aren’t mountaintop experiences of raw mystical power, but more regular experiences of simply listening to Jesus. Because for most of us, myself included, yearning for moments of spiritual transcendence is mostly just a distraction from the real work of faithfulness. It turns out that if we want a deeper journey into the mystery of God, the first step is to listen more carefully to Jesus.
So this Lent, we’re going to do just that. We’re going to listen carefully to Jesus. In particular, in our Wednesday Lenten Program, we will focus on exploring Matthew 5-7, commonly known as the Sermon on the Mount. It begins with the extraordinary and seemingly backward declarations of blessedness known as the Beatitudes, and goes on to share many of Jesus’ most beautiful and difficult instructions for those who be his followers. I am convinced that if Christians spent more time actually trying to do what Jesus teaches in the Sermon on the Mount, rather than focused on all the things they think he said but never did, it really would be a whole lot more “on earth as it is in heaven” (that line being part of the great prayer he teaches in the Sermon).
There is an endless depth of wisdom and importance in the Sermon on the Mount. I return to it again and again for guidance on what it means to follow Jesus. Not that it’s simple or easy. Quite the contrary. It is big and hard. But in this day and age, when there are so many things vying for our devotion, and when so many voices claim to speak for Jesus and his Kingdom, it is essential that we listen to and obey what he actually says.
So don’t worry if you haven’t ascended the mountain and glimpsed the full brightness of the Lord. Don’t worry if you haven’t yet experienced the transcendent moment of Peter, James, or John. For we have been given all we need, if only we will listen to him.