So anyone here ever hear of the Philadelphia Eagles? Yeah me neither actually, not until they won the Superbowl last week, at least. And you might think that I’ve never heard of them because I literally never watch football or sports in general for that matter. Or it could be that this team is just that unpopular because of the fact they haven’t won the championship in 57 years. And seeing as how this past Superbowl was Superbowl LII (that’s 52 in layman’s terms), you can do the math (I know there were still NFL championships before it was officially called the Superbowl, so this team never actually held that title before because the title wasn’t invented yet).
But still, 57 years is a long time to go without a championship win, whether it be called a Superbowl or not. I wonder if the Canucks can go for that long without a championship. Amazing that there are some diehard fans out there (for both the Eagles and Canucks), many of whom weren’t even born yet when their team won last. I’d think that when a team goes that long without a championship, people would just give up on them. They would lose faith. They would no longer believe that their team could ever achieve their dream and so they put their hope elsewhere.
But the Eagles sure showed them though, huh? In his speech at the Superbowl parade, Eagle’s center Jason Kelce (this guy in the pic)
mentioned how their team is the ultimate underdog. No one believed in them. No one gave them credit that they would be able to do it. No one thought that this mishmash of unspectacular athletes led by a very recent high school coach could actually get it together and win a championship. But they did it. They are the first team out of Philadelphia to hold the title of Superbowl Champions. They made history. Which I guess gives him the right to wear a goofy costume.
Imagine the triumph. The sense of accomplishment. The glory. Their celebration was phenomenal. Their parade spectacular. Their riots were just “meh” compared to Vancouver’s, but hey they tried. And you’d expect this, because at this point in time, they are the best football team in the world. Actually, the best football team in just the States. Well, actually they are just the team that won the right games at the right times and made the right plays in order to win the one game that counted more than the others. Still, they are champions. They are heroes. They are untouchable idols riding the wave of their accomplishment… until the next season comes and then they start all over again. So I guess they better enjoy all this glory and celebration while they can.
That’s the thing about professional sports, huh? No matter how well you do in any given season, a new season will come and then you start all over again. You can be champions one season but once the dust settles, everything is reset. Come the following year, everything is wiped clean and everyone goes back to square one and hopes and prays that their team can win the right games at the right times and make the right plays in order to win that one game that counts more than the rest.
But for now? The Philadelphia Eagles can ride the glory. The champions can revel in the celebration. These untouchable idols can play the heck out of that golf course. Because this is their moment and they are shining. People know their name. The unbelievers now believe. Dreams and hopes have been revitalized.
You know, I sometimes see Jesus’ transfiguration story as somewhat of a championship win. Of course, there was no score being kept, no plays made, no whistles blown. But there was a level of unbelief that was completely squashed, a hope that was realised, a dream brought to fruition. See, at this point of Jesus’ journey with his disciples, Jesus had told them several times what the deal is with the Messiah. And if you remember how bright the disciples sometimes were (or weren’t for that matter), you could imagine that it was difficult for them to just understand, to comprehend, and even to believe. I mean, they probably trusted in Jesus enough that he knew what he was talking about, but believe? That is a whole different ball of wax. At this point Jesus just seemed like an ordinary dude. Unspectacular. Regular. Without, by any definition of the word, glory.
And so maybe this whole transfiguration thing was to help those disciples recognise. It was to open their eyes. It was to reveal to them once and for all that Jesus is indeed God’s Son, the beloved, to whom they should listen. Could you imagine the sight? Lemme tell ya, it was no mere clown costume. The text tells us that Jesus changes, transforms, turns dazzling white, which to me is just more proof that he isn’t blonde haired and blue eyed. But he is radiant, beautiful, almost blinding because he is so bright. But that isn’t all, he is joined by Moses and Elijah, two of history’s greats and most respected, and they just chill and chat. And if that isn’t proof enough that Jesus is God’s beloved son to whom they should listen, an audible voice from heaven tells them exactly that this right here is God’s beloved son, and that they should listen to him.
