Glimpse of Glory

mountain vista at sunset
Photo by Dave Herring on Unsplash; licensed under CC0.

Transfiguration Sunday is an odd church festival. My hunch is that the average lay person understands it about as well as Trinity Sunday (which is to say, not at all well). But here we are, at another Transfiguration Sunday, and you, dear Working Preacher, have to say something again about this strange story of Jesus being transformed before the disciples’ eyes into what he truly is—“the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation” (Colossians 1:15).

Or, as Paul puts it (thinking perhaps of his own overwhelming vision of Jesus’ glory), “For it is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6).

The mountaintop experience of the Transfiguration, of course, is the last stop before we begin the journey of Lent, which leads to another mountaintop, Jesus’ face transfigured again not in glory but in suffering and death.

But before all that—before the fear and the confusion of those last days in Jerusalem—the disciples get this glimpse of glory, something to sustain them on the long road ahead. Perhaps the same has been true for each of you. Perhaps that’s what has kept you in this vocation of ministry, even in trying times such as these.

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I invite you to think about that for a moment: In what place or time have you seen a glimpse of Jesus’ glory? Where and when have you had “a foretaste of the feast to come”?1

Perhaps it happened for the first time when you were young—in a high school or college ministry. Perhaps you felt the near presence of God in the midst of grief, upheld by sisters and brothers in Christ. Or perhaps you experienced the glory of God on a literal mountaintop, looking out over a breathtaking vista.

I’m sure you can point to several places and people who have embodied this sort of mountaintop experience for you through the years. One particular place that comes to mind for me is a remote Lutheran camp called Christikon in the Boulder River valley of south-central Montana. I was on staff there for several summers during and after college and it was there, in the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness of the Rocky Mountains, that I first backpacked and climbed mountain peaks. The names of those peaks are etched in my memory: Crow, Monument, Horseshoe, Chalice.

It wasn’t just the hiking and the stunning natural beauty, though, that made those summers a mountaintop experience for me. It was the intentional Christian community that was nurtured every summer by the longtime director of Christikon, Rev. Bob Quam. He spoke of “the old, old story” of which we were still a part—the story of homecoming from exile and life from death, the story of love embodied and outpoured in Jesus Christ for the sake of the world, the story of a wedding feast at the end of time which we could taste now in the body and blood of Christ (and in the elaborate banquets Bob prepared for us on staff breaks).

Bob spoke about a vision of an alternative reality, the kingdom of God, which we could live here and now, upholding one another in love, seeking the good of the other, spending intentional time together. He nurtured that vision by teaching us to engage in simple spiritual practices: prayer and worship, solitude and song, work and rest. And then, at the end of the week or the end of the summer, he sent us, campers and counselors alike, back down the valley, down from the mountains, to live out that vision in our everyday lives.2

Those summers were full of stunning wilderness vistas, intentional Christian community, and growth in faith for me and countless others. The experience was so formative for me that sometimes, even now, so many years later, I still dream about Christikon, and in my dreams, being there always feels like coming home.

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So, back to my question: What is one of those mountaintop experiences for you, a place and time where you glimpsed the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ?

I ask you this not to encourage you to indulge in nostalgia. Nostalgia can be a dangerous form of remembering that steals the pleasure out of the present and discounts the blessings of this day. But there is a place for remembering and giving thanks for the people through whom God has worked in your life, the experiences through which God has spoken.

The biblical writers certainly engage in this form of remembering. Passover is a holiday of memory, passing down the story of God’s deliverance of Israel from one generation to the next (Exodus 12:26-27). The psalmists recall with thanksgiving what God has done in their lives and the lives of their people (Psalms 30, 34, 92, 106, etc.). Paul remembers with thanksgiving the people dear to him in the congregations he has planted (Philippians 1:3-5; 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3).

And, of course, Jesus tells his disciples, when they gather to eat the bread and drink the wine, to do it “in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19).

So, on this Transfiguration Sunday, I would encourage you to remember with joy and thanksgiving those mountaintop experiences that have formed you in faith, and perhaps even share some of those memories with your congregation. Or ask them to offer their testimonies about the people through whom God has worked in their lives, the times when they have experienced the near presence of Christ. We encourage one another in faith when we offer such testimonies.

Life, by and large, is not lived on the mountaintops, but the memory of those mountaintop experiences can help sustain us in the hard times. And those memories can help us train our eyes and ears to perceive God’s work in the more ordinary times.

Thank you for your testimony to God’s saving work in Jesus Christ in your own life, dear Working Preacher. My prayer for you this Lent is that, “walking in the way of the cross, [you] may find it none other than the way of life and peace.”3



    1. Lutheran Book of Worship, Holy Communion Setting Two (Augsburg Publishing House, 1978), 86.
    2. Bob Quam passed into the great cloud of witnesses last year, but Christikon continues to nurture that vision of the kingdom of God under the skilled leadership of Rev. Mark Donald, my friend and fellow counselor.
    3. Episcopal Church. The Book Of Common Prayer (New York: Seabury Press, 1979), 220.