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February 19, 2011–Transfiguration: Changed But Unchanged

Contributed by Eric Ullestad, West Des Moines, IA


Warm-up Question

How do you use social media like Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, etc.?

Transfiguration:  Changed But Unchanged

A little over one year has passed since protests in Tunisia marked the beginning of Arab Spring.  These demonstrations sparked similar outbursts in other cities in the Middle East and North Africa; across the region thousands spoke out against human rights violations and oppressive regimes.  Use of social media has been credited with increasing the effectiveness of these civil uprisings.  Government leaders in some countries attempted to shut down the Internet in the hopes of disabling communication between people.

Since the mid-2000s when “social media” became a buzz phrase, skeptics have wondered if these web sites have a useful purpose.  Sharing statuses (Facebook), hashtags (Twitter), locations (FourSquare), videos (YouTube), and pictures (Flickr) provide voyeuristic entertainment, but are criticized for being a big waste of time.  Over the past year, people in these Arab countries have demonstrated that social media provides the power to organize people around a cause in ways that were not possible in previous generations.

Discussion Questions

  • What do you know about the ongoing protests taking place in Middle East and North Africa?
  • How has the use social media changed the way you relate to people?


Scripture Texts (NRSV) for Sunday, February 19, 2012 (Transfiguration of Our Lord)

2 Kings 2:1-12

2 Corinthians 4:3-6

Mark 9:2-9

(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year C at Lectionary Readings.)

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.


Gospel Reflection

Let it not be said that Jesus lacked a flair for the dramatic.  He had just finished a feeding frenzy (4,000 people – Mark 8:1-9), an optometry experiment (Mark 8:22-26), and a hard-core conversation with Peter about his own demise (Mark 8:27-38).  After all that, he goes for a hike with three of his closest friends – James, John, and the aforementioned Peter.  One might think that this was his chance to take a break from it all.  Instead, he pulls off one of the most paranormal activities of his life: the transfiguration.  Not only did his appearance change, but two of the most prominent leaders of God’s people – Moses and Elijah – show up unannounced.  It’s easy to understand if the disciples didn’t quite know what to do.

We know now what the disciples may not have at the time: the man who ascended the mountain with them was the same man with the dazzling white clothes.  Though aspects of Jesus’ physical form were altered, he was the same person who had been with them all along.  After coming down from the mountain, Jesus continued his inevitable march to the cross by teaching, healing, performing miracles, and proclaiming the Kingdom of God.  The Mount of Transfiguration simultaneously left Jesus changed and unchanged.

In a similar way protests, demonstrations, and acts of civil disobedience are not new.  Those  events have occurred for millennia.  However, the ways in which people are brought together have changed because of advances in technology.  Not only are these countries being transfigured, but various forms of social media have been transfigured to become powerful agents of change across the world.

Christians have a history of embracing this kind of simultaneity.  We are people that are broken and healed; enslaved and free; lost and found; sinner and saint.  The Transfiguration of Jesus gives us hope that in the midst of historic changes in government, climate, and digital technology, the person of Jesus and his unfailing love for the world remain unchanged.

Discussion Questions

  • What images of the Transfiguration jump out at you?
  • How would you have responded if you were one of the disciples?
  • Why do you think Jesus instructed the disciples to not tell

Activity Suggestions

Think of ways your congregation can use social media to spread the Gospel message.  Consider asking students to “donate their status” each week to letting people in their social circles about what’s going on in the congregation.  Perhaps students could make suggestions of how to improve the church web site or Facebook page.  Could your congregation incorporate mass text messages to keep its members connected to Bible verses, church ministries, or prayer requests throughout the week?  Discuss these (and other) ideas and take steps toward implementing your plans in the days ahead.

Closing Prayer

God, thank you for being with us through the uncertainties of our life.  Help us to know that your love for us never changes.  Amen.