Nothing happens by accident. Everything is purposed by God. All things are in God and God is in all things. Michael Horton, Professor of Systematic Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary, San Diego, relates the following personal story:
Anxiously anticipating the quite premature delivery of our triplets, I will never forget the moment that the doctor looked at me and announced, “They’re all alive!” It was not a foregone conclusion (at least for one of them) and until that report, my wife and I were in suspense. All of the wishful thinking—even from certified medical professionals—could not alleviate that suspense, turning possibility into actuality. I could believe all I wanted in a successful delivery, but I had no promise to rely on, either from God or the doctors, and the intensity of my believing it had nothing to do with the state of affairs. My confidence developed entirely on the words that the doctor uttered. Similarly, the gospel is news because it reports a completed event. Faith does not make something true, but embraces the truth.
Faith does not make the gospel true. Faith embraces the gospel that Jesus is the way, the truth and the light.
The texts in Exodus 24:12-18, 2 Peter 1:16-21 and Matthew 17:1-9 ask each one of us to love others, even when we do not understand them. Seeking to know the common values we hold with all people, helps us to understand and resist judging one another. Faith does not make the belief that every human being is created in the image of God true. Faith embraces the belief that every human being is created in the image of God.
In Matthew 17:1-9, we have a real event with real people involved in a surreal kind of situation, the transfiguration. What Peter, James, and John see is not Jesus becoming something else, but a pulling away of the veil of humanity. They see the divinity of Jesus. Peter, James, and John see God. Faith does not make the belief that Jesus is fully God and fully human true. Faith embraces the belief that Jesus is fully God and fully human. At the transfiguration, Peter suggests the building of three dwellings: one for Jesus, one for Moses, and one for Elijah. Peter wanted a place to meet with God. What’s the bottom line: Faith does not make the belief that all things are in God’s presence and God’s presence is in all things true. Faith embraces the belief that all things are in God and God is in all things. All things are in God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer) and God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer) is in all things. We are then, as Christine Chakoian writes, “…. encouraged to face injustices, speak encouragement, accompany the vulnerable, or challenge corrupt powers.” All things are in God and God is in all things. God, meeting us through epiphanies, manifestations of who God is as God, keeps us climbing the mountain, encountering God and returning to the everyday realities of the world in which we live to make a difference. God transfigures you and me to be more and more like Jesus.
The glory of God inhabits everyday life; stealing in, interrupting and startling us. Others can see God’s glory in us, recognize God’s love at work and see Jesus. God has a warm relationship with us. God loves us and wants us to love others with that same warmth, affection and presence. A warm relationship is characterized by listening, being empathetic, caring, loving, acting and speaking with compassion. The transfiguration gives us hope that whatever happens in our lives, God is in it.
Today is Transfiguration of the Lord Sunday. It culminates the season of Epiphany. Do you expect things to be different because of the manifestation of Jesus as God in the transfiguration? Richard Rohr, the author of The Universal Christ writes, “Take God at face value, as God is. Accept God’s good graciousness, as you would a plain, simple soft compress when sick. Take hold of God and press God against your unhealthy self, just as you are.” Trust and draw from your experience of how God transfigures you because of the manifestation of Jesus in your life. The transfiguration tells us who we are and to whom we belong.
Be Jesus’ presence in the world. By faith embrace the truth that your life can live a bold oddness, warmly confronting what is wrong in our world and loving others. Again Rohr writes, “Take God at face value…. Know how your mind and will play their games…. Be encouraged…. Don’t focus on what you are, but simply that you are!” Remember, all things are in God and God is in all things. Faith does not make the gospel true. Faith embraces the gospel.
Michael Horton, The Gospel-Driven Life: Being Good News People in a Bad News World (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2009), 123-124.
Christine Chakoian as found in Joel B. Green, Thomas G. Long, Luke A. Powery, Cynthia L. Rigby and Carolyn J. Sharp, editors, Connections, Year A, Volume 1 (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2019), 319.
In this textual analysis, I have benefited from the thinking of Gary W. Charles, Carolyn Browning Helsel, Michael Lodahl, Shannon Craigo-Snell, Tommy Givens and Christine Chakoian as found in Connections, Year A, Volume 1, 304-306, 306-307, 311-313, 313-314, 315-317 and 317-319.
Some ideas in the previous sentences are adapted from a sermon preached by The Rev. Dr. A.K.M. Adam. The sermon referenced is on the Transfiguration found in Flesh and Bones (Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2001), 13.
Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ (New York, New York: Convergent, 2019), 224.