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The Transfiguration and Global Mission

Authored by The Rev. Clelia Pinza-Garrity, LCSW

One of my favorite prayers is authored by Thomas Merton a Trappist monk, and a leading twentieth-century spiritual thinker. The prayer is found in his book "Thoughts in Solitude." A book that explores the necessity for quiet reflection in an age when so little is private. In the prayer, Merton speaks directly to God saying, "I hope that I will never do anything apart from pleasing you. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore, will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”

Merton’s thoughts are reminiscent of the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s statement regarding the importance of quiet reflection and solitude. In one of his many public appearances he commented, “If we do not take time to be quiet and be with God, we will disintegrate. Our vertical relationship with our Father is of the utmost importance to have right.”

Our vertical relationship with our Father is of the utmost importance to have right.

The gospel reading for the last Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B focuses on the Transfiguration of Jesus (Mark 9:2-9). Apart from the resurrection, the Transfiguration is the most definitive revelation of the incarnation, our Lord Jesus Christ, as a divine figure. Atop the mountain his apostles Peter, James, and John at his side, Jesus is stunningly, dazzlingly transformed and revealed as the beginning of a new covenant that promises the grace and peace of God’s salvation for humanity.

The Transfiguration was an event that revealed Jesus’ deity and provided the sensory experience that would live within each of the apostles and offer testament and witness to all Jesus’ teachings and healings for the remainder of his ministry.

The last Sunday after the Epiphany is also designated as World Mission Sunday – a time when the church comes together to focus on the global impact of our call to “seek and serve Christ in all persons” (Baptismal Covenant, Book of Common Prayer, p. 305).

World mission is the lifeblood of the Episcopal Church. World mission guarantees our church’s voice in the larger global community. A community comprised of all Christian faith groups as well as people of other faiths and people of no faith at all. World Mission provides witness to God’s reconciling love in a global context, crossing boundaries of differences and meeting Christ in one another. World mission implies being present with and journeying with others, as Jesus was present and journeyed with us.

World mission initiatives educate, empower, and inspire individuals and parishes to respond to God’s call for engagement through relationships and spiritual transformation throughout the Anglican Communion and beyond. World mission vows to seek and serve Christ in all persons and to respect the dignity of all human beings; and to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.

World mission offers the transfigured Jesus, God’s love, to all those throughout the world who seek healing and peace.

To quote Tutu once again, “God places us in the world as his fellow workers-agents of transfiguration. We work with God so that injustice is transfigured into justice, so there will be more compassion and caring, that there will be more laughter and joy, that there will be more togetherness in God's world.”

To work with God so that injustice is transfigured into justice in a world replete with injustice. To create more compassion and caring in a world filled with alienation and suffering. To foster laughter, joy, and togetherness in a world filled with sadness and grief; these are awesome tasks, some say impossible tasks. Tasks that cannot be accomplished if our hearts and our souls are not filled with the glory of God’s grace incarnated in our savior Jesus Christ. Tasks that remain beyond our reach if we have not experienced the transfigured Jesus as the way to compassion, caring, healing, and unremitting love.

To be disciples of Christ, to be a Christian community uncompromisingly and persistently proclaiming the good news, the gospel of Jesus Christ, is an impossible task without continually envisioning the transfigured Jesus and holding his divinity and his love deep within our hearts and souls.

And it is only by way of this relationship with the transfigured Jesus, of our unerring commitment to follow him to the cross and beyond proclaiming the good news without fear or distraction, that we can possibly establish a vertical relationship with God.

To follow Jesus beyond the cross, to be in vertical relationship with God, is the way, the only way, to a world that is reconciled to God. A world that is guided by justice, compassion, and caring. A world that lives in fellowship, and peace. A world in which our relationship with God is of supreme importance and our life, as we cross boundaries of differences and meet Christ in one another, provides witness to God’s reconciling love.

A life dedicated to the church’s five marks of mission:

  • To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom.

  • To teach, baptize and nurture new believers.

  • To respond to human need by loving service.

  • To transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and pursue peace and reconciliation.

  • To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth.

This is a time of substantial transition for the Episcopal Church. A time in which the church faces the reality of a post-modern globalized community that values the individual over community and the material over the spiritual. A time in which the church’s voice has become increasingly silent. A time in which the world is fast falling away from seeking the love, caring, and compassion of the transfigured Jesus. A time in which the uncompromising necessity of a vertical relationship with God is fast fading. A time in which solitude and prayer are little known, frequently absent altogether.

The assurance of our church’s solid future requires individuals, congregations and dioceses that are solid in their love of one another. Solid in their commitment to the teaching of scripture. Solid in their steadfast focus on the transfigured Jesus, and solid in their resolve, both individually and corporately, always to be in vertical relationship with God. A vertical relationship that ensures a future in which we, as the Episcopal Church, find new ways to be the hands and feet of Jesus, new ways to shine the Light of Christ, and new ways to make known the love that God has for us all to a troubled and grieving world. New ways to be a missional church proclaiming the good news, the gospel of Jesus Christ, to a world that so desperately needs Gods love, God’s peace.

Let us pray…

O gracious and loving God, you work everywhere reconciling, loving, and healing your people and your creation. In your Son and through the power of your Holy Spirit, you invite each of us to join you in your work. We, young and old, lay and ordained, ask you to form us more and more in your image and likeness, through our prayer and worship of you and through the study of your scripture, that our eyes will be fully opened to your mission in the world. Then, God, into our communities, our nation, and the world, send us to serve with Christ, taking risks to give life and hope to all people and all of your creation. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.


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