The year was 2005. My friend from high school and her boyfriend and I were living in an apartment while going to college at the University of Texas at Austin. Those years were some of UT’s golden years. I mean, I was there, and their football team was also on fire. I was laying on our living room floor studying for finals and doing homework while listening to UT battle it out for the national championship against number one ranked USC. We didn’t have cable so we were literally listening to the game on the radio. UT was down until, with no time outs left, on the 5 yard line, and in the last 19 seconds of the game, Vince Young breaks past the USC defense for a touchdown. The final score of the game, 41-38. And y’all, what I remember clearly from that evening was the joy I felt but also the sound that rose up from our entire apartment complex, cars outside, people walking by on the street. It felt as if the entire city around us was cheering. Because that’s what we do when big, amazing things happen. When joyous things happen, we celebrate. Gatorade gets poured on coaches. Since 1987, quarterbacks on the winning team of the Super Bowl, including Mahomes last weekend, get to answer the famous question, “you’ve just won the super bowl, what are you going to do next?” By saying, “I’m going to Disney!”
We celebrate and cheer on friends and family through life events, job opportunities, and all sorts of other things. Today, we honor Mardi Gras Sunday as a celebration before the more reserved and introspective season of Lent begins. We have a natural pull towards celebration and that pull makes our passages today feel so odd and out of place to me.
The Israelites have been led out of slavery, Moses has come down from the mountain and is bringing with him the word, guidance, and laws of God. This is a pivotal, seminal moment, Moses is literally shining with God’s glory. And how do the people respond? With fear and Moses even covered his radiant face to make it easier for them.
Peter, James, and John had just seen Christ connect with God and be transfigured, changed into dazzling glory on a mountain top AND they saw Moses and Elijah AND heard the voice of God. How do they respond? As much as they all argue and bicker over who is the best, who is the favorite, you’d figure Peter, James, and John might want to at least mention their special encounter to the other disciples. No, their final response was to keep silent and tell no one.
To these amazing experiences, separated by hundreds of years, both the Israelites and the disciples responded similarly. After seeing the God’s glorious, shining, beaming, radiance, they all dampen, veil, silence the experience, or miss the point.
But what if the Israelites could have shined just as brightly as Moses? Multiple times the prophet Isaiah called the people an or le goyim, a light unto the nations. Isaiah, 42 “I the LORD have called unto you in righteousness, and have taken hold of your hand, and submitted you as the people’s covenant, as a light unto the nations.” The events in the book of Exodus occurred well before the prophet Isaiah lived, but this passage in Exodus might have been the people’s first chance, first opportunity, to be a shining ray of God’s light and love.
What if Peter, James, and John could have been transfigured along with Christ? On that mountain top, they actually saw Christ in full glory, they saw Moses and Elijah. They saw it, but they didn’t see it, they didn’t fully get it. Their response to this great transfiguration, their response to the glory of God, was this is such a good place, lets build and stay here. Let’s stay up here, bask in it, and keep all this light and experience to ourselves. Maybe their heart was in the right place, wanting to draw close to the glory and stay with the glory forever, but that wasn’t the point. They weren’t meant to make camp up there, disregarding their other friends, the rest of the disciples, the rest of humanity. They were always meant to go back down the mountain and when they did, they said nothing.
God wants us to shine with glorious love, to shine the light of Christ. Through these passages God calls us to live transfigured lives.
Matthew 5:14 –16 “14 “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. 15 No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”
We are not called to horde up the goodness and love of God and keep it just for ourselves. We are not called to bask in God’s love and glory only in isolation. We are not called to obscure and veil God’s glory. God’s love, grace, and glory are meant to shine, they are meant to be shared. This holy day in the life of the church is about the transfiguration of Christ who, like Moses, shone with God’s glory and love and that radiance was meant to be shared by all of us. God wants us to celebrate and let the divine spark within us shine for all the world to see. God wants us to radiate with love, kindness, compassion, patience, humility, and justice. In the light of Christ, we encounter people around us with less judgment and greater compassion. We recognize everyone as created and having inherent sacred worth. We see everyone as our neighbor, as worthy, as beloved, as fearfully and wonderfully made. It isn’t easy, and something within us may want to hide, cover, veil, or run away, but God’s radiance is meant to transform us and transform the world. God’s radiance is meant to shine, meant to be seen and known.
This week, do not be afraid of your light, of the light of God within you. Claim it and own it.
You are meant to shine
Own it. Believe it. Live a transfigured life.
This week, may you shine bright.