Transfiguration Sunday, February 19, 2023

December 15, 2022 | by Bruce Epperly

Reading 1 Reading 2 Reading 3 Reading 4 Reading 1 Alt Reading 2 Alt
Ex 24:12-18 Ps 2 2 Peter 1:16-21 Matt 17:1-9

William Blake once asserted, “When the doors of perception are cleansed, we will see everything as it is – infinite.”[i] On Transfiguration Sunday, we celebrate the light of God shining through Jesus and the communal mystical experience of Jesus’ followers.  On the mountaintop, Jesus is transfigured, shining with the brightness of the Big Bang, along with Moses and Elijah.  The disciples as a group (Peter, James, and John) are transfigured as well. They see the light of God shining through Jesus and are awestruck and filled with fear.  Jesus tells them not to be afraid, suggesting that they bask in this experience of radical amazement.  They see the infinity of Jesus and discover the infinity within themselves.

Process theology democratizes mysticism, the divine-human encounter that change our lives.  I recall reading a conversation between Dorothee Sölle and her husband theologian Fulbert Steffensky in which Sölle asserts that her most important concern is to “democratize mysticism…to reopen the door to the mystical sensibility that’s within all of us.”[ii] Steffensky responds, in part speaking on behalf of his mother and other ordinary people for whom mysticism has been a foreign and unapproachable land, “‘We’re all mystics.’  That’s no observation. It’s a demand placed on life. No human being ought merely to pass the day…For everyone there ought to be places of free intentionality, where vision can happen.”  Steffensky continues, echoing Solle’s integration of mysticism and political resistance, “‘We’re all mystics.’ The sentence contains in itself the right of every human being to have beauty and vision.”[iii]

In the case of Jesus, Sölle, process theology, and mystics such as Howard Thurman, mysticism turns us toward rather than away from the world.  Our experiences of the Holy inspire us to champion a world in which everyone has the opportunity to experience abundant life.  Our mysticism leads to protest, but a type of protest that sees the Holy within, rather than demonizing those who perpetuate injustice.  We challenge injustice to save the souls of oppressor and oppressed alike.[iv]

Jesus and the disciples go to the mountaintop.  The disciples gain a new perspective on the world and on Jesus, that hopefully will get them through the challenging times ahead.  Moses goes to the mountaintop for forty days of spiritual reflection and encounter with the Holy One, and the people see a devouring fire.  No doubt they too are awestruck, and a little unnerved by the experience.

If the congregation hears the Psalm 2, the preacher needs to address it.  God is power and might, and dangerous.  Be warned. Step out of line, and you will be pulverized.  “Serve the LORD with fear, with trembling kiss his feet, or he will be angry, and you will perish in the way; God’s wrath is quickly kindled. Happy are all who take refuge in him.”  There are consequences to our behaviors.  Injustice leads to suffering for ourselves and ultimately for our communities.  The God of process theology challenges injustice.  The best for the impasse is sometimes bad.  When we turn from God, the cost may be great. But, it is our doing and not God’s.

In the reading from I Peter, the author reports the Transfiguration and focuses on the authority of divine inspiration.  Listen to the messages of God and follow them, the author counsels.  Seldom are they as clear as on the Mount of Transfiguration.  But in our listening, we receive insights that will change our lives.  Followers of process theology are counseled to attend to the messages present within each moment and encounter.

On Transfiguration Sunday, the preacher has the opportunity to invite congregants to learn spiritual practices.  It would be a good day for a workshop on meditation and centering prayer, and to emphasize the importance of prayer in Christian maturity.  Even children can experience the Transfiguration, perhaps, more fully than their parents, as Timothy Murphy says in Jesus Learns to Glow.[v]

[i] William Blake.  The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.

[ii] Dorothee Solle, The Silent Cry: Mysticism and Resistance (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg, 2001), 301.

[iii] Ibid., 302.

[iv] For more on process theology and mysticism, see Bruce Epperly, The Mystic in You: Discovering a God-filled World (Upper Room, 2018), Process Spirituality: Practicing Holy Adventure (Energion, 2017), and Mystics in

Action: Twelve Saints for Today (Orbis, 2021).

[v] Timothy Murphy and C.J. Ward, Jesus Learns to Glow (Process Century Press, 2022).

Bruce Epperly is a pastor, professor, spiritual guide, and author of over seventy books, including The Elephant Is Running: Process and Open and Relational Theology and Religious PluralismProphetic Healing: Howard Thurman’s Vision Of Contemplative Activism; Mystic’s In ActionTwelve Saints For Today; Walking With Saint Francis: From Privilege To Activism; Messy Incarnation: Meditations On Process Christology, and From Cosmos To Cradle: Meditations On The Incarnation. His latest book is The Prophetic Amos Speaks To America. He can be reached for seminars and talks at