“Hey, you clean up pretty nice!” We have all heard that comment made at one time or another and perhaps we ourselves have made a similar observation about someone at some time in our lives. When someone gets cleaned up and dresses well it causes us to look at them in a different light and to see them in a new way. Our appearance is important in influencing the way that people think about us and interact with us. Many people have gone through “dress for success” programs to help them to present themselves in the best light. Others spend good chunks of money on their business wardrobe because they recognize that how they are dressed and how they appear influences others’ opinions about their competence and trustworthiness. We are often advised to “dress the part” and we might experience that dressing well also influences and reflects upon the way that we feel about ourselves and our own confidence levels.
In the classic Peanuts cartoon there was that little boy, Pigpen, who always had a cloud of dust around him and a layer of dirt hiding his true appearance. Pigpen was never a major player and people didn’t seem to really take him very seriously because of his unkempt appearance. Often we also tend to overlook homeless people because of the way that they are dressed and we tend to devalue them and not see them as the true human beings that they are as their poor dress hides the true person. Sometimes we also attribute things such as dishonesty, lack of intelligence, substance abuse and other negative character traits because of their dress. Perhaps one day we will be able to see them as they truly are, revealed as God’s beloved children.
Sometimes we “dress down” because we want to hide our true self from others. We are uncomfortable being seen as someone special. We don’t want to be the “teacher’s pet” or the “nerd” or “geek” so we hide our gifts. We are more comfortable being just one of the crowd. In a movie several years ago, Akila and the Bee, a mentor shares a quote with a young girl who is hiding her special gifts, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond all means.” When we understand what we truly are capable of as children of God, blessed in God’s grace, we become uncomfortable. It is hard to live up to our true greatness and it is a great responsibility to be gifted. As Jesus reminds his disciples, “to those who much is given, much will be expected.”
When the truth is revealed and we see things as they are it can have a tremendous effect upon us. When we see the truth finally revealed in all of its light and glory we will fall to the ground in humble fear for we will see how unjust we have been in our treatment of others based upon appearance. Today we see an example of this in the Transfiguration of Jesus. It is one thing for Jesus to speak about his identity as the Son of God, even to show acts of power in healing and preaching but it is a whole new reality to see Jesus revealed in all of his glory. His closest friends, Peter, James and John fall down on their faces in fear before the awesome reality of Jesus’ true glory. They realize suddenly that they really didn’t realize the truth and they certainly did not treat Jesus with the proper reverence and devotion that was his due as the Son of God. Now God says to them very clearly, “listen to him.” Peter, James and John had doubted and questioned Jesus and his teaching, now they would have to see him in a new light. Jesus reveals himself in full glory and the Father affirms his Sonship to the apostles because the appearance of Jesus in his suffering and crucifixion will hide his true glory and victory over sin and death.
We are given this reading of the Transfiguration to remind us in the beginning of Lent that we also must throw off the corruption of sin in our lives and reveal the true identity and glory of who we are as the children of God, saints among the saints. We are all called to holiness in our Christian lives. We are given this time of Lent for purification and to discover our true, hidden glory as the children of God. We are called to clothe ourselves in holiness so that others may see the truth of God’s indwelling presence in us.
It is time for us to stop being “Pigpens” in the world and to truly clothe ourselves in the glory of Christ. It is time to “clean up well” so that others may see our true witness to the glory of life in the kingdom of God. We are baptized into the Risen Christ, we are called to be holy and live as a praise of God’s glory, let’s not be afraid to let a little glory show.