Bandsaws Are Not For Chopping Spinach, or, Transfiguration Transforms More Than Just Jesus
It seems to me reasonable to assume that if a person is, say, a Minnesota Twins fan, she doesn’t pull on Milwaukee Brewers gear for the Big Game.
In the same way, I’m betting that a postal carrier doesn’t don surgical scrubs before he walks his route, a bow-hunter doesn’t grab her fishing vest before she goes out to the woods, and a chef doesn’t put on the welder’s visor to sauté the onions.
Moreover, if you’ll work with me a stretch longer, a Twins fan doesn’t sit in the bleachers and cheer madly for the Brewers, the postal carrier doesn’t actually perform a heart transplant, the bow-hunter doesn’t satisfy the draw to the deer by sitting on a boat in a pond, and the chef doesn’t flambé the girders.
The (perhaps strained) point is that if a person claims to be something, and, in fact is that thing, then her actions are consistent with her claim.
His self-identification resonates both with what we know of the person and of what he purports to be.
So to the Twins fan who has season tickets to the Brewers games, and to the mailman who tries to gain access to the OR, and to the bow-hunter who loves her tackle, and to the chef whose only oven is a welding rod one, well…some questions might be worth raising their way.
The prods could pretty much boil down to something like this: “So, I’m kind of thinking that the word Twins-fan/postman/bow-hunter/chef doesn’t mean what you think it means….”
This next Sunday is Transfiguration Sunday.
I’ve got the slated two New Testament texts on my mind:
2 Corinthians 4:3-6
3And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. 6For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
2Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, 3and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. 4And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. 5Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 6He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. 7Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” 8Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.
9As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead could mean.
The passage from Mark seems like a good place to begin, because throughout the whole gospel, one can’t help but feel for the disciples.
Throughout the whole book, they tried.
They really tried.
But they (like we??) couldn’t quite grasp what, and who, was unfolding before their very eyes.
Here, we’re half-way through Mark, so these guys are hardly newbies to the whole disciple-of-Jesus thing.
But despite having seen multiple healings and feedings, and experiencing multiple welcomings and teachings, and having immediately before this text heard Jesus say these little nuggets….
34 He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel,[i] will save it. 36 For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? 37 Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? 38 Those who are ashamed of me and of my words[j] in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
(…that is, despite having heard the whole part about Disciple-of-Jesus Life being about sacrifice and offering up “for the sake of the gospel” one’s wants, aspirations, privileges, and securities…)
…the disciples said, “Ooo! Ooo! No clue what this deal is, going down right now, but it’s nifty, and it’s way better than the suffering, sacrifice, and service business Jesus was talking about a week ago. So, we’ve got a better idea: how’s about we stay here, and build y’all some heckuva tents.”
God was not pleased.
“This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!”
As in, listen to him in contrast to what you have apparently been doing, because if you had been listening to my Son, you’d realize that you can’t say that you’re a disciple of his and then hunker down on some Big Rock Candy Mountain, guys.
Saying that you are a disciple of Jesus means that you follow him.
As in, act like him.
As in, be ambassadors of healing and feeding and welcoming and teaching about the one who heals and feeds and welcomes and teaches.
As in, don’t be ambassadors of the opposite, because you can’t say that you are one thing and then do another.
They’ll know we are Christians by our love and all that.
Which is sort of what Paul is getting at in 2 Corinthians.
The gospel messes people up.
It is so utterly contrary to the way of this world, or, as Paul says, “the god of this world.”
The god of this world, Paul says (as does pretty much the rest of Scripture) is a god bent on self-preservation.
The god of this world is a god of power, of might, of might makes right, of hoarded—and blissfully, willfully ignorant—privilege.
However, the God of the Gospel is a very different God.
This is the God of radical self-offering, of radical welcome, of radical concern for the other, of radical vulnerability, of radical indignation, of radical solidarity with those who suffer, who are on the margins, who are poor, who are hungry, who are sick, who are Not Like Us.
(Not Like Us couldn’t be more irrelevant for Christians: they are Loved by God, so they are Loved by Us)
The questions that these texts pose to us are these: who do you say is your God, and are your actual actions consistent with your claim?
If not, perhaps it is time to read and hear the Transfiguration texts again, and to yourself be transformed by them, for the words ‘Christian,’ ‘disciple,’ and ‘faithful might not mean what you think they do.
According to these texts, everything you say and do, bar nothing, is reflective of your actual god, which/who may or may not be consistent with what/whom you claim your [g]God to be.
If so, well done, good and faithful servant, for you are clothed in righteousness, and your righteous acts show forth the light of the one you claim, and indeed do, worship.
The world does, indeed, know that you are Christian by your love, and thereby they also know God.
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She also runs The Spent Dandelion Theological Retreat Center, where you can come to Retreat, Reflect, and Restore at her North Shore home. Visit www.spentdandelion.com to learn more!