Transfiguration: Jesus reflects the glory of God

By The Rev. Katheryn King

Katheryn King I had the privilege of knowing Donny when I served in South Dakota.

I hope everyone has the privilege of knowing a “Donny.” Donny was one of the Olsen farmers, who were brothers and farmers for many generations.  These brothers worked hard together. Some were herdsman, some farmed grain and corn.  Donny was one of these Olsen farmers.

One of the things I remember best about the Olsen men were their hands. They had the biggest, hardened hands I’ve ever seen.  You could get lost in those hands. Shaking hands after Sunday service was like slipping my hand into a glove of God’s grace.  Donny was like that. Besides the hands and his strong stature was the smile in his eyes.

I remember one day on Main Street. It was Homecoming and folks were gathering for the parade. Donny never missed an opportunity to socialize. I spotted Donny coming out of the café. He’d been on a trip to Sweden and just returned. I greeted Donny with a big hug I could fit around him.  Donny never let me forget and thoroughly enjoyed every chance to tell me how the Preacher gave him a hug in front of God and most of the town!

I received word that Donny died a while ago and that the whole parish and community mourned. On a bitter winter day the church was full for his funeral.  I hear they even ran out of the open-face sandwiches the ladies always served and every single cup was washed twice. You can’t stand in a Dakota cemetery without something to eat!

I also heard you almost expected to see Donny rambling in for the service or to sing with the men – brothers, sons, nephews, cousins like he had done all of his life.  Oh, how those Olsen boys could sing!

You see, knowing Donny – seeing those smiling eyes and being held by huge hands was, for me, like glimpsing the glory of God. God shining through for all to see.

That’s kind of what the Epiphany season has been.

The theme of the season is God’s glory in Jesus. The light of God in Christ has been growing from babyhood – the visit of the Magi to the time of his last journey to Jerusalem. The light of the first Epiphany was small as a candle but by the time of the Transfiguration, the flame has become the brightness of the sun.

As a babe, God’s glory was seen by the Wise Ones who revealed him as king.

At his baptism, Jesus’ glory is acknowledged by those left to follow him. And during the last Sundays of Epiphany season, we have seen glory and power reflected in his healings and teachings.

Now at the Transfiguration everything comes together.

Jesus reflects in his person the glory of God. The past is fulfilled in the approval of Moses and Elijah, and in a bit of Divine special effects, the voice of God call the disciples to listen and obey Jesus. The truth speaks loud and clear.  Disciples and followers of Jesus have to live in the real world. They can’t stay on the mountain. They can’t live in tents forever.

Jesus and his disciples come down from the Mount of Transfiguration to continue their journey to Jerusalem. Jesus returns – again with God’s approval and assurance.  Peter, James, and John come down with a new understanding of their Lord’s mission and their own mission.

Certain things in Donny’s life were either before or after my time. I never knew his dearly beloved wife. I didn’t know Donny with serious health struggles that finally took him. But people like Donny can inspire us as experiences on the mountain to uplift us. Life is not lived at the top of some mountain.  We must come down. We must go on.

We must walk with Jesus into tomorrows filled with difficulty but also tomorrows of hope and grace.





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