As a church musician, I rely on the Sunday themes of the church year to guide my choices of hymns and choir anthems. And as we approach Lent, I relish the opportunity to sing “Oh, Wondrous Image, Vision Fair” (ELW 316) with a trumpet introduction. I enjoy that joyous Transfiguration Sunday before we throw out the “Alleluias” and move into Lent.
Transfiguration Sunday is a wondrous celebration of Jesus revealed as God’s son. It is astounding to read the Transfiguration story again and to realize that Peter, James and John almost slept through the whole event! Luke writes that they “were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory …” (Luke 9:32).
Luke often describes how Jesus goes to a quiet place to pray. The disciples must have been weary of the pace that Jesus set and his long sessions of prayer, so it’s understandable that they almost missed a godly revelation because of their desire to sleep.
Because I knew that Transfiguration Sunday was coming, I entered that celebration with eyes wide open. The disciples did not have any advance notice. And with my eyes wide open, I know that Lent is coming, and I would rather avoid that sorrowful season. I want to stay on the mountain! I would rather shut my eyes and avoid the grief of remembering Jesus’ suffering.
This was also the experience of Peter, James and John. In Luke 22:45, the Gospel writer tells that when the disciples were in the garden, Jesus “found them sleeping because of grief.” It is so human to shut our eyes and pretend for a few moments of unconsciousness that Jesus will not have to suffer and die.
If we shut our eyes and sleep too long, we will miss the mountain top and the valley. We will miss the experience of being with Jesus through all of Lent.
Awaken, Lord, our spirit to know and love you more,
In faith to stand unshaken, in spirit to adore.
(The Only Son from Heaven, ELW 309, verse 3).