What day does it fall on? According to the Revised Common Lectionary, The Transfiguration is observed on the Sunday before Ash Wednesday/Lent; in 2016, that’s February 7. Some denominations celebrate in August.
What season are we in? Epiphany/Ordinary Time (January 6 to February 9, 2016)
What’s this day all about?
The Feast of the Transfiguration celebrates the account told in Luke 9:28-36, which occurs just after the disciples have vehemently rejected the idea of Jesus being put to death. Jesus takes Peter, John and James up on a mountain and reveals Himself to them in His glory and splendor. Moses and Elijah are there as well, reflecting Christ’s radiance. Peter is so awestruck by the occurrence that he suggests that he, James and John build three tents in which Jesus, Elijah and Moses can dwell. Immediately after he says this, God speaks from a low, heavy cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my chosen One, listen to Him.” The cloud departs, and Jesus is found alone.
What’s the history of this celebration?
The Feast of the Transfiguration has been celebrated since the late fourth century. It is celebrated at different times of the year in various sects of Christianity, but many celebrate it on the Sunday before Lent, as it reminds us to worship and be strengthened by the glory of God in order to prepare for the upcoming journey to the cross.
What’s it to me?
I am completely taken by the reflective and prophetic imagery in this passage. Just as a cloud of God’s presence descended upon His dwelling place, the tabernacle, a cloud of His presence descends upon God made flesh. Moses and Elijah are, too, rich with meaning. Moses represents the Law of God, Elijah the Prophecy of God, Moses the dead who had been buried, Elijah the living since He had been “taken” and never died. Jesus’ clear superiority as shown in the transfiguration, as Moses and Elijah reflect His glory (rather than producing their own), proclaims that He is Lord over all. Jesus is the true and better Law. He is the true and better Prophet. He is Master over the Living and the Dead. And He is gracious, so very gracious, to show His glory to John, James and Peter who have just scorned His declaration that His death was soon to come.
So, boil it down for me, would you?
The Transfiguration calls us to remember the majesty and glory of Jesus. As He was shown in His splendor, He was proven to be greater than the two “greatest” among the Jews. May we reflect on how much greater He is than anyone else, anything else we exalt, and may this be the spirit in which we begin to prepare our hearts for the season of Lent.
So, how could we observe it?
Read the Lectionary texts.
Pray “the Collect” for The Transfiguration (titled “Last Sunday after the Epiphany“).
Read the hymn on this page alone or with others.
Discuss with friends or family the things that are so natural to magnify as the best, whether they be secular or religious (just as Moses and Elijah were magnified in Jewish culture). After discussion, listen to the song “Jesus is Better” together.
Consider a command of Jesus that is hard for you follow. Ask the Spirit to lead you in obeying God’s call to “listen to” Jesus.
Sit down with your Bible and a concordance (or website) and discover:
– When else in Scripture is a mountain a place where people meet with God?
– When else does a cloud have a role in God’s communication with His people?
– Explain that “transfigured” means “changed or transformed.” Discuss other examples of something changing or transforming.
– Take your kids outside to look at clouds. While you’re gazing, talk about how God loved us so much that He spoke from a huge, low cloud to tell us His deep desire for us – to listen to His Son.
I would love for you to join the conversation. Would you add your voice to the conversation via blog post comments or on my Facebook page and share your thoughts on these questions with us?
What are your ideas for observing The Transfiguration?
Which components of exploring liturgy and the Christian calendar are you thinking about this week?
Is this series serving you well? What are you enjoying? How could it improve?
From Him | Through Him | To Him,