Based on Exodus 34:29-35, 2Corinthians 3:12-4:2, Luke 9:28-43a
Many, if not most of us, have had experience with someone mimicking or mirroring us. You all know the cry…“So-and-so is copying me!” and maybe you have even been the one calling out for relief from the person who just won’t stop doing everything that you do. It is a behavior trait of younger siblings toward older ones, and it truly is an annoying behavior when taken to extremes. On the flip side, the old adage that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery is also true. Did you know that mirroring behavior also has some positive and even significant developmental aspects?
It turns out that mirroring, the act of reflecting back to someone their facial expressions, movements, gestures, body language, tone of voice, et cetera, is a highly evolved and most often unconscious human behavior. Over time as humans evolved into hunter-gatherer bands which required close working relationships, it became critically important to create strong relationship bonds. One of the techniques that developed was mirroring – you laugh and I laugh, you smile and I smile back, you yawn and I yawn, etc. You can see this today in anyone who is interacting with an infant or young child. The young one will do something and then look to the older one for a response. Babies will make cooing sounds and it is automatic that we make those sounds back. These are critically important in our development of our sense of self and our ability to interact appropriately with others.
Interestingly, the Bible shows us a bit about the power of mirroring. We are shown the characteristics and behaviors that are rewarded by God – and those that God will punish. Time and again we are called to reflect the behaviors and characteristics that result in God’s plan moving forward and to put away those that bring harm to us or someone else.
Our scriptures this week speak to us about mirroring God as we come to know God. Whether it is the deep relationship with God of Moses or Jesus, or of the Apostle Paul who teaches that the mirrored glory of Jesus the Christ is being reflected in us so that we too may be transformed into glory. Before we go farther, let us go together now in prayer thanking God for mirroring what is good and healing so that we all might grow in glory…
The Apostle Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians is teaching about the first covenant with Moses being put away by the new covenant in the Christ. Paul writes that, “…the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom….” He goes on to write about the mirroring that happens when we come to believe in the Christ’s teaching, “…all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another…” Through the Christ, all barriers have been removed and we are in relationship with God directly without needing to mindlessly follow the Law of Moses.
Speaking of Moses and the Law, we pick up the story of Moses as he comes down from the mountain of God with the second set of stone tablets. Moses had been speaking with God for so long that the reflected glory of God had made his face glow. This was so disconcerting to the Hebrews that they asked for Moses to cover his face whenever he spoke with them. Moses would remove the veil when he entered the Tabernacle to speak with God. Moses’ close relationship with the glory of God transformed not only his facial skin, but his whole being.
Since this is Transfiguration Sunday, we have the story from the Gospel according to Luke of Jesus’ transfiguration on the mountain. Jesus has told his disciples that he would have to die and then be resurrected. About a week later he takes James, John and Peter up a mountain to pray. While Jesus was speaking with God, he was transformed into the fullness of who he was – his divinity shone from him changing his face and clothing. Peter, being Peter, immediately wants to preserve this epiphany of Jesus, Moses and Elijah for all times by building them all a mountaintop chalet. God intervenes, however, calling for the disciples to “listen” to Jesus, instead of seeking to keep him up high. Jesus shone on the mountain with the full glory of who he was, and it was overwhelming for his disciples.
In the book, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” the title character happens upon a magical mirror. This was the “Mirror of Erised” which showed anyone who looked at it the deepest desire of their heart. Erised, by-the-way, is the word “desire” spelled backwards – as if the word were reflected by a mirror. How often do we all attempt to mirror others, thinking that they are the true desire of our hearts? This is where fads come from or the popular folks who get their 15 minutes of fame and then fade from view. Think of how you have been influenced by those reflections of popularity, political propaganda or charisma. How often have you regretted following a reflection of reality instead of reality itself?
Mirroring happens in humans without our thinking. We mirror the events on the screen when we watch a movie…if it is scary – we get scared, if it is a comedy – we laugh, a “feel good” movie – we feel better at the end, a “tear-jerker” we end up bawling at the end of it. Similarly, we react to people with whom we interact – reflecting their mood, tone of voice, body posture and mannerisms. We do this subconsciously to better connect with the other – to try to develop a relationship with that person. This does happen with TV and internet personalities and opinion providers as well. We find that we will reflect the views and opinions of those with whom we connect – that is, with those whom we mirror. Is it any wonder then, that folks reflect differently on others depending upon who or what they end up mirroring?
This is an important point in understanding the different viewpoints and behaviors of people. It is critical that we discern who the person in front of us is mirroring. Are they mirroring someone who is seeking to do good in the world; seeking to love kindness, justice and mercy; seeking to alleviate the suffering of the poor and marginalized; seeking to build community and healthy relationships? Alternatively, are they mirroring those who believe in self above others, win-lose scenarios, might makes right, a revenge mindset or other divisive and demeaning behaviors and policies? Only one of those mirrors is a reflection of how God has created and seeks to empower us.
Discerning our mirrors are equally as important as understanding which mirrors others are reflecting. It is easy to get lost in the world of jumping from one popular mirror to another and losing ourselves in the process. When Harry Potter looked into the Mirror of Erised, his heart showed him his murdered parents and his extended family. He went back time and again to look in the mirror, seeking solace from the pain of being orphaned. It wasn’t until Professor Dumbledore found him there one night and explained to him that he was looking at a fantasy – and that looking too long at fantasy would keep him from living his reality and into his full potential, that Harry was able to move forward in his life. We also often need someone to help us see when we are mirroring that which is not helpful to our continued growth and development.
The scriptures that we have in front of us today present a way for us to understand what can happen when we seek the reflection of God in our lives. I hope that you have known someone, one of the everyday saints of the Church, who have come through the trials and tribulations of life and have chosen to mirror the Christ. These are people who have tried much of what the world offered and have found it wanting. They mirror the grace and peace of God and reflect God’s glory on all who interact with them. Their demeanor is highly attractive, and they seem to gather folks from far and wide – across the spectrum of humanity. Everyone seeks time with them to bask in their glow, to learn from them and to be transformed by the glory of God.
Mirroring the behaviors and teachings of God requires an intentional choice. It requires that we seek after God in prayer, like Jesus. It requires that we seek to lead God’s people once we ask God to guide us, like Moses. It requires that we come to understand, like Paul, that we are to imitate or mirror the Christ in all that we do. If we do this, then our reflection into the world will bring about the transformation of glory that can only come from God. It is time for all God’s children to mirror their heavenly parent instead of their worldly brothers and sisters. Amen and amen!