TRANSFIGURATION: EXPERIENCING THE POWER OF GOD
JESUS, THE NATIVE AMERICAN HOPI PEOPLE, AND US
Today's liturgy examines the gospel story of the Transfiguration from two perspectives, that of the western Christian Church and that of Native American spirituality. The book "The Four Vision Quest's of Jesus" authored by Steven Charleston, a Native American Choctaw and an Episcopal priest and bishop examines these two views.
Our gospel reading today is the Transfiguration story, where Jesus experiences his second vision quest. Jesus takes his friends Peter, James, and John up the high mountain for support, he has prepared himself, he stands before God and his lament is so deep that he experiences a vision that is so powerful that his friends can see and hear it. Jesus appears as pure power of the divine come to earth. He embodies the full force of God’s creative energy in one place at one time. The story shows that we are dealing with forces far beyond our control. This power can be used for good but if misunderstood or if humans seek to misuse it, it can be disastrous.
The author uses the “Pueblo Revolt” and specifically the Hopi people (the peaceful ones) participation as an example of how the misuse of this divine power has grave consequences. The Spanish Christian colonists made contact with the Pueblo people around 1540. By 1629, they were converting these people but were brutal in their methods. They enslaved them, and dismantled their spiritual practices and way of life. The confiscated their crops and forced them to live on minimal substance. They separated them from their children and cut their hair short, demeaning them. The Pueblo understood the interconnectedness of all life and all things and lived this through their spiritual practices. The dismantling of their spiritual world was devastating. This resulted in the “Pueblo Revolt,” a complete and thorough annihilation of the colonist. The peaceful ones snapped.
The Transfiguration story has Peter wanting to set up camp on the mountain. He wants to build a box around this moment and stay there. Peter is the mistake of the Spanish Friars. They believed they could build a box to contain the power of God and use it for their own ends. They failed to understand the balance between two poles represented by Moses and Elijah who were in the vision with Jesus between them. A cloud comes down over the disciples, representing the great Mystery of Divine nature.
Our first reading today is a blessing from Jan Richardson titled, “Dazzling.” She emphasizes that this blessing is about leaving. In the gospel story, Jesus does not give in to Peter, but leads his friends down the mountain to continue service to the people. He leaves the mountain.
Our liturgy today, reveals that divine power is not about “power over,” all divine power is shared, Divine power is not “top down.” It is relational as represented in our belief in the “Trinity.” This shift in consciousness, changes relationships, marriages, politics, and international relations. We are called to surrender to “ultimate love” who holds and guides us. We are reminded that the Eucharist we partake in reveals that we are “The body and blood of Christ". We are co-creators with the Divine. We too, are called down from the mountain by our brother Jesus. We are called to service.