Pastor's Message for the Feast of the Holy Transfiguration
Today is the feast day of the Holy Transfiguration of our Lord Jesus Christ, and since this is the feast where we celebrate Christ’s transfiguration and shining like the light of the sun, I’d like to open my message today with a very meaningful illustration about the nature of light.
It comes to us from none other than one of the most celebrated Christian authors and apologists of all times, C.S. Lewis, of “Chronicles of Narnia” fame. Mr. Lewis writes the following:
“I was standing today in the dark toolshed. The sun was shining outside and through the crack at the top of the door there came a sunbeam. From where I stood that beam of light, with the specks of dust floating in it, was the most striking thing in the place.
Everything else was almost pitch-black. I was seeing the beam, not seeing things by it.
Then I moved, so that the beam fell on my eyes. Instantly the whole previous picture vanished. I saw no toolshed, and (above all) no beam. Instead I saw, framed in the irregular cranny at the top of the door, green leaves moving on the branches of a tree outside and beyond that, 90 odd million miles away, the sun. Looking along the beam, and looking at the beam are very different experiences.”
I am sure we have all had a similar experience to that which the author describes. We may have been in a dark spot where a little bit of light is shining through… no big deal, it doesn’t change much. But when we (carefully) gaze into the place from which the light is coming, we are given a whole new view, a different perspective on that light itself – its source, its origin, what lies beyond.
It is in that moment that that light becomes truly something which we can “see.”
The disciples Peter, James and John, I believe, had this very experience when they witnessed the Transfiguration of our Lord.
Two scriptural passages come to mind when considering today’s feast day and the example given to us by C.S. Lewis.
The first is from Psalm 36, verse 9, which reads, “For with you is the fountain of life, and in your light we see light.” Ի քէն է Տէր աղբիւր կենաց եւ լուսով երեսաց քոց տեսանեմք զլոյս:
You may recall that during last year’s sermon on the Feast of Transfiguration, I briefly touched upon this verse and its meaning. I had mentioned that the Armenian version of this Psalm verse actually reads, “By the light of your face, we see the light.”
Think back to how this relates with C.S. Lewis’s illustration. The disciples had been around Jesus for a while. He was always shining with the divine grace and love of God the Father. There was always light in his countenance to one degree or another. This resembles that beam of light shining through the crack at the top of the shed door.
But recall that it wasn’t until Lewis went and stood directly in line with the beam that he was given a new perspective and was able to gaze into what lay beyond.
In the same way, it wasn’t until the disciples got into the right position physically, spiritually – until they were standing there directly under the ray of light – that they got a whole new perspective. Just that change in position and perspective gave them what they needed to be brought into a different reality, something beyond anything they could have comprehended or fathomed.
They not only became completely illuminated by the light themselves, but they were able to look beyond this light and stare into the very fountain of life that is God our Lord – the source of all life and love, from which all creation emanated.
Now, I want you to understand that this is why Peter stated specifically, “Lord, it is good for us to be here.” In this place particularly.
Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.” (John 8:12) It wasn’t just that they knew that the light was there, or simply that it might aid them in their vision by adding some extra guidance from time to time. They would have figured that out by this time in their walk with Jesus. The light of Christ may have helped them, but until now it had not transformed nor engrossed them in such an impactful way.
It wasn’t until these disciples came exactly to that place, to that vantage point, directly in line with what they were seeing - the true person of the anointed Messiah in all the glory of his divine and human nature, that they could penetrate into the very depths of God the Father’s being and presence.
This brings me to the other scriptural passage I had in mind, which is part of today’s epistle reading. In it the Apostle John, whom I should point out as one of the three that witnessed the Transfiguration in person, contemplates this very contrast between the darkness, the small beam of light and the full measure of light and its source that lies beyond it.
He writes, “God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true; but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” (I John 1:5-7)
God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. The light may shine in the darkness from that crack above the door, but if we are still in the dark part of the shed, the light is of little to no use.
If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true. We can claim that we notice the light, appreciate it even, but as long as we remain in the dark part of the shed, we are lying to ourselves, we are still in darkness.
But if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. By walking in the light our path and our life become illuminated and we understand not only the light we are seeing (Jesus), but also the light of God himself in which Jesus is illuminated, as we see today upon contemplating the mystery of the Holy Transfiguration.
God from God, light from light, true God from true God. These affirmations from the Nicene Creed are not simply nebulous terms or platitudes, they are a definitive declaration of the universal truth that we see here shining from the transfigured face of our Lord.
That he is God from God, that he is light from light… and that today when we stand directly in his presence, along with the Apostles and the Prophets and all the witness of the Christian faith, we can come face to face with this light and look beyond it to see the everlasting light, shining from the face of our eternal, heavenly Father.
Dearly beloved, on this most glorious feast day of the Holy Transfiguration of our Lord Jesus Christ, I pray that we would all be brought directly into the light and presence of our Lord’s shining, transfigured face. Through him, may we truly find the source of our life, and by the light of his face may we come face to face with the face of the almighty, everlasting God.