February 10, 2013
Grace and Peace to you this morning. Grace and Peace.
Here on the mountain, the disciples are drowsy. We should start to pay attention when the disciples get sleepy, because something is happening! In the Garden of Gethsemane, they can barely stay awake while Jesus prays for this cup to be removed. (But not my will, but thine be done)
Until now, Jesus has gone throughout the countryside, preaching, healing, feeding, teaching. But now, on this mountain, he is transfigured. He glows, like Moses did coming off the mountain with the law of God. His countenance is changed. And with him are Moses and Elijah. Luke tells us that they are appearing with him in his glory and they are speaking to him of what is to come in Jerusalem.
Peter, of course, wants to keep all three here, build tents for them, make a prophets hall of fame. And Luke is clear about this plan. He writes that Peter says all this, not knowing what he was talking about.
And it is this moment when the clouds darken and the voice booms This is my son; my chosen. Listen to him. And they stop talking, telling no one of this until after the resurrection.
I think we should pause here in the story. Jesus and Peter and John and James have gone up the mountain. And there, while the disciples are just about ready to fall over, they are so tired, Jesus is talking with Moses and Elijah and the whole group glows.
Peter of course wants to jump in and give the right answer, but God responds, Listen. Peter wants to do what he can build tents, make them all feel at home, whatever but doesnt yet realize that God has it covered. God has it handled. Gods got this!
I have noticed that as soon as I get a little knowledge about something, I tend to be off and running, talking about it as if I knew what I was talking about. This makes for decent bluffing during trivia contests, but it is not so good when what I need to be doing is listening. Peter, the rock on whom the church is founded, seems to have a similar problem. And the church has often followed in fine form.
One United Church of Christ Conference Minister referred to it as the Lord, bless this fight prayer. Good church people would sit around and discuss and debate and decide what to do, they would lay out their battle plan for combating poverty or racism or injustice or declining membership or whatever it was and then they would pray Lord, bless this fight.
It feels easier to start this way, because it lets us get started and off and running and thinking we know what we are doing, and maybe, by the grace of God, we might accomplish something. It is the Nike path of spirituality: Just do it!
Listening takes more time. It requires a change in priorities. It means being open to what someone else says. More importantly, it means being open to what the Spirit is saying.
Peter is wowed by this moment. He is in awe. As I think we all would be. The pinnacle, the mountaintop, the shining of Jesus in the company of Moses and Elijah, surely we have arrived!
But this is the high place from which Moses and Elijah and Jesus can see where Jesus is headed. This is the halfway point in the Gospel, because now the ministry of going out into the country and healing and preaching and teaching and feeding is all going to turn towards Jerusalem: the center of religious life; the friction point between the followers of Yahweh and the legions of Rome.
Peter wont listen as much as he needs to until after the arrest, after he denies Jesus, after the crucifixion. Do any of us?
For most of my life, I have read the voice of the prophets as angry: (fire and brimstone voice) Woe to you! For the day is coming! When Jesus has set his face towards Jerusalem, and yet another parent comes up and begs healing for a child, we can read Jesus words this way: (wrath of God voice) O faithless and perverse generation, how long am I to be with you and bear with you?
Uncle Walt has given me a challenge. Dont read the prophets as angry. Dont read Jesus as angry here. Read them as tired. Read them as disappointed. Read them as sad or grieving.
(Sigh) O faithless and perverse generation, how long am I to be with you and bear with you? It is not the voice of condemnation, but the voice of a parent who has tried to tell their kid, You are going to have to be able to do this for yourself soon.
Setting his sights on Jerusalem, Jesus is going to face down the empire and the rulers of this world head on. That does not mean the mission is not still to feed and heal and bless and teach and preach. It is. But these are all signs of the covenant of God, not the ways of the world. As we get to Jerusalem, we will discover it is one or the other. Jesus will stay true to the covenant of God and the mission of compassion, even in the face of death, even to a cross.
Our job over the coming Lenten weeks is to listen. Listen for that still small voice. Listen for what we are called to do, and more importantly, who we are called to be. Listen for what God is saying. And to walk to Jerusalem.
For God is still speaking.
Thanks be to God.