Sometimes as I leave for work in the morning, Greg says Have a sparkling day! He is not being facetious. I know that God enters our ordinary life all the time, infusing it with glimmers of glory. As we move through our days along with other people of God, the highlights and lowlights of ordinary life reveal the presence of God. In the moment, however, I do not always perceive the sparkles. Do you? The scriptures reflect this. They are infused with awe-inspiring moments, framed by stories of mystery, wisdom, treachery, and suffering. The Almighty mingles moments of extraordinary holiness with the stuff of ordinary life, and we push back against the sparkly moments.
Moses descends the little mountain and his face is glowing – not because he remembered to exfoliate but because he is reflecting the glory of God. For those who believe the ancient tradition that those who see God will die, Moses’ glow is dangerous and frightening, so he veils his face. A moment of extraordinary holiness is mingled with anxiety. What glowing truth do we hide from others because it is unsettling?
The psalm proclaims God as sovereign. This is a moment of holy awareness for Israel, likely met with snorts of derision from the powerful neighboring empires. Can a moment of holiness survive if no one else believes?
Paul’s second letter to the people of Corinth is a long instruction and an admonition, because they have given great heartache to the apostle and to one another. His criticism is of those who use their knowledge to glorify themselves above others. A moment of holiness can be corrupted by egoism and ambition.
Jesus is transfigured on the mountain. The dazzling vision and the voice from heaven are an extraordinary moment of revelation mingled with profound mystery. This is foundational Christology. As a human being, Jesus reveals God’s absolute solidarity with and love for humanity. As the divine Son of God, Jesus reveals God’s expansive vision of eternal relationship with humanity. The divine nature of Jesus of Nazareth anchors, encompasses, and transcends his humanity. Jesus of Nazareth is not limited by any of the particulars of his finite human nature: gender identity, religion, ethnic identity, time or location. This divine identity shatters everything that could restrict his power and his presence in the world.
This revelation, literally a glowing truth, while life-changing, is unsettling. It is not surprising that Peter wants to construct a shrine: this is a way to control the revelation. Descending the mountain, the three apostles do not discuss their experience with the others. Can a moment of holiness survive if no one would believe it? As Jesus and his companions get closer to the time of his crucifixion in Jerusalem, there is a lot of jostling for power among the disciples. Who can sit at Jesus’ right and left? With whom will Jesus share his glory? Their experiences of holiness are diluted when they allow their egos, ambitions, and fears to dominate their conversations.
It is only after the resurrection – when the gospel stories are repeated and finally transcribed – that it all comes together and makes any sense.
We conclude our season of Epiphany with songs of alleluia and celebration of the light of Christ which has come among us. We have been up on the mountain and it is time to walk down as we prepare to enter Lent. Lent is not just a season of shadows and repentance. It is also a season in which we seek the beauty and sanctity of a life with God. The Holy One invites us – all the time – to consider pursuing a life marked by moments of holiness which we can experience amid our daily life. We are possibly moving into the closing days of Coronatide, possibly on the verge of a new global crisis, and we all carry abundant worries about the future. What better time could there be to embrace an intentional spiritual experience? Not as an escape – but as a quest for meaning, for strength and serenity, for grounding.
Let us not put a veil over the glowing truth that we believe that God has come among us.
Let us nurture the sense that we can encounter holiness, even as we worry that it may evade us.
Let us not seek to glorify ourselves but to seek the glory of God and share that with others.
Let us allow ourselves to be transfigured into the image of God, which is our true identity.
May you have a sparkling week.