This Sunday is Transfiguration Sunday*, when we recall the revelation of Jesus’ glory on the mountain in the days before his final journey to Jerusalem.
The disciples had seen Jesus heal (miraculously), cast out demons, calm storms, feed the multitude, teach with authority, forgive sins, bring lost sons and daughters of Abraham back home into the family of God. And he gave the twelve authority to do the same. That would have been incredible to experience. But despite the miraculous things Jesus did, and the miraculous things he empowered them to accomplish, it was their experience of Jesus’ glory on the mount of transfiguration that knocked the disciples off their feet.
It was also the experience of Jesus’ glory that empowered the early church for its ministry in the world. The early church was generous, compassionate and brave in the face of Caesar’s empire, and it adopted new members into its midst at an astonishing rate. But what kept it going was the experience of Jesus’ glorious presence in their midst. The Nicene faith developed not in abstract speculation, but because Christians knew that when they worshiped Jesus they were in the presence of light from light, true God from true God, of one being with the Father. They faced the lions and the executioners not because they had a great attachment to social service, but because they experienced Jesus to be the Son of God, beloved of the Father.