Matthew 17:1-9 Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.” And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone.
As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, “Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”
by Gerard Manley Hopkins
Suggestion - please read Hopkins poem aloud.
The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.
Reflection What is it you sense when you hear these words? Do you have eyes to see and ears to hear the shining of shook foil? Are you attuned to Divine Presence saturating and streaming through you and all that is? Do you allow yourself to be agog in silence when the grandeur of God like a cumulus cloud cloaks the mountaintop? Or do you join our friend Peter staking a tent to procure perpetuity? Perhaps pull out your cell phone camera to suspend the moment?
Pondering the story of Jesus and his three companions, Peter, James and John climbing to his sacred place and enveloped in the grandeur of God, something new occurs to me. Anglicanism, the Anglican Episcopal tradition, has everything to do with transfiguration because it has everything to do with experiencing the grandeur of God.
Let’s back up a little. What is Anglicanism? Much may be said about the history of the Anglican Tradition rising from the 16th century Protestant Reformation. We can talk about its unique posture simultaneously holding the Roman Catholic liturgical and Protestant evangelical customs and practices while insisting that reason and experience also be brought to the theological table. We can dive into the complicated nuances of Anglican Episcopal polity and politics, not today. But at the heart of all of that information I believe the Anglican Episcopal Tradition is aimed at one thing. Transfiguration.
What do we mean by transfiguration? Returning to Hopkin’s poem, I believe transfiguration is seeing beyond the “smudge and smell of our bleared and smeared bodies.” It is feeling our bare toes dig into the sand, unearthing the “dearest freshness (of) deep down things.”
What is the “dearest freshness of deep down things?” I believe it is the grandeur of God, the light of Christ flickering within us, our deepest true unconditioned selves longing to shine out like shook foil. The “dearest freshness of deep down things” is nothing less than our transfigured selves flaming out the grandeur of God.
This Sunday marks the end of the season of Epiphany and the grand Epiphany is this. Jesus is glowing with the grandeur of God and we are meant likewise to flame out like shook foil because the light of the risen Christ promises to radiate the grandeur of God and transfigure each one of us. This is very good news. Here is the thing, the promise of the risen Christ demands our response. Grace is not cheap. It is up to us to moisten our seared skin and wash away the smudges that overshadow our true transfigured selves. This is the work of Lent which we will begin on Ash Wednesday and continue for forty day and forty nights.
For today it is enough to bask in the grandeur of God “Because the Holy Ghost over the bent World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings” and we are “charged with the grandeur of God.”
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