Matthew 17

transfigured witness

"But Jesus came and touched them, saying, ‘Rise, and have no fear.’ And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only," (Mt. 17.7-8).

Jesus only. If you had one message, one opportunity with limited words to speak into the life of a church, what would you say? If you were invited to give voice to Truth into the heart of a man, woman or child yet-to-recognize Jesus as the Messiah, to which Scripture would you lead them? What words would you speak into and over their lives?

I stepped into the pulpit here on this Western Coast for the first time. Like so many pulpits across North, East and Central Africa, standing alongside so many African brothers (who transform my halting words effortlessly into their linguistic equivalents of Arabic, Swahili, Spanish, French and now Wolof) I opened my mouth to speak. And so as if this moment journeying between Easter and Pentecost were fleeting, I called the congregation to prayer. I bowed my body down behind the wooden frame below view, with the word of God burning in my heart, hearing the studied words of the transfiguration echoing in my soul.

What a beautiful and profound passage of God’s word where we see our Immanuel, our God with us, in His celestial glory. Atop a high mountain we see His face radiating more brilliantly than the sun. And enveloped in the cloud of the Holy Spirit we hear the voice of God the Father, which spoke the sun into being, and we see the Triune God resplendent in majesty. Like Peter, James and John laid low to the ground could we do anything but fall on our faces and tremble.

What a privilege to give witness to the transfigured Lord in a Senegalese storefront church, competing with the sound of taxi horns and barreling trucks. Transfixed there on a mountain top with His three closest disciples, and surrounded here by African men, women and children who have embraced the cross on this coastal shore, we sense Jesus’ presence. We feel His gentle hand as He says, “Jogleen, bullon ragal dara.” He says, “Levez-vous, n'ayez pas peur.” He says, “Rise and have no fear.”

Today, as we lift our prayerful eyes, from the rocks of a high Mid-Eastern mountain, from our African wooden church bench, from our American church office desk, do we see Jesus only? The Son of God who is the Son of Man. The Almighty God, Creator of Heaven and Earth, who calls us close and calls us friend.

Today, do we hear Jesus’ words, “Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father,” (Mt. 13.43)? He is calling us to transformed lives, to transfigured living. Do we hear the Spirit of God saying, “Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever,” (Dan 12.3). He is calling us to live a transfigured witness from DC to Dakar and from Mbour to Baltimore.