This is a version of my homily at Grace Anglican Church for the Feast of the Transfiguration.
St. Luke’s report of the Transfiguration (Luke 9:28-36)
What we read: Three Apostles went up the mountain with Jesus, he underwent a transfiguration or a metamorphosis that revealed the glory of the Incarnate God – the divine Logos – the eternally-begotten Son of the Father, the Apostles worshiped him, he spoke with Moses and Elijah about his approaching death, Peter wanted the moment to last, but God the Father instructed him to listen to Jesus, and that’s finally when they saw Jesus only.
What we learn: This event on the mountaintop is a powerful spiritual experience for Peter, James, and John. But what makes it a powerful experience is that it sharpened their focus on Jesus, less cluttered by the trappings of the Old Covenant (embodied in the persons of Moses & Elijah), thus preparing them to receive the New Covenant at the last supper, which we too celebrate together in Eucharist.
St. Peter’s recollection of this event
For St. Peter, the Transfiguration was a moment that not only shaped his personal spiritual life, but also communicated something of God’s revelation to mankind. In chapter 1 of his second letter, he describes two testimonies of the Gospel: the human and the divine. The human testimony of the Gospel proclaims, “We were eyewitnesses… we were with him.” Related to that is the divine testimony of the Gospel: “the prophetic word made more sure.” This illustrates not only the inspired preaching & teaching of the Apostles in the Early Church, but what came to be the New Testament of the Bible.
What’s authoritative in your spiritual life?
Examine the foundations of your faith. Why do you believe what you believe? Is it built on personal experiences? The experiences & testimonies of others? The witness of Scripture?
These are questions of epistemology – the study of how we know what we know. Two famous epistemological models are Richard Hooker’s “three-legged stool” and the Wesleyan Quadrilateral. Appropriately received as Christians, Richard Hooker’s three-legged stool does not describe Scripture & Reason & Tradition as three equal sources of truth, nor does the Wesleyan Quadrilateral add Experience as a fourth equal sources of truth.
All of these authorities are important authorities to ground our faith in reality, but we must keep prima scriptura, Scripture first. The experiences of others or of ourselves are important, and often pivotal in our spiritual lives. But in the end, we must find how the Spirit is working in those experiences and traditions to point us to “the prophetic word made more sure” in Scripture. Otherwise we run the risk of defining God according to our own lives, rather than according to his own self-revelation through history as reported in the Bible.