Elijah’s whirlwind.
The Psalmist’ all-consuming fire and raging storm.
Saint Paul’s allusion to the veil covering Moses’ entire face.
The cloud completely overshadowing the mountain.

We are surrounded.
Surrounded as Jesus,
as Peter, James and John.
Surrounded as Moses.
Surrounded as Elijah and Elisha.
Are surrounded.
Surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses.

Surrounded by
God’s glory come among us as Law and Prophets.
God’s glory come among as Christ Jesus.

Surrounded by
Christ’s manger on one side.
And Christ’s cross on the other.

Surrounded by
harbingers of Jesus’ crucifixion.
And the unflinching expectation of something beyond death.
“Tell no one until after the Son of Man has risen from the dead.”

We are surrounded this day
by so great a cloud of witnesses.
The great law giver and God’s chosen people,
who left captivity in Egypt
and journeyed onward to the Promised Land.

Surrounded by the prophets.
whose voice did not falter in passing
from one generation to the next.
From Elijah to Elisha.

Surrounded by a few of the disciples,
who had left their livelihoods to pursue
the promise of new kingdom,
whose pax is Christi and not Romana.

Surrounded by countless other faithful,
the saints,
who with Mary and Joseph, and
the whole company of heaven,
are a great cloud of witnesses
to the promise of God in Christ Jesus.

Christ Jesus
who stands this day
amidst all that has come before,
and turns toward all that will come ahead.

Celebrates God’s promises of old,
and looks toward what is yet to come.

Transfiguration, we call it.

An alluring idea.
Flashy like bling.
Until one considers the origin.

Latin: transfigurare.
To change.
To renew.

Peter’s response is not unlike our own
when faced with transfigurare.
Fear.
Anxiety.

True, one can have a
different response.
One can embrace change.
Champion renewal.

But far more prominent is Peter’s response.
He is, the bible tells us, downright terrified.
And is captive to the notion
that if it can’t be like it was,
perhaps it is at least possible to freeze time now.
Before the long walk to Jerusalem.
And brutal climb up another hill.
To be lifted high on a cross.

“Rabbi, it is good for us to be here;
let us make three dwellings,
one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”

Safe. Sheltered. Secure.

But here’s the thing about staying here.
About staying put.
Present so quickly becomes past.
And past never gets to the Promised Land.

God in Christ Jesus has a different way.
A transfigured way.
Yes, to the past.
And, yes, to the promise of future.
Where transfiguration becomes resurrection.

And this:
yes, to the journey.
The journey from lofty heights,
through perils unknown,
and paths as yet untrodden.
All toward a promised tomorrow.
For who else will take such a journey?
If not Christ.
If not us.
The body of Christ.

Who else would forego the views from the lofty heights of a mountain top,
would journey down the mountain side
to the dreary road ahead.
if not Christ.
If not us.
The body of Christ.

Embracing the hungry and the broken.
Confronting powers and prejudice and principalities.
Accompanying those who struggle.
Advocating for the needy.

Who else would seek out the sparrows of the world,
if not Christ.
If not us.
The body of Christ.

The sparrows of our world
who need but touch the cloak of his garment.
The countless of this city who long for meaningful community.
Students laden with unmanageable debt.
Children and families coming to these shores,
from other lands and other cultures.

Who else,
if not Christ.
If not us.
would say of the great cloud of witnesses
that are and are yet to be:
you are the body of Christ.

The body of Christ,
which receives its wholeness in being made whole
while at the same time being broken and given for others.
The body of Christ which meets the harshness of this world,
with meekness and with God’s very own steadfast love.
The body of Christ
which receives newness of life in laying it down.
For those who by no merit of their own are called friends.

God calls us,
Calls the body of Christ,
not to set up camp on a mountain,
safely away from view,
safely away from pain and struggle,
but right in the midst of the road that leads forward.
Not to shield Christ.
But to show Christ.
So that the glory of Christ transforms all in all.

Perhaps that’s the key to transfiguration
and the journey it calls us to.

Travel it, embrace it,
confident in its promise.
Confident from transfiguration to resurrection.
Confident today for tomorrow.