1 Kings 2:1-12
I think youth groups like 4-H, Boy Scouts, FFA and Girl Scouts are really fantastic. I had an extension agent who took myself and a few other teens one year and she worked with us to learn public speaking. Some of the things she spoke about, and taught us, I am still using even right this very moment in preaching to you. Such as to speak clearly, to keep water on hand, and to practice.
The practicing part was, and perhaps still is, the hardest. She had us began by speaking into a mirror and watching ourselves. I’m humored by what a trope, what a common scene it is in movies and TV that someone nervously practices their speech into a mirror. People really do that. I’m one of them.
Once we got used to that, she next had us record our voice on a cassette tape. Do you know how awful my voice is to my own ears? Nasally, high pitched, and it belongs to some teenager. So when I was a teenager, it sounded like it belonged to some kindergartner. The mirror was easier. I see myself in the mirror often enough – literally every day. But I don’t hear a recording of myself every day.
We learned to count the “ums” and “uhs” in our recordings and to reduce that number. But more, we learned what we sounded like just like we now knew what we looked like.
The last step was putting those two together. The extension agent now had us stand before a camcorder and record us. Then put that video and audio on a television and we watched ourselves.
… That was a new level of horror.
I’ve heard it said before that regular people look so strange on TV because we’re used to seeing very thin, very pretty, very dolled up people. So when a normal person is on, they look way worse just because of who they are compared with. Now, if you’ve ever seen your own regular gangly awkward teenage self on TV stumbling through a speech… you know what kind of horror the six of us teens went through.
The horror of… facing ourselves.
The horror of… being revealed.
That is why public speaking is so terrifying for almost everyone: it is being exposed, vulnerable, and open to ridicule.
That extension agent revealed us to ourselves, and then told us, “You’ve met yourself and survived. When you give your speech at the county fair, it will be a piece of cake. Easy. Because you’ve already did the hardest part: seeing and hearing yourself.”
She was right. Very right. It was much easier to speak at the microphone to mom and dad and grandma in the audience than to watch myself give a speech on television for the first time.
I think about her lessons often – especially that bit of the hardest part is seeing and hearing ourselves.
Maybe she meant literally.
But maybe not.
Transfiguration is not transformation. The Jesus who went up the mountain is the same Jesus who stood up there and the same Jesus who came down. What changed was how he was viewed. What was revealed. Exposed!
If what was revealed by Jesus is hard to understand, it’s okay. We’re flat out told that Peter doesn’t know what to say or how to explain it and he’s standing there witnessing it!
What they see, and we see through their eyes, are the man who gave us the Laws – Moses. And the greatest prophet – Elijah. Two representing all the traditions who have come before. Moses – who went up the mountain and met God, and who glowed from the encounter. And Elijah, who is said to have never died but instead, rose up to heaven and Jewish tradition has it, he will return from heaven. And with them is Jesus – who is glowing, who will die, but be raised, and go to heaven, and promise to return. Who is the continuation of the Laws and Prophets.
But he’s the same person who went up the mountain.
Just seen… very differently.
When we teens watched ourselves on tape, we were the same teens. Just like when you hear a recording of your voice, it is your same voice. What changes is how we view ourselves, or how we hear ourselves – what is revealed.
Transfiguration is not changing forms – not transforming. Not changing bodies – it is transfiguring – changing the view. Changing the view, then, often changes, transforms, us and those around us.
Like my extension agent did, God offers us to change the way we view ourselves, and others. Offers to peel the curtain back and peek in at the heart, the soul, of who we are. And in truthfully seeing, take with God transformative action.
No one likes to admit faults; and some of us have just as hard a time admitting our good qualities, too. We are transfigured before God – God sees them all. Shows them to us. Loves us.
I don’t talk about sin much, but I do believe in it. The part of the communion prayer that asks for forgiveness for the sins we commit deliberately, and those that over take us, speaks to me. We sin. Sometimes purposefully. And sometimes accidentally. And sometimes because the power of the sin was more powerful than us.
It takes a lot of honesty to admit we’ve lied. Lied to others. Lied to ourselves. That honesty is transfigurative. Revealing. But necessary for the transformative work of repentance and forgiveness.
A lot of soul-searching to admit we’ve done wrong. Wrong to ourselves. Wrong to others.
It’s a good long look in the mirror to be able to pray and ask for forgiveness and really mean it.
My extension agent had us practice. Had us face the worst of our fears – so when the time came, we shone.
God has us practice. Has us face the worst of ourselves – so when the time comes to act, to be Christ to another, we shine. When you are wholly honest with yourself, with your own good parts and bad, and are authentic – people know it. They sense it. You shine as an example of how to live truthfully, humbly, and with love of self and others and God. You also live much more comfortably in your own skin.
Lent is a great time to practice this change in perspective. A season to set aside time to reflect on who we are – and look at ourselves truthfully. This takes practice! And humility. And God’s grace.
God’s grace, God’s gift to us, is love which always is speaking to us about whom we truly are.
And we’re transfigured. Seen differently. Revealed. And in the revealing, opened to more change. Opened to transforming.
God helps us see all those things we’re trying to hide, the stories and revisions to stories to make ourselves better, and says… You’re my child. Beloved. I forgive you. I love you.
Just as God helps us see all those things we’re denying about ourselves. The good deeds, the compassion, the love. God sees how we shy from our goodness out of fear of being judged, or fear our misdeeds are too great… and God transfigures us. Reveals who we really are. God’s child. Beloved. Just as you are.
So what happens next?
Transfiguration is not transformation.
Transformation is next.
Jesus in our story gets right back down from the mountain and starts his trip towards Jerusalem. And we get right back down from this Sunday into the season of Lent next Sunday.
Seeing who we are propels us into action. Seeing who we are gives us the courage to boldly walk with Christ through town after town, and all the way to the cross – and beyond. Seeing ourselves – with all our merits and flaws – and hearing the voice from heaven say we are beloved – what can’t we overcome and who could steal this joy and hope and peace and love? We’re empowered to transform – to change the world – and to transform – change – ourselves.
By the time you get to the county fair – the end of the project – the end of your time on Earth – you’ll be ready. You’ve put in the practice, you know your good parts and bad, you’ve been transforming yourself and the world, and you’re ready for the judge, the reward, the rest.