“Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became bright as light.” (Matthew 17:1-2, NRSVue)
Our church observes the Christian calendar, also known as the church year. Beginning in November with the “Season of Advent,” a season of preparation for the birth of Jesus. After four weeks, we move into the “Season of Christmas” (beginning on Christmas Eve), followed by the “Season of Epiphany,” which starts on January 6th and ends the day before “Ash Wednesday.” The Sunday before “Ash Wednesday” is “Transfiguration Sunday,“ where we recall Jesus’ journey to the mountaintop with Peter, James, and John, and his countenance shines for having been in the presence of God. Ash Wednesday” is the first day of the “Season of Lent,” a season of repentance for our sins lasting forty days (not including Sundays) that ends with the “Season of Easter.”
“Holy Week” is the week leading up to “Easter Sunday,” but it is technically in the “Season of Lent.” The “Season of Easter” lasts 50 days until “The Day of Pentecost,” a solitary day, followed by another solitary day, “Trinity Sunday.” Then we begin the lengthy “Season after Pentecost” or “Ordinary Time” that runs until Advent. Some churches designate September Sundays as the “Season of Creation,” where we focus on the stewardship of the earth, but “Ordinary Time” or the “Season after Pentecost” resumes in October. We observe “All Saints Day” on a Sunday near November 1st and close the season with the “Reign of Christ Sunday” before we begin anew with the Christian calendar, starting over with the “Season of Advent.” The church calendar follows the life of Christ from beginning to end and beyond. Below is a graphic of the Christian Calendar.
It’s been a busy journey through the life of Christ over the last couple of months. Beginning with Jesus’ birth on “Christmas Day,” we cover most of his life and ministry up until his Passion on the Cross. But the “Season of Lent” is a time of intentionally slowing down to draw ourselves into the depths of Jesus’ sacrifice of love, offered on our behalf. We can’t rush through “Lent,” for we must deliberately put the brakes on all the distractions and focus on the person of Jesus Christ.
I love how “Transfiguration Sunday” falls right before “Ash Wednesday.” Immediately preceding our descent into a time of repentance, we pause to see the glory of Jesus Christ in his transfigured state. His transfiguration reflects his baptism, where the voice of God confirms Jesus as his Son and reminds us that Jesus is the most precious gift humanity could ever receive. Whatever lies ahead, no matter the struggles and strife, at the end of the road, we find Jesus, who invites us into his death and resurrection, where we die to ourselves so he can raise us into the new life in him. The Christian year is quite a journey; however, if we pay attention to the stops along the way, we rehearse the story of our salvation and gain clarity about how much God loves us, transfiguring us into his likeness.
Join us in worship this Sunday as we explore Jesus’ transfiguration, and don’t forget to bring a friend! — Senior Pastor Rev. Dale Cohen