Reflections on the theme of transfiguration from Mark 9

Transfiguration by Laura James

We consider a story of transformation from Mark 9, echoing stories of Moses and Elijah and Daniel, wherein we glimpse a transcendence that changes everything. What do you want to change in your life? In this world? What is powerful enough to initiate transformation within you?

On Themes of Transfiguration

Then I was standing on the highest mountain of them all. And round about beneath me was the whole hoop of the world. And while I stood there I saw more than I can tell and I understood more than I saw; for I was seeing in a sacred manner the shapes of all things in the spirit, and the shape of all shapes as they must live together like one being. And I saw the sacred hoop of my people was one of many hoops that made one circle, wide as daylight and as starlight, and in the center grew one mighty flowering tree to shelter all the children of one mother and one father. And I saw that it was holy. — Black Elk

The Place Where You Are Now (excerpt)
— Hafiz, Translation by Daniel Ladinsky

This place where you are right now
God circled on a map for you.

Wherever your eyes and arms and heart can move
Against the earth and the sky,
The Beloved has bowed there –

Our Beloved has bowed there knowing
You were coming.

I could tell you a priceless secret about
Your real worth, dear pilgrim,

But any unkindness to yourself,
Any confusion about others,

Will keep one
From accepting the grace, the love,

The sublime freedom
Divine knowledge always offers to you …

Creating Change

God places us in the world as his fellow workers-agents of transfiguration. We work with God so that injustice is transfigured into justice, so there will be more compassion and caring, that there will be more laughter and joy, that there will be more togetherness in God’s world. — Desmond Tutu

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. — Marianne Williamson, Return to Love

In the time of Jesus the mount of transfiguration was on the way to the cross. In our day the cross is on the way to the mount of transfiguration. If you would be on the mountain. you must consent to pass over the road to it. — Henry Clay Trumbull

Profound music leads us beyond language…to the dark roots of our scream and the celestial heights of our silence. — Cornel West

The passage of the mythological hero may be over ground, incidentally; fundamentally it is inward–into depths where obscure resistances are overcome, and long lost, forgotten powers are revivified, to be made available for the transfiguration of the world. — Joseph Campbell

Art is creative for the sake of realization, not for amusement… for transfiguration, not for the sake of play. — Max Beckmann

Being Changed

The beauty that emerges from woundedness is a beauty infused with feeling; a beauty different from the beauty of landscape and the cold perfect form. This is a beauty that has suffered its way through the ache of desolation until the words or music emerged to equal the hunger and desperation at its heart. It must also be said that not all woundedness succeeds in finding its way through to beauty of form. Most woundedness remains hidden, lost inside forgotten silence. Indeed, in every life there is some wound that continues to weep secretly, even after years of attempted healing. Where woundedness can be refined into beauty a wonderful transfiguration takes place. ― John O’Donohue

True spiritual love is not a feeble imitation and anticipation of death, but a triumph over death, not a separation of the immortal form from the mortal, of the eternal from the temporal, but a transfiguration of the mortal into the immortal, the acceptance of the temporal into the eternal. ― Vladimir Sergeyevich Solovyov, The Meaning of Love

To put it simply: the Holy Spirit bothers us. Because he moves us, he makes us walk, he pushes the Church to go forward. And we are like Peter at the Transfiguration: ‘Ah, how wonderful it is to be here like this, all together!’ … But don’t bother us. We want the Holy Spirit to doze off … we want to domesticate the Holy Spirit. And that’s no good. because he is God, he is that wind which comes and goes and you don’t know where. He is the power of God, he is the one who gives us consolation and strength to move forward. But: to move forward! And this bothers us. It’s so much nicer to be comfortable. ― Pope Francis, Encountering Truth: Meeting God in the Everyday

And these Things,  which live by perishing, know you are praising them; transient, they look to us for deliverance: us, the most transient of all. They want us to change them, utterly, in our invisible heart, within – oh endlessly – within us! Whoever we may be at last. Earth, isn’t this what you want: to arise within us, invisible? Isn’t it your dream to be wholly invisible someday? ― Rainer Maria Rilke

You are my inspiration and my folly. You are my light across the sea, my million nameless joys, and my day’s wage. You are my divinity, my madness, my selfishness, my transfiguration and purification. You are my rapscallionly fellow vagabond, my tempter and star. I want you. — George Bernard Shaw

I cannot define for you what God is. I can only say that my work has proved empirically that the pattern of God exists in every man and that this pattern has at its disposal the greatest of all his energies for transformation and transfiguration of his natural being. Not only the meaning of his life but his renewal and his institutions depend on his conscious relationship with this pattern of his collective unconscious. — Carl Jung

In my youth, growing up in a Jewish milieu, there was one thing we did not have to look for and that was exaltation. Every moment is great, we were taught, every moment is unique. — Abraham Joshua Heschel

Of Glory

When I found I had crossed that line, I looked at my hands to see if I was the same person. There was such a glory over everything; the sun came like gold through trees, and over the fields, and I felt like I was in Heaven. — Harriet Tubman

But trailing clouds of glory, do we come from God, who is our home. — William Wordsworth

Grace is but glory begun, and glory is but grace perfected. — Jonathan Edwards

Our glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall. — attributed to Confucius

Christ did not enchant men; He demanded that they believe in Him: except on one occasion, the Transfiguration. For a brief while, Peter, James, and John were permitted to see Him in His glory. For that brief while they had no need of faith. The vision vanished, and the memory of it did not prevent them from all forsaking Him when He was arrested, or Peter from denying that he had ever known Him.  — W. H. Auden

I understood that I was being shown the future: shards of what would come to be. Often, I cried out for the pain of it. But other times, I was comforted, because I saw, for an instant, the pattern of the whole. — Geraldine Brooks, The Secret Chord

Whatever good, true, or perfect things we can say about humanity or creation, we can say of God exponentially. God is the beauty of creation and humanity multiplied to the infinite power. — Richard Rohr, Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life

Note: Some of this week’s excerpts from Sermon Seeds published by the UCC. Others are gathered from diverse sources, such as commentaries on the upcoming scriptures.

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