Studio portrait of School of Information Studies faculty member Richard Smiraglia.

Transfigured with God’s Love


I got a new driver’s license this week. Talk about transfiguration. You should see the photo they made, it has a picture of this old man; he kept getting in the way so eventually I just let him.

What does “transfiguration,” mean to you? I know, it is one of those Bible words. It is not something regular people think about. And yet, transfiguration is one of those human experiences that just does not have a good name. Like when my basil quit, and I tossed it out and tossed out the soil and put the pot away. (Not to worry, I will buy some more in spring.) But, it was a tiny thing, that changed many larger things. Like how I water the plants, how I relate to the herbs in my indoor garden, how I cook with the herbs cut from those plants, and on and on I could go, down to how I arrange things by those windows that get the early morning light from the lake. And my, how the sun comes in those windows.

Well, maybe you get my point. One tiny thing has much impact on many other things. Transfiguration, is not just a fancy word in the Bible. It is a process by which humans evolve every day. Every little thing that happens to us transfigures us. When someone cuts you off on I-94, endorphins in your brain make you shut down your walls. So if thirty minutes later I call you to talk about a problem you might say you are sorry, you are too out of it to talk. That car, whooshing past you, transfigured more than the air molecules around your car, it transfigured you, and by transfiguring you, it transfigured me, and on and on it goes. Transfiguration is a holy process that takes place constantly in a very unholy region— that is, among plain ordinary humans.

You know, I am an introvert. When I go into a crowd, the main thing I need is to get out of there. Also, I always think that somehow, it is my job not to make myself conspicuous. If you are an extrovert, you probably relish walking into a crowd. You probably do not even think about shaking hands and laughing out loud and being everybody’s best friend. And both things are viable human experiences. And both things affect everyone around them. By our actions, we, transfigure everything. Or, as St. Peter wrote: “You will do well to be attentive to this  as to a lamp shining in a dark place,  until the day dawns and the morning star  rises in your hearts.”

You will do well to think carefully about  what you do. Because every little frown, every little grimace, is a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns. So, when will the morning star rise in your heart?

We are living through a difficult time in our country. It is going to keep being difficult. We are going to have to spend a lot of energy on getting that morning star to rise in our hearts.

How does the transfiguration of Christ help us in this? Well, most important, it was no accident. It was the will of God. It is the will of God. It is the will of God  that you and I should be transfigured into the holy children of God. If you were here last week you heard me tell you that you were holy, just because you were God’s. That is still true. That is especially true. So how will you transfigure? How will you become like a cloud, that is also like a devouring fire? Well, the real answer lies with you. How will your holiness, how will your lamp shine even in dark places, how will your holiness transfigure from a cloud into a devouring fire?

Scary words, eh? It all rests on Jesus’ commandment to love one another, and to love each other  as we love ourselves. And that rests on learning to love our own selves. And that means true introspection. What theologians call repentence. Can you think of what you have done that was wrong? If so, just name it, to yourself, and that will end its power. Can you think about how you have effect on the whole world? For most of us, it starts each day at home. Our effect spreads outward from there.

You know, I have a terrible time getting doctor’s appointments. I have been calling for months for a new appointment, and the faceless voice on the phone kept telling me nothing could be done. So last week I drove out to the office, and I walked up to the lady who is in charge of scheduling. And I smiled at her. It is unlike me, I confess, but I did it anyway.

And then I told her I remembered she had been helpful to me in the past. She remembered. Then I told her I had an appointment I could not keep. She said that day was her birthday. So I said “happy birthday!” And I smiled again. I told her I had to be in Europe that day and she asked if she could come along and I said “sure, I’ll meet you at the airport.” And then she got me a proper appointment. And then I wished her again a happy birthday. Now I could have screamed and pounded my fists. In fact, that is usually what I do. But for some reason, this time, we both were transfigured by our interaction. We both left that encounter smiling. And that is how it works, clouds of fire, Godly voices from heaven, … okay, but it is easier for us to go for “faces shining like the sun. That sort of transfiguration—faces shining like the sun–this is within our grasp, each of us, always.

In a few moments we all will witness yet another kind of transfiguration. Hazel June Muehl is about to be transfigured  in your presence. By the power of Jesus Christ, which is present in each of us and among us all, Hazel will become a child of God and a member of the body of Christ. Whatever happens over there with the water, is the outward sign of the inward change that Christ can bring into all of our lives. Would that we all were so innocent that it could be that easy for us.

But, remember, God has already saved you. All Gods asks is that you accept your own salvation, and that you be transfigured by, and that you transfigure one another with, God’s love.