March 08, 2020 (Sunday) - The Winds of Change - A Reflection on Matthew 17:1-9

Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.” And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone. As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, “Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

All I hear people talking about these days is the Coronavirus.  Unsurprisingly, because nothing in recent times has impacted lives as much as this virus has. I was in the Middle East last week. Schools and colleges have been closed. Major events have been cancelled. There are severe travel restrictions in place. People are being quarantined. The economy is showing signs of a collapse. Employees are being laid off. I could go on. The bottom line is: everyone’s life is changing. Globally. Forever. 

As a preacher, I see — as always when there is a major disaster — people returning to God. Whenever death occurs suddenly and shockingly, as in the 9/11 terrorist attacks or killer tsunamis, we are reminded of our mortality, that we don’t really live forever. But these disasters affect only those in the immediate neighborhood of the incident. For the most part, the rest of the world continues with life because It happened to somebody else somewhere else. With the Coronavirus, it isn’t happening to somebody else somewhere else; it is happening to us.

The next person we meet could be a carrier of the virus that could infect us, and although the death rate is relatively low in proportion to those infected, it is still high enough to make us realize that we could die if we get infected. Which forces us to think of something most of us never think about: the life after this one. Are we ready for it? Or do we continue to act like there isn’t anything to worry about: Death is the end all. And continue to do whatever we want to do, in open defiance of God. Well, what if it isn’t? 

I believe that most people recognize that death isn’t the end, they just act like it isn’t. Fortunately, they aren’t letting their pride get in the way of coming to God. And I am really glad, because God has his arms open for everyone who comes back home. And this is going to result in another change, far more powerful and long lasting than any change any virus can bring. It is a transformation that makes us a new creation. It gives us new and eternal life. 

Now, you might ask, what has the Coronavirus have to do with the Transfiguration that we read about today? Nothing, except for giving us a glimmer of hope. You see, just before — and immediately after — the Transfiguration, Jesus tells his apostles that he must suffer, die, and be resurrected on the third day. What if the Transfiguration was to prepare and help the apostles through the coming changes, changes that would prove very difficult for them to deal with? 

Let us all come to Jesus and experience a Transfiguration of our own. It will prepare us for the changes ahead.