Spoiler alert – Jesus rises from the dead in the end. That is the message of the transfiguration, which we celebrate today, a key moment in the story of Christ. People love a good story. Just look at the billions of dollars we spend in this country every year on books, movies, and DVD’s. I love a good story too, but, sometimes, as I read a good book or watch a good movie, I get to a point in the story that isn’t so good. Sometimes it’s so bad that I wonder if I even want to keep going and finish the story. At times like that, I skip ahead to the last chapter or last few minutes of the film and take a sneak peek of how the story ends. If the ending is good, and stirring, and powerful, it motivates me to go back and continue the story, even through the bad parts. And in the end it all proves worth it.
Our gospel today treats us to a sneak peek in the story of Christ, the hugest sneak peek possible. Jesus appears to Peter, James, and John, in all of his risen glory, but he does so long before he is actually risen. Jesus shows his disciples the end of the story right smack in the middle. Why does he do this? For the same reason we take sneak peeks in other stories; he is building his disciples up, building up their excitement, anticipation, and faith, so that they can endure the horrifying darkness that will come before the end. Jesus shows them this sneak peek of his resurrection so that they can endure his suffering and death in faith.
We live today in the time after Christ’s resurrection. Christ is risen, and even though the story of the Transfiguration we hear today takes place before he rose, we don’t pretend that the resurrection didn’t happen. We also don’t pretend that the light of that resurrection has driven away the darkness of the cross, at least not completely. Christ is risen, but he continues to suffer and die today in the suffering members of his Body, the Church. How do we as Christ’s disciples endure his sufferings today, his sufferings which are also our own?
Where is our transfiguration experience to give us the strength and courage to walk with him through our deepest darkness?
If it’s anywhere, it’s in the Eucharist. When we celebrate the Eucharist, we enter into the depths of Christ’s suffering and death, offering our own sufferings in union with his. But at the same time, we also enter into the glory of his resurrection. Every Sunday, when we gather in this church and celebrate the Eucharist, and really think about what we’re doing, we see a glimpse of Christ’s glory and receive a taste of the heavenly banquet that is to come. Every Sunday, we gather as Christ’s disciples and experience the greatest sneak peek ever, the power and glory of the love of God, building us up and giving us the boost we need to endure our moments of darkness.
That is Christ’s plan for us today, just as it was for the disciples 2000 years ago. One catch: 2000 years ago the plan didn’t work. His disciples did not endure. The darkness was too much for them, the trial too great. James abandoned him. Peter denied him. Only John stayed true. Only John followed the light of the transfiguration to the end of the tunnel, walking with Jesus the entire agonizing journey of the cross and standing with him at his death. The sneak peek is only enough for one.
Be that one today. Be like John. Find the strength we need in the Eucharist and stand with Christ until the end, whatever darkness might come. But know this, even if we fail, even if we run and abandon Christ when things get rough, he will never abandon us, just like he never abandoned Peter and James. After the resurrection, Jesus appeared to them again in his glory, and this time, it worked. Filled with the Spirit, Peter, James, and the other apostles went out and fearlessly proclaimed the good news to all the world, eventually walking their own road to martyrdom with Christ.
Crucified and risen Christ, be with us your disciples today. Come to us in the Eucharist and give us what we need to follow you down the dark roads of our lives. If we remain faithful, raise us. If we fail, forgive us. In all things, be with us, and never let us be parted from you. Amen.