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While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them;and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. (Luke 9:34)
My first time preaching on The Transfiguration was at Hope Church in Holland, Michigan. I was a seminary student who was lovingly being nurtured into my vocation. I remember being captivated by the Exodus text, particularly when Moses face was shining. My imagination ran wild as I thought of all the ways one could visually represent this Divine encounter in a room decorated with a million tiny shiny things; I like things/people that shimmer.Fast-forward a few years later and now I’m enamored with the cloud imagery in the Gospel passages. The times I’ve flown through clouds in the sky, the times when it’s cloudy over the Hudson River and I can’t see the George Washington Bridge because of the fog, the times when things aren’t easy and it’s metaphorically cloudy.
This idea of overshadowing I find both mysterious and a bit terrifying. In the book of Luke the first time we see the word overshadow (episkiasei) is when the angel visits Mary and says, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God.” I remember this past Advent I didn’t like the word overshadow then either. I remember teaching my adult education class and we curiously sat with this word [episkiasei] for a good 15 minutes. When things are cloudy we lose our control. When I lived in a driving culture in Michigan I hated driving in the cloudy fog because that meant I couldn’t speed down the streets like a free bird, I had to slow down and be more alert. I didn’t like it (though I’m pretty sure everyone around me was grateful that I eased up on the pedal!).
I’ve been meditating on Sufjan Stevens The Transfiguration in preparation for this Sunday. I’ve attached the words here and encourage you to read them while you listen. I think there are many times when things are cloudy and we have a difficult time seeing clearly. It’s in that moment we begin to see with the intuition and we begin to listen with the spirit inside that is saying to us “Have no fear, we draw near, the son of God is here.”
Our personal lives can get cloudy, our congregational lives can get cloudy, our denominational lives can get cloudy, our relationships can get cloudy; life can be cloudy and it can be a bit terrifying. Instead of panicking, instead of reacting maybe we can listen closely to the voice in the cloud and sink into our intuitive capacities that remind us to have no fear, Christ is near. I know I need that comforting reminder navigating life, maybe you do too.
to the mountainside to pray,
his countenance was modified, his clothing was aflame.
Two men appeared: Moses and Elijah came;
they were at his side.
The prophecy, the legislation spoke of whenever he would die.
Then there came a word
of what he should accomplish on the day.
Then Peter spoke, to make of them a tabernacle place.
A cloud appeared in glory as an accolade.
They fell on the ground.
A voice arrived, the voice of God,
the face of God, covered in a cloud.
What he said to them,
the voice of God: the most beloved son.
Consider what he says to you, consider what’s to come.
The prophecy was put to death,
was put to death, and so will the Son.
And keep your word, disguise the vision till the time has come.
Lost in the cloud, a voice: Have no fear! We draw near!
Lost in the cloud, a sign: Son of man! Turn your ear!
Lost in the cloud, a voice: Lamb of God! We draw near!
Lost in the cloud, a sign: Son of man! Son of God!