http://www.paintingall.com/images/P/Raphael-Sanzio-The-Transfiguration-Oil-Painting.jpg

http://www.paintingall.com/images/P/Raphael-Sanzio-The-Transfiguration-Oil-Painting.jpg

This Sunday finds us and the disciples teetering on the tip of a precipice – literally.  It’s Transfiguration Sunday. As a bright young girl once asked me as I was teaching Luke 9:28-43  in Sunday School…What does that even mean?!

Well, let’s turn to the trusty free dictionary:

trans·fig·u·ra·tion  (trns-fgy-rshn) n.

1.

a. A marked change in form or appearance; a metamorphosis.

b. A change that glorifies or exalts.

 

This story brings us a drama of biblical proportions – it’s all there:  voices from heaven, figures clothed in light, the cloud of the exodus returns and envelops the disciples.  Lots of commentators over the centuries have wondered about this story and why the gospel writers want to tell it.  To our modern ears that are often tuned to the literal telling of a story, it’s unbelievable and as difficult to fathom as the events of Easter morning itself.

 

in my own preparation for Sunday, Kimberly Miller Van Driel reminded me of Raphael’s famous painting “The Transfiguration”.  Raphael was a renowned painter during the period historians refer to as the High Enlightenment and is right up there with Michelangelo (that rivalry is another interesting tale in and of itself)

 

I’d never seen the painting before, but in her commentary, Van Driel made me take a peek and think deeply about the importance of Luke’s telling of these events that obviously made their mark on our earliest ancestors of faith.

 

In some ways, the painting has at least two dimensions.  On the mountain, Jesus is suspended in mid air – notably not mentioned in the gospel – why is it we associate spontaneous levitation with heaven’s glory?  I don’t remember reading that being able to float in mid air was a pre requisite for being the Christ…I’ll have to take another look at Leviticus to make sure…

 

Anyway, Elijah and Moses are on Jesus’ left and right.  James and Peter and John are caught up in the cloud of divine presence below, garbed in the colours of hope, faith, and love which they are often traditionally associated with.  A few saints are praying off to the left hand of the depiction, although they are inserted by Raphael and not Luke.

 

The mountain top is a divine encounter of God that erupts in the middle of prayer.  We often forget that in Luke’s gospel, as with so many of his stories, prayer is essential – it’s where the most dramatic encounters with God take place for Jesus and the disciples.

 

Most often, we think about prayer as talking to God, not about God talking with us or taking it a step further, God living and working with us.  Luke challenges our thought of prayer as simply being about a one sided conversation with a God many people believe is deaf.  For Luke, prayer itself can transfigure us. Prayer is not simply the soul chattering away to itself but the way of faith that changes the face of our lives by the grace of God.

 

Has prayer ever transfigured your life? I wonder.

 

The second dimension fascinates me.  In the valley below, chaos, injust