I can always count on Kenny to be one of the first to greet me in the parish hall after the service. I keep a gift that Kenny gave me one Christmas, an ornament that plays “O holy night” in one of our rooms. I see Kenny as a member of the servant of worship, a devoted member but more importantly, as a friend.
However, when I see the true Kenny are those instances, when he comes up to me, his face lights up and he tells me where he placed in the latest Special Olympic event. It could be bowling, skiing or swimming, it does not matter. He is transfigured, there is a sense of purity, a sense of perfection, a sense that God is near.
When he recounts his story, for a moment I am speechless. I do not see the Kenny as the world sees him, I see the person Kenny was born to be. It transcends words or simple explanations. The same feeling when I see a horse run at a full gallop, an eagle soar among the cottonwoods or when I hear my son sing a solo. There is purity, a knowing, they are fulfilling what God has placed within them.
I cannot help but close my eyes and attempt to visualize that scene on the mountaintop, Peter gazing with wonder at Jesus touching the divine. When the Apostles walked with Christ, they knew he was special, they knew there was something about him, but it was there at that mountaintop where they began to see Jesus in a new way.
Peter, James and John got a brand-new insight into this Jesus, who really was — transforming, consuming, literally enlightening. He appears with Elijah and Moses, yet not the same, something new, unique and life changing. Not Moses the lawgiver, nor Elijah, the prophet. Jesus, the Son of God. And then the words, "This is my beloved."
It is no longer just a rumor, God is validating why Jesus walked this earth. A poor young carpenter, who preached, who loves the poor, heals the sick, welcomes the outcasts, this radical, this Son of God. The outcast now has a place in the heart of God; living what God called him to do. Peter in wonder says, "Lord, it is good to be here."
Few would have believed that this poor revolutionary from Nazareth would change mankind, yet he lived into his life. And he asks us to do the same. However much easier than it sounds. We have a tendency to fight against our true calling.
We often create images of who we think we are instead of living into our true selves. I know people who have a wonderful capacity to create art, who are truly artists, but they do not trust themselves to live into their creative beauty, into their true lives. Or the feel that there true calling is silly and put aside the silly dreams and toil as everyday workers secretly yearning for the brush.
Or we do other things like purchase stuff, material objects, we work in unfulfilling jobs, stay in abusive relationships, follow certain cultural expectations all because we believe that is what is expected of us, and our light is diminished. Forgetting that mountaintop, where God is validating our purpose, why we walk this earth.
Last week Fr. Christopher wrote a beautiful sermon as to why we fill ourselves with stuff and become things we cannot recognize. He said “it is the treasure that no one can take away from you of realizing that the gifts and resources you have are gifts from God and you can use them to care for people, you can hold them loosely enough to be used in ways that bring glory to God.” That treasure includes who you are and what God has called you to be.
I believe that story tellers at Walt Disney had an amazing capacity of describing to both children and adults the capacity to transfigure, to live into who you were called to become. Think of Pinocchio, Tarzan or Beast in Beauty and the Beast. One of my favorite is The Lion King, maybe because I remember watching the story with my son.
The young lion cub named Simba makes a few bad choices that result in tragedy. He then lets the evil Scar define him so he flees from his community and lives in the shadows far from what he truly is meant to be. Eventually someone who knows him finds him and asks him to return to his community, which is in peril, and live into his calling.
While wrestling with a decision about whether or not to accept that challenge, Simba is led to a pond. Poised before the water, Simba watches a reflection of his own image mysteriously transfigured by the presence of his deceased father. He sees who he his, what he was created for and then understands his purpose in life, he finds the freedom to shed the chains of the past and present behind and to be himself. He becomes original, unique, he becomes himself. And we all must do the same.
The transfiguration is not a complicated story. St. Matthew reminds us that the Transfiguration is a glimpse of glory. At the mountain height we are allowed to see Jesus as he really is and where he is ultimately headed. By implication, we can also see ourselves for who we really are.
When we view others without expectations, when we allow ourselves the freedom to be completely free, to what God has called us to do, to be God’s children, we find out not only who we are, we find that Christ reveals who he really is in our lives.
We see that in unexpected places. An infant can only be an infant, no assumptions, no facades. When we look into the eyes of a child, they look back with trust, amazement and you in turn are filled with awe. Or for those of you that are teachers and that moment when a child gets it, and you know that that child’s life will forever be changed because of you, and you understand why you put up with the pressures and low pay, you understand that God has called you to live into what you were meant to do.
You are in an intimate moment with the one you love, and realize happiness; you realize that God has you living into your calling. You wonder where this happiness comes from.
Or you stop in this journey and finally come to the realization that you need to live the life that God created for you. That you need to be you, and not a recreation, not a portrait, not an expectation, not an image and when you do so, there you will find peace, you find a light, living what God has called you to be.
Look around, when we people live into their calling, it seems that they are bathed in this light of joy. We began this season of Epiphany with a brilliant light of a star leading three wise men to Christ; it continues this week with Peter, James and John bathed in the brilliant radiance of Jesus on a mountaintop. And it will continue, in Christ as we walk through lent to the great light of the resurrection on Easter.
Perhaps the story of the transfiguration simply helps us see God revealed in a new and re-creating way. Maybe we can catch a glimpse of how He knows us and how we ought to respond in our knowing of Him. Maybe it will allow us to see ourselves for who we really are – God beloved, to become who we were meant to be.
So there is a knowing, when I listen to Kenny speak of his bowling score, when I hear you tell me why you worship at St. Michael, how you fixed the door at the food pantry, when you gently reach over and grasp the hand of the one who brings you love and joy. I see a special light, I watch in wonder at you being you and like Peter say “Lord it is good to be here.”