As I look at the church calendar, it has always puzzled me why the last Sunday before Lent starts is Transfiguration Sunday. Actually I often wonder why we have a Transfiguration Sunday at all. The Transfiguration was an event that happened to just three of the disciples, it doesn’t tell us anything about what Jesus wants us to do. It doesn’t have Jesus doing any teaching at all. But as I began to think about it this year, I have a glimmer of understanding.
Lent is a season of self-introspection. We look at our lives to see where we may have strayed from God, and seek to draw closer to God. In other words the focus is often about us. So it is not unexpected that those who created our church calendar might want to precede it with a day focusing on Christ, just as Lent is followed by a celebration of the resurrection. Again the focus is on Jesus. The Christian life should not focus on us, but upon our Savior.
The other insight I have had this year is that the Transfiguration event was not focused on action. It was focused on being. Peter almost missed it. His reaction was to do something to preserve the moment by building booths. He had seen something amazing, and he wanted to do something to commemorate it, and preserve it. But the Transfiguration was not about the disciples being workers, it was about Jesus being the Son of God. The purpose behind the disciples seeing Jesus transformed and meeting with Moses and Elijah was not to do something, but to catch a glimpse of who Jesus really is. As the voice out of the cloud said, “This is my Son, listen to Him”.
Too often I am focused on doing something. That is not a bad thing, but it can be carried to extremes. When I went on a short term mission to the Congo, this was brought home to me. At the UM school in Mulunguishi we were doing some work projects. We helped build a well house around an existing well, to protect the equipment. We also cleaned up a dorm and put a fresh coat of pain in it. Then we helped with a vacation bible school. At one point I said something about feeling we weren’t accomplishing too much. One of the more experienced short term missioners said, “You’re missing the point. The main reason we are here is not to accomplish deeds, but to develop relationships with the people.” One of the professors also said, “When the students come back next semester we have a teaching point. We can tell them ‘God loves you so much, He sent people from America to make your dorm a nicer place.’” It was not so much what we were doing, as the fact that we were there.
This is a lesson God has to keep reinforcing for me. I still tend to think that what is being accomplished is the most important measure of success. I forget to be: to be present in the moment, to be present with people, to be the person God has created me to be. Being a Christian is partially about doing things. Christ expects disciples to bear fruit and to live in obedience. But Christ also wants to be in relationship with us, and that relationship is based on seeing who Christ is: the son of God, but also fully human. It involves loving God and letting God love us. It involves inviting the Holy Spirit to continue the work of sanctification already begun in our lives. It involves spending enough time with Christ that the divine image becomes visible in us, and we shine with the glory of Christ, just as Moses’ face shone when he had been spending time with God.
Maybe this Lenten season we should commit to being. Yes we should look at what we can do to be more faithful and bear more fruit for the kingdom. But we should also spend time in meditation about just who this Jesus is that we have committed to following.