February 2021

Transfigured or Disfigured

Transfiguration Sunday, February 14, 2021
Mark 9:2-10

– The Reverend Dr. Arnold Isidore Thomas –


Have you ever had a mountain-top experience where you suddenly saw things, including yourself, in a totally different light? Jesus had a mountain-top transformation where his outward appearance glowed with a brilliant radiance in the company of Israel’s greatest law-giver, Moses, and Israel’s greatest prophet, Elijah, confirming that he was the fulfillment of the law and the prophets.

The holy company with whom Jesus was seen also had life-changing, mountain-top experiences. One such experience for Moses was his encounter with the burning bush on Mount Horeb, where God summoned him to go to Egypt and free his people, though Moses doubted his abilities, partly due to his inability to speak properly. He may have stuttered or had another kind of speech impediment.

You may remember Brayden Harrington, the 13-year old boy who stuttered, who then-presidential candidate Biden encouraged to speak to a nation-wide audience because they shared a similar experience of learning how to convey their thoughts and feelings to others despite their stutter.

God would enable Moses, who complained about his slowness of tongue and speech, to become the voice of God to the world’s most powerful ruler of his time, Pharaoh. Moses would return to Mount Horeb, also known as Sinai, to receive the commandments of God and share them with his people.

Elijah, considered Israel’s greatest prophet, also had doubts about his abilities, despite the colossal feats he performed in God’s behalf before the evil rulers Ahaz and Jezebel. He too had a mountain-top encounter with God at Horeb where God turned him around and emboldened him to face the enemies from which he fled, this time, assured that God would be his shield. Elijah, according to Jewish folklore, never died, but was taken up by a fiery chariot into heaven, and would return to announce the coming of the Messiah.

Have you ever had a mountain-top experience where you suddenly saw things, including yourself, in a totally different light? In other words, have you ever been transfigured? What does it mean to be transfigured? It means to be both physically and spiritually transformed into a new awareness of who you are in relation to the world and to God.

One might imagine that such a revelation would warrant the need to share this exciting news with others. But after his transfiguration, Jesus cautions his inner circle of disciples – Peter, John and James – to tell no one what they saw until his resurrection.

Why this silent Christ? Most likely, the transfiguration the disciples experience, though mentioned before his death, probably occurred after Jesus rose from the dead. The silent Christ, therefore, more accurately conveys the quiet uncertainty the disciples shared about Jesus until his resurrection. The story of the transfiguration is less a story about Jesus than it is about his followers, including you and me.

Have you ever had a mountain-top experience where you suddenly saw things, including yourself, in a totally different light?

The parable of the Good Samaritan, in light of the question posed to Jesus as to who is my neighbor, most recently prompted me to write a letter to a neighbor I’ve known almost as long as I’ve lived in Vermont. But he and I have never gotten too close because of our religious and political differences in which both of us felt affirmed and secure. However, the enormous, even hostile, divisions that now exist among Americans, has urged me to reconsider our relationship.

“Dear neighbor,” I wrote, “it is probably as difficult for me to write this letter as I it is for you to read it. We have found refuge and reliance in our separate convictions of belief, content that as long as we stayed in our own lane, we were willing to live and let live. But I believe our nation has so dissolved to a level of incivility that we need to be reminded of better ways by which we may live with each other. My intent is not to change you, but to better understand and appreciate you. And maybe in that attempt a seed is planted for whatever change might occur in each of us for the better, and for the survival of our humanity,” I said.

To be transfigured is to be both physically and spiritually transformed from a previous state of disfigurement to a new awareness of who you are in relation to the world and to God. May God continue to shape and mold you into an ever-evolving likeness of divine radiance. Amen.