Transfiguration Sunday more or less marks the fourth anniversary of this blog. Reason enough to post.
The epistle lesson this morning put me in mind of my confirmation verse. Here's a bit of Paul from today's readings:
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 another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit. (2 Cor. 3:18)
My confirmation verse was 1 Peter 2:9:
But you are chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
That's the RSV translation, typed from the bible that was my gift from my parents for confirmation. I always have to look the verse up, because the various translations are confused in my mind. The RSV and the NRSV don't have the phrase that pulled me in as a young teenager. They say "declare the wonderful deeds" or "proclaim the mighty acts" (NRSV). The King James Bible said "that you should show forth the glory of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light."
Glory is my subject today. Show forth the glory.
What attracted thirteen-year-old me to oh-vowles of that phrase and to that glory and that marvelous light? On the neediest level, I'm sure I saw myself shining in a God-powered follow spot, the center of attention who nevertheless faithfully remembered to give the glory to God. A little further up on the faith scale, I remember the thrill and assurance I felt when I said those words and thought of myself as someone called into God's warm and loving light. This thrill was only slightly dimmed by Pastor Paul's note to me in the envelope with my certificate of confirmation, a gruff message that reminded me of the responsibility that came with being a chosen race, etc.
The light I pictured was mostly white, with a little yellow to give it some heat and maybe a tinge of pink for flattering skin tones. And I, standing in the light, glowed with divine love and generosity.
This is not a bad image. I don't mean to belittle it, or to distance myself from that gifted young person who had been brought up to think of her talents (not always positively) as God-given responsibility. But I didn't know much about how to work my own powers, and I didn't know how God's glory is also reflected in powerlessness and in puzzles.
We, according to Paul, are being transformed from "one degree of glory to another" (whatever that means) and in that glory, he goes on to say, we do not lose heart, we do not hide in shame, we live openly and state the truth.
These are not always things that people welcome. Being "chosen by God" means bearing burdens and crossing through the valley of the shadow of death (this morning's sermon--a good one).
Light and glory appear in different colors. Grey, and green-grey before a storm. Purple and pink as light fades at the end of day. Soft and new at dawn. I did not imagine all this variety at thirteen. Nor did I imagine that declaring the wonderful deeds of God means that sometimes the truth you speak comes across as foolishness, as utter nonsense. Or that sometimes you declare and proclaim with tears, or rebuke, with patient suffering, with anger that only God can transform into something good.
It's more than forty years since my confirmation, four since I started writing as the Perverse Lutheran. Even as a naive young teen I tested my thinking often. "Is that really true? Isn't there another way to think about it?" I am not more content now than I was then--probably less so. I don't know why this is--heredity, environment, experience, a restless brain. God has become an ever-greater abstraction as I've grown older, even as the still, small voice of God's presence has become more specific. The words of blessing, no matter how you translate them--"show forth the glory," "declare the deeds," "proclaim the acts"--still fill me with joy.