Sunday, February 07, 2016

God is Cloud

Today is Transfiguration Sunday

Luke 9:28–36 (The Message)

28–31  About eight days after saying this, he climbed the mountain to pray, taking Peter, John, and James along. While he was in prayer, the appearance of his face changed and his clothes became blinding white. At once two men were there talking with him. They turned out to be Moses and Elijah—and what a glorious appearance they made! They talked over his exodus, the one Jesus was about to complete in Jerusalem.
32–33           Meanwhile, Peter and those with him were slumped over in sleep. When they came to, rubbing their eyes, they saw Jesus in his glory and the two men standing with him. When Moses and Elijah had left, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, this is a great moment! Let’s build three memorials: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He blurted this out without thinking.
34–35           While he was babbling on like this, a light-radiant cloud enveloped them. As they found themselves buried in the cloud, they became deeply aware of God. Then there was a voice out of the cloud: “This is my Son, the Chosen! Listen to him.”
36                When the sound of the voice died away, they saw Jesus there alone. They were speechless. And they continued speechless, said not one thing to anyone during those days of what they had seen.

The theme of the transfiguration is a powerful theme affirming that Jesus is the Christ who is the Glory of God transcending Moses who represent God’s Laws and Elijah, God’s Prophets. Jesus is the Son of God and deserves to be followed. While most attention is focused on Jesus, Moses and Elijah, and sometimes unfairly on Peter, John and James, it is sometimes missed that another person is also on the mountain. He is there in the form of a cloud.

Clouds are stuff when you look up at the sky or look down when you are on an airplane. They come in different colours and shapes. Clouds also cover the top of high mountains such as the Himalayas and the Andes. It is not actually known on which mountain, the transfiguration took place. Some suggest Mount Horeb (because Moses was there) or Mount Herman near Syria. What was fascinating that God took the form of one of his creation- a cloud. Not a mist or fog. Why a cloud? I will suggest some things that may happen inside a cloud,

  1.  There is a sense of disorientation. This is especially true in thick clouds where we cannot see anything and feel anything. We are so dependent on our senses that without them we become lost. This disorientation can be frightening. It can also be liberating. Without the input of our senses, we can be open to the voice of God. Often, the input from our senses is so distracting that we cannot hear the soft whisper of God’s voice. This is especially so in our loud, noisy and neon culture where there are overstimulation and supersensory saturation all the time.
  2. There is a sense of Mystery. In a cloud, our self-constructed sense of reality often crumple. Together with it goes the God which we often constructed in our own image. Most of us put God in a box because it is easier to understand him. And we love to have the certainty that we have had God all figured out. God is much more that our finite minds can comprehend. That is why God is still Mystery. A walk in the cloud will remind us of that important perspective.
  3. There is a sense of unknowing. Closely allied with Mystery is ‘unknowing’. The Cloud of Unknowing is a 14th-century book on Christian mysticism. Also using the metaphor of a cloud the unknown author explains that it is impossible for us to really know God, let alone understand him. The only way know God is to abandon all our preconceived ideas about God, to let go and enter into a state of ‘unknowing’. Hence are we then ready to understand the nature of God. Even then we can only know what God has chosen to reveal to us.   
  4. There is a sense of presence. Cloud is composed of water vapour. We get wet in a cloud. If God is a cloud, we will similarly feel his presence. God’s presence permeates all of creation. Enclosing the disciples in a cloud reminds them of his presence.

The Transfiguration event happened following questions about Jesus’ death. It highlights Jesus’ path of suffering and death on the cross. In Luke 9:31, Moses and Elijah appeared to speak to Jesus about his departure. The word departure may also be translated as exodus, linking back to the Israelite’s history. Luke document this to affirm that the Christ is to die and resurrect. This is so important that even God came down in a cloud, something that has not happened since the exodus event! As a cloud, God reveals much of himself. May we draw wisdom from this reflection.

Soli Deo Gloria

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