2 Corinthians 3:12 – 4:2
One doesn’t hear this often these days, but like some of you, I grew up in the church. Indeed, like a few of you, I grew up as an Anglican. When Sunday rolled around in our household, there was never any question about what we would be doing when we got up, or what clothes we should put on, it was simply part of our routine. The Koester family got up, put on our church clothes, and went to church. As kids, this meant that we weren’t available to play with our friends on Sunday, until after lunch. At times, such a routine was a great imposition on our social life, but we also knew that the only way to get out of church was to be sick, but all that meant is that Mum or Dad stayed behind with you, and everyone else headed out the door. Not even our ploys to break free of the routine were worth trying very often. Even as sick (and especially if it was only one of those mysterious childhood illnesses, which lasted only as long as Church did) we had to stay in bed all day. Even church wasn’t as boring as being forced to stay in bed, when bed was in fact the last place you really wanted to be.
Such a childhood had a great many advantages, but it has meant that, unlike some others of you here, I never made a conscience decision to be an Anglican, much less a Christian: that’s just the way things worked out. At times, I have missed what sounds to have been an important moment in a life as the decision is made as an adult, to become an Anglican or accept the truth of Christianity. At times I have missed that opportunity to make a mature adult decision, because every once in a while I think that my faith hasn’t progressed much past the stage it was in when I sat at those little tables in Sunday school colouring various Bible stories.
Several years ago, all of this came to the fore when I began an introductory course to the New Testament at University. One day, quite casually, my professor announced that in order for something to be theologically true, it need not be historically true, like for instance, he went on to say, the resurrection. But wait a minute, I screamed (at least I screamed to myself), it must be historically true, I coloured it! I spent many mornings sitting in that Sunday School room colouring these various stories, that have to be true!
A few weeks later, the same professor announced that the transfiguration was just an example of some early New Testament editor moving stories around to suite his needs. The transfiguration was after all, he told us, simply another resurrection story, which, to make a point, some nameless editor had moved from the end of the gospels, to the place we find it today. But I coloured it, was my immediate, although I assure you, unspoken reaction.
So here I am, fifty some years later, and every so often all I can do at times is scream, But wait a minute, I coloured it, when I hear something I’m not so sure about. It’s taken me years to discover that I coloured it is not an adequate defence of the gospel, or a profession of faith. I coloured it does not hold much water in very many places. Imagine my surprise then, when I discover that, I coloured it, doesn’t even hold much water for me these days.
I find that I can no longer read Scripture and say, right, that must be true, I coloured it. Imagine my surprise then, as I continually discover that the Bible has more meaning in my life than simply pictures I coloured long ago in that Sunday school room at St. Mary’s Anglican Church in Regina. Imagine my surprise then, when I discover that the transfiguration isn’t just a picture to colour, but an event that actually has something to do with my life.
For the a long time, stories that we find in Scripture, stories like the transfiguration, have been, for me at least, stories just about Jesus. They tell us who Jesus is and about his relationship to the Father. They tell us about where he came from, and where he is going. They tell us who and why and what he is. They are stories about another person, in another time, in another place, just like those pictures I coloured years ago. Imagine my surprise then, when I discover that these stories aren’t just about Jesus, they are about us as well.
How many sermons have any of us heard (and maybe even some of us preached) whose whole thrust is simply to tell us that in the transfiguration Jesus is revealed to us as God’s son. Now, as far as that goes, it’s true, and conveniently for some Sunday School teacher somewhere, that’s an easy enough picture for any of us to colour. But how many times are we reminded that in the transfiguration OUR true identity is revealed, as the daughters and sons of God. Now that’s not so easy to colour, and once again I can hear my New Testament professor say: in order for something to be theologically true, it need not be historically true.
But how is this so, you may be asking. How is it that in this story of Jesus on the Mount of the Transfiguration where he is shown to be the beloved son of God, do we discover our true identity as the beloved of God? How do we get from him, to you and me, and from there to here? Well, we get here from there and from him to us, by first going somewhere else. We must first, with Jesus, go to the Jordan River and there be baptized by John the Baptist, for it is in our baptism that our life becomes hid with God in Christ. It is in our baptism that we become members of Christ and children of God. It is in our baptism that we begin to discover our true identity as the beloved daughters and sons of the Most High.
So the transfiguration isn’t just some story about who Jesus is, it’s also a story about who we are as God’s beloved. It is a story about the ways in which God reveals OUR glory for all the world to see. It is a story about us and our relationship to the Father. It is a story about where we have come from, and where we are going. Sure, the story of the transfiguration is about Jesus, and that’s important, but because it is about him, it is also about us.
So what happens today on this holy mount is not just about Jesus and some vision of brilliance seen by Peter, James, and John. It is also about us, and how our true identity as the beloved children of God manifests itself to all who have the eyes to see. For in Christ, we too shine with that same dazzling brilliance of Christ’s belovedness. We too shine with the glory of God’s love. We too are transfigured with remnant white and glistening, because we too are the beloved of God. We too are God’s chosen ones. We too are God’s sons and daughters.
So take your paper, lots of paper. And take your crayons, lots of crayons: yellows and whites, golds and oranges, blues and greens and colour yourself shining with all the brilliance of God’s glory. Colour yourself not as the world sees you, but as God sees you. Colour yourself as you truly are, the beloved one of God. Colour yourself as God sees you, precious in His sight. Colour yourself as God’s chosen daughter or son. Colour yourself and discover that the transfiguration isn’t just about Jesus, back then, over there, but it is also about you, now, here and listem for that voice of God which says to you, and for all the world to hear: This is my daughter, my son, my Chosen.
So get out your crayons and colour yourself. Colour yourself, and know that the transfiguration is true.
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