As we complete our journey following the wholly human and holy divine Jesus, we find ourselves on a mountaintop bathed in transfiguring light. Jesus led us there in a very human manner, one step at a time. A summit achieved through struggle adds more meaning to the view than if achieved by riding the tram up. It is significant that Matthew places a mountain in the narrative. Previously, we heard Jesus’ first message in the sermon on the mount and the view from this height looks ahead to the mount where the drama reaches its peak, Calvary. To make sure we don’t miss this pivot point in the story, Matthew includes both Moses and the cross. Calvary is foreshadowed in Jesus’ call to his followers to take up their crosses. The appearance of Moses reminds us of how Jesus taught a new law on that previous mount. The Transfiguration also connects to Mount Sinai, where Moses encountered God to receive the Law.
Just like Moses, the mountaintop experience is incomplete without a return to the valley. The Law could not simply be received, it had to be delivered to the people in the valley below (yes those people dancing around that golden calf). After the Transfiguration, the cross-bearing through the Darkwood beckons for all who would answer the call to follow Jesus. And just like Moses, the mountaintop experience is designed to sustain us on the journey through the valley. When Moses descended the mountain the lingering effect of being in proximity of the divine presence caused him to glow. This reflected glory was so powerful that it caused a fearful people to demand that Moses cover his face until it faded. It makes one wonder how the other nine viewed Peter, James and John when the returned from being in the brilliance of divinity. (We may have a clue in the story about them asking about who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, but that story begins the next series, so no spoilers).
Paul uses the fading glory of Moses to contrast the old law to the new, telling us that as we follow Jesus we are transformed “from glory to glory” into the divine image (2 Corinthians 3:7-18). I hear this as another source of light for Darkwood Wanderers. We know from our experiences that light comes in the dark places of spiritual struggle in a variety of ways. Sometimes it is the brief but brilliant flash of lightning. Other times it is the dim creeping promise of dawn. At times the light on our path is the living word of God, the Darkwood Wanderer who as pioneer of our faith has gone before us and returned to take us by hand. But sometimes that light of the wholly human, holy divine Jesus needs to come from us. If you have taken up your cross then you have been invited up the mountain where you can been charged up so you can glow in the dark with a light that comes from becoming most fully human in your reflection of the holy image of the divine.
Rev. Ian Lynch is pastor of Old South United Church of Christ, Kirtland, Ohio where Darkwood Brew is used as part of an effort to be the church beyond walls. He also has a YouTube channel of two-minute videos called Bible Bytes.