Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Power of Transfiguration

We are fast approaching Lent, and that means we are at the moment in the Sunday lectionary where we hear the story of Jesus on the mountain transfigured before Peter, James, and John who hear from on high the booming voice telling them, "This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased. Listen to him." Jesus is appearing ablaze with the two most revered prophets of the Jews, Moses and Elijah, the Law and the Prophets, in conversation with him. It is an incredible sight. And, because this is many thousands of years ago, there was no way to go live on Facebook to prove that it happened. No Twitter. No Instagram. No Snapchat. So we have to rely on the Evangelist's account, and for those who are believers in Jesus and followers of Christ...that account is enough. Smiley emoticon. Like button thumbs up.

I have heard this story countless Last Sundays in Epiphany. It is a reminder that God so ordained Jesus as God's Beloved at his baptism in the Jordan River. But now, this moment of transfiguring, a type of transformation, is something more. I guess one way to see this is a bit like Jesus having his confirmation service, or, since he was a Jew, this is his Bar Mitzvah and this moment with Moses and Elijah may have been the blessing to embark on what must have seemed like a daunting mission. I can only imagine this conversation: 

"You, Jesus, Beloved Son of God, will teach this stubborn people to love one another in ways that you will love: healing the sick, comforting the afflicted, going into spaces and conversing with people whom the religious utter purists have rebuked. You will do this in a hostile environment of Roman authoritarianism. You will be doing the unexpected. And in doing all of this, you will be both loved by some, and feared and hated by others. And you will die for it. But trust, Jesus. Trust in God the Father. Because you know that God is within you and will be the power to raise you up. Trust. Teach. Live. Love."

This is the type of transfiguring power Christ has passed along to us in the Church. We, too, are the new beloved sons and daughters of God, and as the ones who are marked and sealed both into the death of Christ, so are we also brought into his abundant life. We are given life so that we may also love one another as Christ has loved. That means we respond to people when they are in need. When they are sick and suffering, we heal and comfort. When they are feeling alone and abandoned and afraid, we go to them and remind them that we are with them. And we do this whether the person worships in the pew with us, or doesn't dare get near any house of worship. And beautiful things can happen when we allow ourselves to be transfigured and fall in love with Love. We can change, and in that changing, we can become more ourselves.

Today, I spent time listening to the stories of transgender people. For those who might have missed the latest horrible news from our president who said "the gays love me," during the campaign: the Republican administration is ending a federal order that protected transgender kids by allowing them to use the bathroom and locker room at school that corresponded with their gender, not necessarily their anatomy. The administration says this is a "state's rights issue." But really it's a return to the days where transgender kids feel unsafe at school, a place most kids spend seven to nine hours a day. It's returning to a time when we define the bathroom as that public space so dangerous that we must separate the sexes and the races. Remember when blacks couldn't use a restroom because it was for whites only? (Truthfully, I don't remember those days because I was thankfully born after that time and in a place where that type of segregation didn't exist). 

As I listened to their stories, how much they suffered just to become the people that they are today, I could identify with that pain. Like them, I have been through those days in the desert attempting to deal with all the many voices and messages that would make me doubt the transfiguring nature of knowing that I was "different" and having no one affirm that. And like those who spoke today, I emerged from those pits of hell to become who I am: an out, proud, queer, Christian. And I am still on a journey with God to discover more of the ways that I can live into being who God has intended me to be.

For any Trans person out there who might stumble upon this entry, please know that God is glorified in your transfiguring moments of discovering who you are...who you really are. Do not let false messages and mean-spirited people tell you that you are not loved by God or that "God doesn't make mistakes" as if you are somehow some kind of human experiment gone awry. You are the clay being refined and made into a beautiful vase. You are God's beloved, and God is pleased to join in your transfiguration, so that you can share your love with the hurting world that needs it. Stay strong!