By Pastor Sarah Anderson
How would you fill in the blank: “Cloudy with a chance of ________?” Maybe you think of puffy cumulus clouds and a bright bright blue sky. Or perhaps you picture dark, cumulonimbus storm clouds saturated with rain, thunder and lightning. Or maybe it’s as the popular children’s book suggests that it can be “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs.”
This Sunday is Transfiguration Sunday. It happens every year right before the start of Lent and the narrative of Jesus' countenance being altered is in all the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke.) The witnesses of this change, Peter, James and John, but particularly Peter, didn’t know what to make of an encounter where Jesus shone so brightly. As Peter begins to formulate a verbal response, each of the gospel writers paint the picture of an ominous and overshadowing cloud which fills the sky. Could it be a menacing storm cloud bringing bad news?
“And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!’” (Luke 9:35). It turns out the cloud is not menacing at all, but rather the same voice heard on the day Jesus was baptized with almost the exact same words. The cloud of transfiguration brings good news of Jesus’ identity, the same identity that we share in our baptism.
A 15th century hymn, “Oh, Wondrous Image, Vision Fair” penned words to help us encounter the transfiguration of Christ. I invite you to read over the verses and spend time with the questions - pondering how and where you are gifted with glimpses of God and the good news that you, as a child of God, are one of God’s chosen.
Oh, wondrous image, vision fair
of glory that the church may share,
which Christ upon the mountain shows,
where brighter than the sun he glows!
With Moses and Elijah nigh
the incarnate Lord holds converse high,
and from the cloud, the Holy One
says, "This is my beloved Son."
Christ deigns to manifest today
what glory shall be theirs above
who joy in God with perfect love.
And faithful hearts are raised on high
by this great vision's mystery;
for which in joyful song we raise
the voice of prayer, the hymn of praise.
and Holy Spirit, ever one,
we pray you, bring us by your grace
to see your glory face to face.
As we gather to celebrate the Transfiguration and also look ahead to the start of Lent on Wednesday, we are given many opportunities to live into our baptismal identity as God’s children. God’s activity in our lives and in our world is abundant, which is this year’s Lenten theme, “Open to God’s Abundance.” At times this abundance is hard to comprehend (kind of like Jesus being transfigured is a little bit mind-boggling), yet the presence of abundance permeates and pours out even in the most challenging times.