Anonymous. Transfiguration, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. [retrieved February 19, 2023]. Original source:

RCL Year A, Last Epiphany
Exodus 24:12-18, Psalm 2, II Peter 1:16-21, Saint Matthew 17:1-9

Today the Church gives us the vision of the Transfiguration of Jesus, his face shining like the sun and his clothes becoming dazzling white, while giving us in the Collect the request that God change us “into his likeness from glory to glory.”[1] This vision and this prayer come as we prepare for Lent, deciding what our disciplines will be and contemplating what changes those disciplines will work in us.

We shall be disappointed if we think a holy and costly Lent will transfigure us into Jesus or if we think the ashes will cause our faces to shine and our clothes to brighten. What can we reasonably expect from a holy and costly Lent, and, more importantly, what does God have in mind for the destination of our Lenten journey?

The answer, I think, has to do with the range of definitions associated with the word likeness. A likeness can be a representation of something else, but it can also be a resemblance to something or someone else. Here is where we can reasonably expect to make some progress. It will be enough if at the end of Lent our resemblance to God be increased if ever so slightly. It may be that only God will see the increase and know its cost. None of us will ever be a representation of Jesus so that we are mistaken for him. But we have been made in the image of God, and that image can be nurtured and allowed to grow so that we are more faithfully, more charitably, and more devotedly his obedient creature.

The progress we make, or do not make, will be marked along a road of choices. Every choice we make gives us the opportunity to inform or to infuse the choice with the image of God within us. The more we draw from the image of God within us, the more we become God’s obedient creature.

The Scriptures give us an example of growing fidelity to the image of God within each of us in their depiction of Peter. Just before the Transfiguration, Peter has declared that Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus blesses him for his confession and declares that God revealed Jesus’ divinity to him. You could say that Peter is off and running, coming closer to that indwelling image of God. He gets the Transfiguration wrong, however, when he wants to enshrine and to preserve Jesus, Moses, and Elijah in three dwellings, a permanent memorial to the glory of God and a kind of Christian memorial along the lines of Mount Rushmore. He certainly gets it wrong when he denies Jesus before the Crucifixion. But the image of God in him has not failed him; he has failed to live up to the creature God made him to be.

By the time he preaches the resurrection in the Book of Acts, he has been changed into a likeness close to God. And certainly, when he wrote the Epistle today, he has come a long way. Writing of the Transfiguration and specifically God’s declaration that Jesus is his Son, he writes, “You will do well to be attentive to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.”[2] Not only has Peter been transfigured, but he has glimpsed that transfiguration awaits other followers of Jesus.

He has seen firsthand how the morning star rose in him, and he envisions it rising in others when they focus on Jesus, the Son of God. Lent gives us the opportunity for that focus and to choose to place ourselves in the hands of the living God, and to become aware that in his hands is where we have always been.

[1] The BCP (1979), page 218.

[2] II Peter 1:19.