Sunday Message for 27 February 2022: “Beyond the Facade”

Welcome to Transfiguration Sunday, a time to consider God’s fantabulous, transforming power. The evocative word transfiguration describes how Jesus revealed his ultimate core of spiritual energy. This Sunday’s lectionary reading describes the transfiguration from Luke’s perspective and there’s a similar version in Matthew 17:1-9.

The transfiguration story began as Jesus was trekking with three of his closest friends (Peter, James and John). After they reached a mountaintop, Jesus shared an extraordinary experience. God is variously described as Spirit and love, but here Jesus visually unveiled his spiritual DNA: “[A]nd his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white” Matthew 17: 2). Such a fantastic scene stretches the imagination.

As if Jesus radiating like a star were not enough, next appeared the Old Testament prophets Moses and Elijah, who had been dead for hundreds of years. Jesus’ three friends saw these prophets speaking with Jesus and it’s an ongoing curiosity what they were discussing. Responding to all this, Peter unthoughtfully blurted out an idea of constructing three celebratory shrines. Peter’s impulse to celebrate the transfiguration is understandable given that throughout history people have adored sacred spots as sites for pilgrimage and worship.

God frowned upon Peter’s impulsive idea to create another holy hotspot. The Almighty’s voice pierced the air to direct attention back to Jesus: “Then from the cloud came a voice that said, ‘This is my Son, my Chose; listen to him!’ “ (Matthew 9:35). After hearing God’s thunderous words, Peter James and John fell to the ground as if fatally struck. When they recovered, Moses and Elijah had vanished and Jesus told his disciples to not spread news of what happened until after his death.

Peter’s impulse to make a religious monument demonstrates a desire to enshrine spiritual experiences into physical structures. Buildings and monuments can’t do justice to God’s presence and they are never a substitute for it. That’s why it’s crucial for people to obtain spiritual awakening to perceive the spiritual reality behind life’s material façade. God’s voice calls to you in the same way as to Jesus’ three disciples. In other words, be empowered by your connection to the Almighty rather than attempting to cement it in stone or doctrine.

The transfiguration wasn’t long-lived, suggesting the transient nature of intense spiritual events. Some people who seek power twist teachings about spiritual gifts and concoct false experiences. Jesus’ transfiguration wasn’t a sideshow entertainment or a Hollywood special effects show. People of faith are energized by God’s spirit, the source of wonders, but the point isn’t the sensationalism of a Las Vegas show or a bunch of showy parlor tricks. Instead, God’s spiritual core can ignite your spiritual potential for a transformed life.

Once down from the mountain, Jesus’ and his friends met the harsh reality of peoples’ sufferings. As always, spiritual highs won’t last. Nonetheless, challenges and miseries needn’t undermine your relationship with God, who can elevate you over life’s negativity. Share whatever gifts and blessings God has for you, including with people who have been resistant to God, or those for whom life circumstances leave them stranded in valleys of sorrow or sickness. Whether on the mountain or in the valley, God can transform problems into possibilities.

Life is richer than what appears on the surface. Consider how the power of spirit can shine through you beyond the external shell of your earthly body. Underneath a veneer of skin you are blessed with incredible possibilities that you can leverage. How and when your spiritual potential is realized depends on your willingness to recognize and use it. Dare to consider that Jesus’ transfiguration is already inside you, waiting to be unveiled after you overcome whatever is holding you back.

You needn’t trek up a mountain to find God. Faith activates your glowing witness here and now, such that you are a beacon of hope for a dark and hurting world. Your true spiritual substance shines whenever you adopt loving attitudes and actions, also known as compassion. Unleash all that God has for you by embracing your brothers and sisters of our one human family. Love your neighbor as yourself and follow Jesus’ golden rule of doing to others as you would have them do to you.

As tempting as it is to covet dramatic religious experiences, the challenge is to remain motivated and energized in day-to-day life. Being addicted to highs and creating artificial ones through substances, self-deception or bad relationships will impede your spiritual health. The most natural and organic way to experience God is to first be open to it directly from the Almighty. Avoid the traps and pitfalls of relying on any third-party for what must be your unique relationship with God.

Consider your potential to energize your faith and shine. Learn to recognize and celebrate the fantabulous energy inside you. As a child of God you’ve already been revitalized from soul-sleep to a spiritual awakening. Now claim your share of the transfiguration as your life shines.

–Reverend Larry Hoxey

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