Our weekly devotion from the sainted Rev. Earl Feddersen:
2 Kings 2:1-12
2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2
We tend to remember the things that shock and surprise us–the unusual and extraordinary. For example, Jeff and Angie Pautz, volunteer missionaries in Thailand, wrote that Bangkok is similar to most American cities: “We just saw Independence Day, ate at Kentucky Fried Chicken and can get around by bus. On the other hand, we also just watched a man cross four lanes of congested city traffic riding on the head of his elephant!”
The most famous pilot in WWI is remembered in history for downing four enemy balloons and 24 planes. In 1942, a year after America entered the next war, Captain Edward V. Rickenbacker was asked by Secretary of War Henry Stimson to make an inspection trip. Mechanical failure of the airplane took the famous ace and seven passengers down into the Pacific Ocean, 600 miles north of Samoa. They were rescued 24 days later–after the world had already despaired their loss.
Later, addressing a large group of veterans, Rickenbacker said one sentence which should be remembered far more than all his exploits: “Men, if you have not had an experience of God in your life, my advice is to get busy and get yourself one. It is the one thing that will save you.”
Peter, James and John had more than one experience of God in their lives, but the Transfiguration had to be a standout moment. It is no wonder that Peter wanted to set up camp and savor the moment for a while. Jesus reminded him that we cannot stay on the mountain we must return to where life goes on. Rickenbacker reminded us that we carry such experiences of God with us. When the valleys are very deep, it is through our mountaintop experiences that God carries us.
In the long run, it was not the Transfiguration of Jesus that maintained and empowered Peter’s life–it was the Holy Spirit’s transfiguration of Peter!
The Greek word for transfiguration appears in the Second Lesson where Paul says that we are being transformed into Christ’s likeness with ever-increasing glory. Unlike the spectacular external change of Jesus, however, our change is internal and it is not all at once.
Julia Ward Howe noted that the glory in Christ’s bosom–spectacular as it may be–is most brilliant when it “transfigures you and me.” It is a glory, not of eye-blinding light and earth- shaking power, but of inescapable grace, unheard of love and unflinching mercy.
Jesus’ words to Peter after the Transfiguration remind me of the old saying, “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet!” Even with that mountaintop experience, Peter could not imagine a God who loves His people more than Himself, who forgives even His own torture and murder and who chooses to conquer death rather than dish it out on those who deserve it. It is the mountaintop experience of Golgotha that ultimately transfigures you and me.
The most memorable of our experiences of God may take place on the mountaintops and elephant heads, but the best of our work in His mission takes place in the hubbub of everyday life. If you have had the Golgotha experience, He has made you His missionary.
Where does He want you to serve … and how?