Supernatural experience

This week is Transfiguration Sunday. Pastor Dan will be reflecting on an unusual event where Jesus led his inner circle of disciples up a mountain. There his glory was revealed in a supernatural way.

What constitutes a “supernatural” experience, anyway?

In my last assignment in the Air Force, I chaired the Leadership and Ethics Department at the Air War College, a school for senior military officers. One evening, Jana and I were hosting a dinner party for our department. Our guest was Otto Kroeger, a nationally-known expert on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. The MBTI is a popular personality assessment tool. For 15 years, Otto had lectured at the War College helping senior leaders better understand themselves, their families, and each other.

Otto told me that I should become a pastor when I retired from the Air Force. I was shocked. It was the first time anyone had suggested that. I’d always assumed that pastors had to have some kind of “supernatural,” “burning bush,” experience.

In my case, Otto knew my personality “type.” I’d spent a week at his school learning about the MBTI. A lot of ministers have a similar type.


Two years later, I started seminary.

Most pastors I know haven’t had a “supernatural” experience that led them to ministry, though some have. God leads some through a yearning they can’t ignore. For others, one career door closes and another opens.

The truth is, all of life is “supernatural.” God upholds everything, everywhere, every minute. God is at work in you and me right now.

But we don’t spend enough time in the scriptures, in prayer, or in church.

We’re not attuned to the “supernatural.”

Winning through losing

This Sunday on the church calendar celebrates an event called The Transfiguration. Jesus took three disciples from his inner circle up a mountain. For a few moments, Jesus was revealed in heavenly splendor, joined by Moses and Elijah. The disciple Peter, evidently not wanting the moment to end, offered to put up shelters for Jesus and the prophets. When a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son,” the disciples fell down, terrified.

It was the ultimate mountaintop experience.

I imagine that if I had been there, I’d have proposed something like Peter did. I tend to like the glory, even if it’s only the reflected kind. I like the feeling of success, even if it’s someone else’s. I don’t want the good feelings to end.

But the Transfiguration reminds us that our ways are not God’s ways at all.

Just a few weeks later, God’s beloved Son was stripped of his glory, his ministry success was shattered, and the good feelings were replaced by fear and terror.

The Transfiguration invites us to come down from the mountain with Jesus on his way to the cross. It’s a way we tremble to take, but one we dare not miss.

That’s because, Jesus is the kind of God who wins by losing and saves by dying.

Who could have imagined that the greatest splendor of all wouldn’t be revealed in a mountaintop experience but in a tomb experience?