The Last Sunday after the Epiphany: February 7, 2016
Preacher: The Rev. Leigh Mackintosh, Associate Rector of St. Michael’s Church
Serene Light, shining in the ground of our being: draw us to yourself; draw us past the snares of the senses, out of the mazes of the mind. Free us from symbols, words,
that we may discover the Signified, the Word unspoken, in the darkness that surrounds the ground of our being. Amen.
One of the most powerful, inspiring moments in all of Scripture is the Transfiguration.A moment when God transcends the limits of human flesh to become a pure, incarnate body of light. A moment where God’s voice is heard in the holy darkness of a cloud’s descent. A moment where with Peter, James, and John we catch a glimpse of God’s mystery, majesty, and mystical beauty. This profound image of light shrouded in darkness can be traced across the whole of Scripture.
We see it at the beginning of Creation when light dawned upon the darkness of the deep and brought forth new life. We see it as Moses led the Israelites out of the darkness of slavery in Egypt, out of their spiritual blindness in the wilderness and into the delights of the Promised Land.
We see it when a widow offers the last of her food to a stranger named Elijah and she experiences the blessings of God’s abundance in the midst of poverty and famine.
We see the hope of Transfiguration on another mountain when neither earthquake, nor fire, nor whirlwind can drown out the still small voice of God speaking to Elijah. We see the hope of Transfiguration at the incarnation, when God comes in the night, a baby born in a manger who will one day grow up to be the Messiah, the chosen one to bring us out of error into truth, out of darkness into light. We see the hope of Transfiguration throughout the life and ministry of Jesus—the one who reveals the power of God by healing the blind, the lame, the sick; by raising the dead; by teaching us to love one another—even our enemies. We see the hope of Transfiguration in Christ crucified, the light of the world slain by darkness who prays to God “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And we see the hope of Transfiguration at the resurrection, as the light rises upon the darkness of the empty tomb and the disciples behold the transfigured wounds of the risen Lord.
The Transfiguration—a profound image of light shrouded in darkness grants us a vision of the unimaginable hope, healing, and transformation that are possible with God. This image is not only marked in the liturgical calendar and the Bible, but is also marked in our own lives. It reminds us that God’s great love can pierce even the greatest darkness. It reminds us that the glory of God’s presence and the pain of a broken world cannot be separated. The light enshrouded in darkness shall not abandon us in our time of greatest need.
As human beings, we are made in the image of the Transfiguration—we are inclined towards the good, towards the light. Even when our goodness and light may be shrouded by darkness—we still yearn to see the brightness of God; we still yearn to feel the radiating warmth of God’s love; we still yearn to be guided by Christ’s light on our path; we still yearn to be healed—to shine in the fullness of God’s glory.
Like the disciples, we yearn to be in the presence of the light. For some of us have stood too long in the darkness and we grow tired of the struggle—tired of waiting for God to descend from the mountain to heal us and set us free. We long to be in the presence of the light where the darkness of sin and suffering and the shadow of death cannot touch us.
We long to be in the presence of the light because we are afraid to enter the darkness—
the darkness of the unknown, the broken, the helpless, the sick.We long to be in the presence of the light—to focus on the practical and positive parts of our faith; to make sure we say the right things, pray the right words, and do the right things. But when it comes to engaging those with unclean spirits, we choose to keep them at arm’s length because they are disruptive or different.
We long to be in the presence of the light, because we are afraid to enter the light when it is shrouded in darkness. For to enter that darkness means we must confront the darkness within ourselves. To enter that darkness means we must accept the truth that the glory of God cannot be separated from the brokenness of our world.
We long to be in the presence of the light. And we fear the darkness in whatever form or shape it may take in our lives. But the Transfiguration shows us the power of light shrouded in darkness is the power of Christ’s healing work on the cross—the light of the Transfiguration guides us to the transfigured wounds of Christ.
Those sacred wounds, those marks of light shrouded in darkness teach us that we too can experience the light of the Transfiguration. Following Christ in the way of the cross, we too can see and experience darkness differently—to see it no longer as light shrouded in darkness, but as darkness shrouded in light.
The light of the Transfiguration teaches us that the darkest of our wounds shall shine as brightly as the transfigured wounds of Christ—wounds that bear unimaginable hope,
wounds that heal, wounds that transform.
For once you experience the hope, the healing, the transformation borne from Christ’s transfigured wounds—the darkness no longer seems dark. The night becomes as bright as the day. Pain, fear, suffering, and death fade away, and darkness becomes one more illumined pathway to God.
St. Gregory the Great writes:
“Dawn intimates that the night is over; it does not yet proclaim the full light of the day. While it dispels the darkness and welcomes the light, it holds both of them, the one mixed with the other. Are not all of us who follow the [light of the Transfiguration] in this life daybreak and dawn? While we do some things which already belong to the light, we are not free from the remnants of darkness.”
The Transfiguration reminds us that we are—all of us—the daybreak and dawn. We too are signs of the Transfiguration, the light shrouded in darkness. We are the break of day yearning to see the brightness of God as we courageously follow Christ into the darkness. We are the dawn following Jesus the Son as he rises from his dark night on the cross and leads us into the fullness of his glory. Amen.