A blessed feast of the Transfiguration to all. Too bad we Baptist haven’t made a deliberate observance of this feast. It seems like a great reason to have a fish fry. As much as we love our croakers, spot, and trout (with a crab cake or two on the side); this ought to be the third biggest holiday in Virginia east of I-95. Yes, I know there is something more important to the feast than the food. Which brings me to my two-cents of thinking today.
Tidal Flat (© John Gresham)
In the 16th chapter of Mathew, we find Peter pulling Jesus to the side and rebuking him about the foretelling of his trial, death, and resurrection. The idea that the Christ, the Son of the Living God should have to suffer and die at the hands of his enemies seemed foolish. The disciple, perhaps, thought his heaven-sent Master should continue to be earthly healer, teacher, and prophet that everyone had come to adore. Maybe this fisherman thought that the One who called him to be a fisher of men should be that political Messiah that would restore Israel to the glories of David and Solomon. Either way, Peter had his eyes on a lesser glory. Jesus, the meek and mild, proved to be highly intolerant of anyone who wanted to reduce him down to an earthly purpose. “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.” (I guess the baby in the manger grew up)
Rather than leave Peter with such a hard rebuke, Jesus showed him and Zebedee’s boys what greater glory looked like. “His face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as the light.” No earthly royal regalia could match it. “And behold Moses and Elijah appeared to them talking with him.” Talk about a royal court of greatness. Poor Peter thought that honoring them with earthly tabernacles would be a sufficient means of honoring these three in this glory. But, before he could finish his sentence, God the Father provided something greater. “Behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I and well pleased. Hear Him!” (Pete, who was that you were trying to correct?). As Peter, James, and John cowered in fear, Jesus touched and gave them a word of comfort, “Do not be afraid.” And they saw him alone back in the form they were accustomed to.
I think we sometimes forget that Jesus was not sent here to be known as a social “do-gooder” nor political “values-bearer.” He came to save the souls of all who would believe in him. Of course we want to improve our communities and practice moral behavior. But, when we reduce the Gospel, the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord and Savior to earthly pursuits, we become an affront to Jesus. When He called Peter, “Satan,” it wasn’t because the disciple had a homosexual marriage with a Skinhead inside trader. Peter tried to re-direct Jesus from his ultimate greater glory. Today, we commemorate the manifestation of the greater glory of Christ our Lord and that His kingdom is of a law and prophetic spirit that is above the shelters of man’s creation.
We forget the lesson of the Transfiguration when we weld the Christian faith to either side of the political spectrum. Fr. Seraphim Rose was criticized for his letter stating his case against the popular social struggles for a better world in the 1960’s. He was no supporter of war, racism, and other evils many Christians struggled against. But, he wisely saw that if the faithful were not careful, they would take their eyes off of the greater glory of our Lord and let the Left hijack Christianity to a crusade to “make the world a better place.” A similar thing is happening today from the Right. We should not support gay marriage, pornography, and other moral ills. But, in our crusade for family values, we are ignoring our own inward struggles of working out our salvation as we busy ourselves pointing out the failures of others.
Conservative or liberal? Though we are free to choose between these two sides of the coin of earthly authority (one-sided coins have no value and are physically impossible), we are not allowed to weld our faith in Jesus to either side. The Transfiguration is a glimpse of the greater glorious kingdom we can be a part of through our Lord and Savior. Entry into the kingdom and inviting others to join us, this must be our central goal. My other goal is to fix stuffed flounder in a bag for dinner.