‘What we shall be has not yet been disclosed’ words from the first letter of John
A little boy watched a sculptor. A large block of marble was being chipped away. A few weeks later, the boy went back to the sculptor. Where the marble block had stood, a large, powerful lion now sat. ‘Sir’, said the boy, ‘How did you know there was a lion in the marble?’
Today’s gospel is the story of the transfiguration. The disciples had been going round with Jesus for some time. They were amazed at the things he said, the things he did and how he related to people. God opens their eyes to see even more. On the mountain, God reveals Jesus’s true nature: ‘This is my beloved son.’
My beloved son. When we think of Jesus as God’s son, we tend to work downwards. We start with what we think God is like. We imagine him sending his son down from heaven and born of a virgin. He is ‘veiled in flesh’. Almost disguised. The transfiguration removes the veil
That’s one way of looking at it. There is another way of looking that starts from below. It starts with what we think human beings are. Or with what they could be. The Eastern Orthodox Churches say that the Transfiguration points to the restoration of the divine image in humanity.
The divine image in humanity. Genesis says that humans are created in God’s image. They are to co‑create with God to tend the garden of the world. They are to pro‑create with God, to live in communities, to love each other, to live in a faithful sexual relationship with another as a reflection of God’s faithful love.
This love is to overflow and to produce offspring. But it doesn’t work out like that. Humans are selfish; go their own way; wear masks and only give parts of themselves to others. They use people, dominate them.
So one man, Jesus lives a human life as it’s intended to be lived: a life which is open to God, open to other people. By so living Jesus restores the divine image in humanity. Jesus fulfils human destiny by a life of love. God’s love is not selfish, it overflows. So the persons of the Trinity are a model of human community as it should be. The love of Jesus empowers us to become sons and daughters of God too.
On the Mount of Transfiguration, Jesus was bathed in light. If human beings are to become children of God, to be what they were created to be,they have to open themselves to that power he gives. They have to bathe in the light of God’s love; to spend time in quiet prayer every day; like recharging yur mobile ‘phone battery, to open themselves to the love of God, to feel loved, valued.
Which is where the sculptor comes in. The marble had to be chipped away before the lion could emerge. We have to take off our masks, to remove the veils. To stop being defensive. If we know God loves us as we are, we’ll have the courage to do this. Until we grow fully into the stature of Christ.
But it doesn’t end there. It’s not a private therapy course. One of the dangers of religious people is that they want to possess the truth, wrap it up and keep it. Peter wanted to put Jesus, Moses and Elijah in tabernacles.
You can’t do that. Love doesn’t stand still; it either overflows or it dies. Because we are growing in the love of God, we will want to enable other people to grow. Like the sculptor, we have to see the lion in the marble. To enable men and women to chip away all that mars the divine image. To become the children of God.
The disciples were allowed by God to see a reality that was always there. John used to play by himself in the sand pit. If another child at the infant school tried to help him build or destroy castles, John threw sand in his eyes. As he got older, he got worse. His parents had little time for him ‑ their marriage was on the rocks. His teachers lost patience with him. They had thirty other pupils. By secondary school, most people had given up on him. The drama teacher observed John from the staffroom window. There was one role in the next school play which hadn’t been filled. John might fit the bill. The teacher persuaded John to have a go. He was a liability. forgot his lines. missed rehearsals. Slowly, it dawned on John that people needed him. If he got it wrong, the play was a shambles. If he got it right, it was a success. The play WAS a success. John had been transformed by the experience of teamwork, all because someone had enabled him to learn from it. Transformed. He discovered depths and abilities in himself he hadn’t known before.
Paul was unable to read or write when he started secondary school. He hid it well. He sat on his own and had no friends. When he was nearly sixteen, one teacher suggested he go on an Outward Bound Course. The school had a fund to help with the cost because Mother couldn’t afford it and father hadn’t been seen for twelve years. On the course, Paul was roped with some others on a climbing expedition. The boy in front of him refused to move. If he went forward, there was a big drop ‑ he was terrified. If he went back, there was a steep slope. Taunts from other kids made it worse. The report from the Outward Bound Centre described how Paul had talked the boy out of his fears and exhibited leadership qualities. Paul didn’t get any GCSEs but he was one of the first to get a job. He is happy. He was transformed. He discovered depths and abilities he hadn’t known before.
Transformed. To minister to people is to give them opportunities to develop their full potential; to become sons and daughters of God, made in his image. To what extent do we enable people to develop their full potential? To discover their full humanity as co‑creators with God, made in his image?
The sculptor saw a lion in the marble. Michaelangelo saw a loving mother holding her dead son. He saw an angry Moses about to smash the tablets of the law. He saw a youthful David about to stone Goliath.
Peter, James and John saw the divine image in a human being. Do we open ourselves to God’s love and develop our full potential as children of God and enable others to do likewise?
Let’s try this Lent.
Because’’What we shall be has not yet been disclosed’