O God, who before the passion of your only begotten Son revealed his glory upon the holy mountain: Grant to us that we, beholding by faith the light of his countenance, may be strengthened to bear our cross, and be changed into his likeness from glory to glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (Collect for the Last Sunday after the Epiphany, The Book of Common Prayer, 1979)Meeting new people is always a challenge. When I was a young lad, at a certain age, my father began to teach me how to look someone in the eye, shake their hand and engage them in polite conversation. It was a big deal, even for an extroverted and people-invested kid like I was (and still am). I don't remember who exactly it was that I met...I think it was the dean of the college my father worked under at the University at which he was an associate professor at the time. I just remember him taking me into a nice office as he completed an errand. The person was there, an older man in a suit and my dad took me by the shoulder and introduced me as his son. "Hello," I mumbled.
"Hold on, Mark (my family name)," said my dad..."look Dr. X in the eye and shake his hand."
It was a primer we all face: Eye to eye contact accompanied by a firm handshake and then a confident greeting. Easy, yes?
Because it is one thing to just be around people. That's just fine. Being around people and talking to them in an informal and familiar manner when you know them? Even better. Greeting strangers, overcoming that strangeness and then stepping over social fences to engage someone you don't know and who may even be (apparently) further up the food chain than you are? That is when the terrifying kicked in for me back then, and even does so sometimes today as well.
So, how unnerving it must have been when Peter, James and John realize that as they rest and pray on the mountaintop that not only are they not alone....the newcomers are, apparently, Moses and Elijah themselves. Not only are they Moses and Elijah, these two new ones are speaking to Jesus as if he is not only one of them but also one who owns their respect and to whom THEY give honor. NOT ONLY THAT....but that Jesus' aspect is now transfigured. He is Himself, but only more so. He is in sharper relief as compared to the landscape around him. His garments are whiter that anyone could bleach them. His voice is clearer than they have ever heard it.....and his eyes.......
Small wonder that the three are astounded, and that Peter blurts out that they (the three lesser beings on the mount) should stay and build shrines to the honor of these greats, these HOLY men.
At this point, I am sure, they felt quite small. They felt more than a little under-dressed and certainly in need of a lot of abluting.
When God meets us face to face, we assume and presume that this is how it should happen. On a mountain top. Holy people all around. The fabric of reality combed out and shining.
Funny thing is, though, that when they notice it is the very moment when a cloud obscures their vision, and then a voice reminds them to pick up their heads from the ground, and to listen to the beloved son.
Opening their eyes, there is Jesus as he was before. Granted, their eyes are still seeing spots from the vision of just a few moments before, but for all intents and purposes it is, simply Jesus.
This is the Epiphany equivalent of my father's lesson on how to greet a fellow human being with honor....look them in the eye, shake their hand and greet them warmly and politely, yes? God is coming to us, indeed is here in our midst....our job is to see that glory in each other as Christ is revealed in each of us.
The outcome of that exchange with my dad and his boss's boss? He was bemused, and complimented me on giving him a firm handshake and a good greeting....and that is how we learn to greet each other, and how God reminds us to receive the Son.