So if you thought the Eagle’s winning the Superbowl was glorious, imagine learning beyond a doubt that the guy you’ve been hanging out with is the real deal. If you thought the Eagle’s Superbowl celebrations were something else, imagine a non-white person turning so white that he dazzles, emitting this blinding light, glowing so radiantly that his companions can’t help but cover their faces and fall to the ground in awe and fear. If you thought the Eagles have every right to ride this wave for as long as they can because you know as soon as the next season arrives then it’ll be over, well… Jesus doesn’t even wait that long. In fact, pretty much right after this event Jesus goes and walks down the mountain and tells his disciples that mums the word on this whole transfiguring business and carries on his day like nothing happened.
Er, wait a second here Jesus, let’s take this a bit slower. Let’s revel in the moment just a little longer. Let’s build some monuments here to immortalize this event, this miracle, this glory. Makes sense, right? That’s what we do, isn’t it? When we have a big thing like this happen to us, we want to milk it for all it’s worth, don’t we? We want to commemorate it with an anniversary, a trophy, some kind of memento so we can remember, we can cherish, we can revel in the excitement of the moment, the joy of the celebration, the glory in the accomplishment. We want to hold onto these events and stretch them out to last as long as they possibly could.
Even if we aren’t like that, I’m pretty sure that the last thing we’d want to do would be to just brush it off and walk down that mountain of glory and keep it all under wraps and not even take a picture. To us, the next season is coming, the next big thing, we will soon be upstaged so we better make the most of that moment when we are on the top. But not Jesus. Just walks down the mountain, leaving that moment behind.
But if you think about it, of course Jesus would. I mean, he wasn’t sent here for glory, although he is glorious. He wasn’t sent to us to be a champion, although he does save us from our very sinful selves. He wasn’t even sent to us to wow us or keep us in awe as this untouchable idol riding the waves of his accomplishments and wins, but he was sent to us to be us, accessible, relatable, part of who we are in community.
So you see, he had to walk down from that mountain to be among those he was sent to. He had to walk to where the people were/are, in order to hold, heal, and love. He had to walk away from the glory, because that is what would keep him inaccessible, untouchable, and unrelatable as most of us only see that kind of glory on TV or on top of mountains. Jesus humbly walked down the mountain to be with us, relate to us, as one of us.
So the glory, the trophy, the memento of the realisation of Jesus’ identity as the beloved son of God needs not to stay up on the mountain, as it exists within us. The championship of Christ need not be this unattainable and untouchable event that happened a long time ago in a place far away, as it resides with us in our community. The person of Christ, transfigured from ordinary to glorious, humbled from glorious to ordinary, walks to us, walks with us, and walks for us to the cross upon which history was made.
You see, while there is glory in our earthly championships, accomplishment, and just being on the top, there is also greater glory in relationship, in community, and in service to others. In that while Jesus was equal to God in every way, he didn’t see that something to be exploited and used for his own favour. Rather he chose a path of humility for our sake, walked away from fortune and fame that would render him inaccessible, and entered our lives to love, heal, and save.
We are here at the end of this season after the Epiphany, a season when we are shown and reminded of who Jesus is for us and for the church, how Jesus interacts and intersects in our lives, how the teachings of Jesus are alive and present in this world and community, and we are entering into the season of Lent, when we prepare ourselves and look ahead to the cross, knowing that the culmination of Jesus’ ministry is coming, that who we are as children of God will be realised, that it will be declared to us once again that we too are the beloved, invited and welcomed into God’s kingdom, brought in to be members of the body of Christ. At no point is the Christian walk about glory and fame, but rather the humility in service, the acceptance of identity, and the journey with others among community.
Today, on Transfiguration Sunday, may we be transformed in our hearts and minds to the openness and humility in the Spirit, that we might learn to love and serve the community of God in the grace and glory of Christ. Thanks be to God. Amen.