Year C Transfiguration Luke 9
Experience the Mountaintop But Don't Forget the Valley Below
The moment might have come at some exciting event in your life: graduation, baptism, your first kiss, your first day on your first job, your wedding, the birth of a child, even catching your very first fish. It might have been something really spiritual, like a week at church camp or a church retreat. Or it might have been something of a smaller, quieter nature, like a very intimate conversation with your father or mother when you felt that they honestly understood what you were saying and why you felt the way you did.
We call these "mountaintop experiences," and oh how we hate to come down off that mountain! We want to hang on to that moment for as long as we can. "Let’s just stay right here and let the rest of the world go by for a while." But to freeze that one moment in time shuts off the possibility of the next moment.
In the Gospel reading for today we hear the writer of Matthew give his version of the event which we call "The Transfiguration of Jesus." Mark and Luke also contain an account of this strange occurrence, with some minor variations in the telling. It’s one of those rare moments we were just talking about, one of those mountaintop experiences of life, which somehow defy adequate description and challenge us to stretch our concept of reality to the point that we usually wind up asking the question, "Did this really happen?" Events such as the Transfiguration somehow connect us with the mystery of creation and eternity.
For Jesus it was a time of confirmation and affirmation of his ministry. For Peter, James, and John it was a brief glimpse of the transcendent, a peek at the reality that lies just beyond everyday life.
But notice that Jesus quickly led the disciples back down off that mountaintop - in spite of Peter’s desire to pitch a tent and camp there for a long while. Jesus led them back into the daily routine of teaching and preaching and caring for the broken and hurting people of the world they lived in, back to the reality of life in the valley...
Facetime and Facebook
Last week an amazing event took place. The president of Toyota went on television to apologize publicly for sticking gas pedals and mushy brakes. But he wasn't just another CEO trying to staunch the bleeding of red ink all over his company's bottom line. He was also the grandson of Toyota's founder, and he was desperately trying to "save face" - for himself and for the past and future generations of his family.
In Asian cultures "face" is everything. "Face" is arguably the most positive social value a person can claim. One's "face" is the combination of honor, reputation, responsibility, prestige, and worthiness that one must maintain within all social interactions. To "lose face" is to behave in such a way that every aspect of one's being - social, emotional, intellectual, spiritual - is diminished, disfigured, disgraced.
Just as the Inuit peoples have dozens of words for "snow," the environment that defines their lives, this concept of "face" is so critical to Japanese and Chinese cultures, for example, that there are some 98 different words to describe it. All social interactions depend on carefully maintaining these concepts of "face."
Anyone ever hear of "Facebook?" Western culture now increasingly defines "social" relationships on a place called "Facebook." On our Facebook accounts we can create the image of ourselves that we want others to see. We can edit out aspects of our lives that might be embarrassing, uncomplimentary, or just "too much information." We can post only the most flattering pictures of ourselves. We can fudge facts or write complete fictions! We can even have multiple Facebook accounts.
But we do not have complete control over our Facebook face. Others can leave messages, report gossip, or reveal secrets on our “Wall” for everyone to see. Already there have been too many cases where teenage hazing and cruelty have led to the last, desperate act of the "face-less" - ending their own lives because without "face" they believe there is no life.
Here is the #1 Rule for a TGIF World (TGIF stands for Twitter/Google/Internet/Facebook): the more Facebook the more face-time.
Let me put it another way: the more Facebook the more face-to-face, in-your-face. The more we depend on cyberspace face-offs and virtual face-lifts, the more real "in your face" time we need to make in our lives. Making "face-time" with friends, family, colleagues, neighbors, takes away the electronic filters that hide us or protect us. It is face time that makes us vulnerable, that makes us real, that makes us human.
When Moses asks God to "show me your glory," God agrees...