After Leisurely Lectionary this morning, which admitted only ended moments ago, I raced back to try to remember what the word transfigured actually means. We were interpreting it as change this morning, but I’m not sure that’s right. Of course, this means that I pull my favorite feminist theological dictionary off the shelf. Dang. The feminists don’t include this word in my favorite dictionary. This means I have to settle for the Harper Collins Bible Dictionary which defines the event but not the word. It does help me to know that this word comes from the Greek metamorphoo, but I refused to take Greek in seminary because I never wanted to be that obnoxious preacher sounding so smug in the pulpit. So, that doesn’t really help. I have to settle on an actual dictionary where I learn that transfigure does indeed mean change — or renew. Renew doesn’t seem to be the same thing to me.
I find this fascinating. It assumes that we can’t really understand something until we’re older and wiser. Or, at least, this is how we tend to read it. We tend to believe that when the whole story is told, this moment we didn’t really understand (or thought we did) will finally make sense. It’s that adage, “You’ll understand when you’re older.” I struggle with that. The small group I studied with this morning knows that. They teased me. And that’s only fair. I still believe that they knew in that moment. They knew something that they may have known before. (Certainly, Peter had an epiphany just a few verses earlier where he affirms that Jesus is the Messiah.) They knew in that moment. They just talked themselves out of knowing. Or more concretely, Jesus talked them out of it. Jesus was overwhelmed by this sudden epiphany. Perhaps even more than the disciples. To me, this speaks to that very human fear that we can’t really know what it all means. We insist there must be something that we’re missing. We remind ourselves to wait, but we knew in that moment. We knew it in our gut. Now, that’s not true for every moment. This is only for those moments where you are truly renewed. This is only for those moments where you realize something about yourself or your God that you forgot or ignored or dismissed. You know it in your gut when the knowledge comes. It was the thing that was missing.