By Elizabeth Baumann
A Reading from the Gospel of Mark 9:2-13
2 Six 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, 3 and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. 4 And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. 5 Then 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.” 6 He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. 7 Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” 8 Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.
9 As 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. 10 So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead could mean. 11 Then they asked him, “Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” 12 He said to them, “Elijah is indeed coming first to restore all things. How then is it written about the Son of Man, that he is to go through many sufferings and be treated with contempt? 13 But I tell you that Elijah has come, and they did to him whatever they pleased, as it is written about him.”
I’m a bit of a sucker for children’s story Bibles. We have a good collection of them we rotate through at my house, and if you want to make my day, you could ask for a recommendation for one. But as much as I love them, I have one massive complaint: they almost all leave out the Transfiguration.
The Transfiguration is one of the major pivot points in the story of Jesus — it’s the bookend on his ministry. It began with his baptism, when, for the first time, God spoke from heaven and called him “Beloved Son.” Only after that was Jesus called out into the desert to be tempted, only then did he go out calling disciples to follow him and begin preaching and healing. It’s only right that at the close of that ministry, as he turns toward Jerusalem and all that will happen there, once again God speaks clearly and calls him “Beloved” and “Son.”
Because the two events mirror and enforce each other, it’s brilliant that the Last Sunday After Epiphany is Transfiguration Sunday, with the same white vestments used for the First Sunday After Epiphany, which celebrates Jesus’ baptism. Just as Jesus hears God call him by name before he descends and begins the journey that will end with his death, we hear those words as we enter into Lent and move inexorably toward Holy Week. It reminds us that Lent isn’t just gloom and deprivation for nothing — it’s to grow closer to the God who also calls us “Beloved,” and leads us into the works he’s given us to do, and is preparing us to also be transfigured to eternal life. Which seems like something we would want to teach our children, not to mention, remember ourselves.
Elizabeth Baumann is a seminary graduate, a priest’s wife, and the mother of two small daughters. A transplant from the West Coast, she now lives in “the middle of nowhere” in the Midwest with too many cats.
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Today we pray for:
The Diocese of Bath & Wells – The Church of England
Trinity Parish, St. Augustine, Fla.