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Lifting the Veil

The transfiguration is frustrating for disciples—past and present—who long for an unmediated experience of God. Jesus’ glory is revealed, and then, just as suddenly, a cloud descends and the vision fades. And even though Paul contrasts the Christian’s experience of God with Moses’s veiled experience of God, he notes that we see the glory of the Lord “as though reflected in a mirror” (2 Cor. 3:18). Even with unveiled faces, we don’t see directly, or even clearly. Even when God is revealed in shining glory, much remains veiled and hidden.

As he witnesses Jesus’ transfiguration, Peter’s understanding remains veiled; ours does too. The glimpses we get of God’s glory—through the veil or reflected in the mirror—are expectation-shattering, alarming, overwhelming, and awesome. The love of God shines too brightly to view directly, and yet we do have the privilege of directly experiencing that love in baptism, in communion, in service to God, and in relationship with God’s creation and our neighbors in need. The veils we contend with daily are the barriers that prevent us from truly loving those neighbors, caring for creation, and seeing the shining face of Jesus in the faces of people who are different, hungry, difficult, enemy, invisible, or poor. God is always revealed in ways that surprise and confuse us, whether shining on the mountaintop or dying on the cross.

Gospel: Luke 9:28-36 [37-43a]

The conversation about Jesus’ suffering and death is enclosed in a dazzling foreshadowing of the resurrection. God affirms Jesus’ identity, the disciples are stunned speechless, and Jesus resumes his mission with a demonstration of his power over evil.

28Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. 29And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. 30Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. 31They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. 32Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. 33Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah”—not knowing what he said. 34While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. 35Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” 36When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen. [

  37On the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, a great crowd met him. 38Just then a man from the crowd shouted, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son; he is my only child. 39Suddenly a spirit seizes him, and all at once he shrieks. It convulses him until he foams at the mouth; it mauls him and will scarcely leave him. 40I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.” 41Jesus answered, “You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here.” 42While he was coming, the demon dashed him to the ground in convulsions. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the boy, and gave him back to his father. 43aAnd all were astounded at the greatness of God.]