Every year, on the Sunday before the season of Lent begins, we observe what is sometimes called “Transfiguration Sunday.” And all three of our Lessons from Scripture today tell stories of “transfiguration,” of trans-FORMATION in the lives of God’s people!
Our First Reading tells of Moses’ “Lenten” experience. After he had fasted and prayed on Mt. Sinai for 40 days and 40 nights and came down with the Ten Commandments, it is said that: “the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God.” (Exodus 34:29). More than 1200 years later, Luke tells us of Jesus’ own “transfiguration” experience (on another mountain) when he writes that “…while (Jesus) was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and (even) his clothes became dazzling white.” (Luke 9:29)
It’s easy for us to consign such experiences to awesome biblical figures like Moses or to our Savior Jesus Christ himself, and not realize that – while these two experiences were certainly unique –they are intended to be “model” experiences, and examples even for us! St. Paul makes that clear in our Epistle today from 2 Corinthians: “And all of us,” he writes, (all of us!) “with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.” (3:18)
Christianity is all about transformation! We are supposed to be changed because of our relationship with God, beloved, not remain the same! God is in the transfiguration business! And Lent is a God-marked time for such transfiguration to take place. But not if we don’t utilize some of the tools the Church offers for such transformation! We have ways to — as Paul says — “see the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror…” And the purpose of that is transformation…that we may be changed!
One of those tools is fasting. Most of us have heard of “giving something up for Lent” some of us may have even done it!) and throughout Scripture fasting refers to abstaining from food — or food and drink — for spiritual purposes. Fasting is more than a diet adjustment; it involves a spiritual focus and should always be accompanied with prayer, meditation, or Bible study. If you skip a meal or give up some bad habit for 40 days, every time you feel that little pang of hunger or desire for what you’ve given up, it’s another reminder to pray…and to offer that little sacrifice in union with Christ’s own sacrifice for us.
Another tool is, of course, prayer itself. Next Saturday I’m going to offer a little Quiet Day here entitled “Teach Us To Pray.” It’s really a “quiet morning” and, from 9 a.m. until Noon, I’ll share some tips on how to pray…how to meditate…how to be more contemplative in your prayer life.
There are plenty of opportunities for you to pray around here! Every day at 7 a.m., Noon and 5 p.m. Brother Michael-Benedict says the Daily Office right here in this Chancel. He’d love you to join him! And every Friday afternoon at 4:30 during Lent we will walk with Jesus on his “Way of the Cross” meditating at each of these beautiful Stations in the Cathedral church. It’s a very brief service, but can be very powerful!
On Wednesday mornings at 9 a.m. a few of us (very few!) celebrate the Eucharist in our contemporary Chapel. Taking on an, extra mid week Eucharist during Lent is the way many Episcopalians observe Lent. There’s something a little different about a more informal, quiet celebration of the Eucharist in the middle of the week than what we experience here on Sunday mornings.
Bible study and theological reflection are other tools to take advantage of during Lent.
We have a variety of offerings in our Adult Forum every Sunday at 9:30 a.m. – Father Whitmer’s course in the pastoral “Art of Listening,” the Frankens’ film series on practical Christianity (called Nooma), my discussion class on the Gospel of Luke. Or Kathy Calder’s Lenten Bible study here on Thursday mornings. If you haven’t been to one of these lately…why not give them a try during this upcoming season?
Alms-giving is another spiritual discipline or tool to use during Lent. We live in the richest nation and the most materialistic culture in the world! I know some of us have suffered losses in the latest economic downturn. But our needs are mostly minimal when compared to the rest of the world…or to some right here in our own community. Sometimes, we can “fast in order to give.”
Try estimating how much you save by your Lenten fast and give it directly to the poor. Some of you made contributions to Episcopal Relief and Development for Haiti. We received another plea last week from the Bishop of South Dakota because so many of the Native American people there live in homes without electricity, heat, and water. It’s thought that some households may be without power for up to six months because icy, snow covered roads are making the repairs nearly impossible. The needs are so great! Can you help?
Prayer…fasting…alms-giving. Three ways to observe this upcoming season of Lent. But more importantly, three ways to do what St. Paul describes as “seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror”…that we may be transformed. Listen again to how he puts it:
“Since then, we have such a hope, we act with great boldness, not like Moses who put a veil over his face…but when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to anther; for this comes from the Lord (who is) the Spirit.”
I invite you to encounter the Lord who is the Spirit…and be transformed…even transfigured…this Lent!