(Today’s pep talk for Transfiguration Sunday)
The Giants are in Perth. Thousands have gone to meet them.
The Little Girl and the Diver have attracted crowds the size of which are often not seen in the CBD. Enthralled, they have watched the Giants sleep, wake up, shower, blink, walk, widdle and read.
Not only have they watched them, but they have also interacted with them. They have touched them, stroked them, followed them, and talked to them. They have laughed with them, cried in response to their wooden expressions, ridden on their arms and partied with them.
Children enjoyed Friday off from school to visit them in Wellington Square, and seemed to interact with them in the natural way one would expect. In the prolific TV interviews, however, it was the adult responses that were most illuminating. Many middle-aged men and women emotionally described their feelings of awe, joy, and (in one case) even sadness that they had become aware of something missing from their lives.
I suspect that, as the Giants slept at Langley Park last night, many bivouacked with them.
And what will happen later today as the Giants bid farewell? Will we see crowd hysteria as the people cry out, “Please don’t go!”
Will they say (like Peter on the Mount of Transfiguration), “let us build some booths here,” one for the Little Girl and one for the Diver? Let’s preserve this moment!
What is it about these Giants? These oversized wooden marionettes?
Giants have long fascinated us humans. They have populated our imaginations, fables and mythology for thousands of years.
Even in the Bible, you only have to get as far as Genesis 6 to find an allusion to mysterious giants, different from people but interacting with them and even marrying them. They are variously called the sons of God, heroes of old, the Nephilim. Unaccountably, we never hear of them again.
Size and stature on a grand scale have always been attractive to human beings.
Is it because, in our struggle for fulfilment, we are forever striving to be larger than ourselves? Aware of the flaws of circumstance, heredity, environment and human nature, we experience ourselves as diminished beings? Consider the giant in a form that we can touch, feel and interact with, however – and we are drawn from an experience of diminishment to a form of enhancement that gives us a glimpse of our larger self?
Now this is Ryle’s theory of Giant mania! What do you think triggers the appeal of the Giants that have come to town?
I test my theory against the wisdom of the internet and find few supporters!
Giants figure large in the mythologies of the world – they are archetypes of chaos, strength, and ancient wisdom – often associated with destruction.
Carl Jung: To summarize, the giants can be characterized as follows: they are chaotic, untamed, natural, instinctual creatures; insatiable and destructive in their carnal greed, if they are not reined in by the gods to be more benevolent.
Nevertheless – the City of Perth seems to be on a Mount of Transfiguration this weekend.
Except there is no voice from heaven declaring, “This is my Son the Beloved, listen to him.”
Now I don’t care whether Ryle’s theory of the appeal of Giants to the human psyche stands or not.
But it does with the Jesus revealed in the gospels.
Particularly in Mark’s gospel, the story of three disciples witnessing the transfiguration of Jesus unveils a summons to the full potential to which Jesus is calling those who follow him.
There is a trigger for this.
It is Peter stating his recognition of who Jesus is.
“Who do you say I am?” Jesus asked them. “You have heard teaching about God’s kingdom; you have participated in healing people from all kinds of sickness, restoring them to their communities; you have witnessed the release of people from all kinds of oppression… Who do you say I am?”
Peter replied “You are the Messiah. The one whom God himself has appointed!”
Jesus then began to teach them that the Son of man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him….If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”
This is one of the rare instances where Mark’s Gospel, preferring the title Son of God, allows Jesus’ own self reference as Son of Man (more recent translations “the Human One.”)
What God has made of Jesus, God also intends to fulfil in us. Irenaeus speaks of the Incarnation as “[T]he Word of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, who did, through His transcendent love, become what we are, that He might bring us to be even what He is Himself.”
This is what transfiguration is about. The three disciples that are with Jesus on the mountain don’t quite get it. They are overcome, overawed, want to retain and absorb what they are experiencing. What they don’t understand is that they must grow into the identity that has been revealed to them. They must walk a tough road, a road that exists for the sake of others, a way that draws all they encounter – friends, outcasts, enemies alike – into the transforming experience of the love of God. A way that involves pain, risk, suffering and sacrifice. A way that ultimately leads to Golgotha.
This they cannot grasp. If only we, terrified as we are, can stay on the mountain – it is enough.
7Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” 8Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.
They saw no-one, only Jesus – Jesus, the human one, who was leading them on the way to their own full expression of humanity. To achieve this, however, they would need to go with him all the way – even to Golgotha and beyond.
If the Giants call us to engage with our larger selves, Jesus calls us to lay aside even our striving for our larger self in order to allow God’s transformation of the world through our journey to Golgotha and beyond.
But such self-annihilation is paradox – for it is also self-fulfilment.
The epitome of epiphany!