By the very power of God, The Transfiguration (A,B,C) – 2006

August 6, 2006

Exodus 34:29-35; Psalm 99 or 99:5-9; 2 Peter 1:13-21; Luke 9:28-36

Today’s gospel reading is the story of the Transfiguration. Six months from now we will hear this same lesson on the last Sunday of Epiphany, just as six month’s ago we heard the parallel story from the Gospel of Mark. The transfiguration event is retold every year on the Sunday before Lent. We use it today because this year August 6 falls on a Sunday – and August 6 is the time honored Feast of the Transfiguration.

August 6, 2006 reminds us that sixty-one years ago flyers of the U.S. Army Air Corps dropped an atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima, Japan – a profoundly dramatic event that forever changed the world. This cataclysm released such energy that a blue sky was transfigured into a blinding white light of an intensity never before witnessed.

To some, it seemed that hell itself had intersected with the earth that day. Fifty to seventy thousand people were instantly killed and countless other maimed and fatally injured.

For more than six decades we have lived with the reality that humans have the capacity to destroy every lifeform God so lovingly created.

This is an extreme, dramatic example of how we on earth can treat on another, how fearful we can become when we are threatened, how easily we can forget why we were created, despite what God desires and longs for us to become. It illustrates how easy it is for us to pervert the energies God has created.

Though the bombing of Hiroshima has been repeated only once, its memory keeps vividly alive the threat brought by the existence of such weapons. For a season we might forget, but its sobering reality is never far from home. Our world is now embroiled in the fear and frustration and agony attached to the intentions of Korea and Iran to develop the capability of employing nuclear weaponry.

Maybe there is nothing new about this. Maybe this is just one more example of a history-long tendency to misuse technology. Still, on this sixth day of August, 2006, the existence in our world of enough nuclear weapons to kill all humans many times over makes us wonder whether scientific development has reached a point whereby we can literally negate God’s purposes.

Today’s gospel, however, reminds us of a deeper reality – that God insists always on having the last word. The dazzling, blinding white light cast on the mountain declares that God insists on transfiguring hell into heaven. God will not let the hell of Hiroshima that we speak of be the last word. God will not let the selfishness and inhumanity of nuclear annihilation win out.

The power of God can transfigure the events of August 6, 1945 into a level of restraint in the way nations settle differences. Wearied and bewildered world leaders in our small global community are fully awakened by powers bigger than all of them and the people they represent. The power of humanity to destroy and dehumanize one another is ever before them.

People of faith know that lying beside the power to destroy is the power of God – a force that will rise in human consciousness, intersecting our human ways, and unleashing the dazzling white power of love that can transfigure us.

As we remember August 6, 1945, always the image of the mushroom-shaped cloud comes to consciousness. But Christians who remember that August 6 is the Feast of the Transfiguration know, too, that another cloud overshadows the mushroom-shaped one. It is the cloud of the mountain from which the voice of God reminds us that Jesus is God’s chosen one to whom we must listen.

By the very power of God, we can be changed into the likeness of Christ – restored to unity with God and one another, united in God’s love. By the transforming, transfiguring power of God, humanity can turn its back on the intersection of blazing white hell on earth that we know as Hiroshima. By the power of God, in all its dazzling whiteness of love, we can face a future of heaven on earth, listening to God’s chosen one and following him into the way of life.


— The Rev. Ken Kesselus, author of John E. Hines: Granite on Fire (Seminary of the Southwest, 2005) and current member of the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church, lives in semi-retirement with his wife Toni in Bastrop, Texas, a small town near Austin. 

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