Today, we turn to the Transfiguration of Jesus. Each synoptic gospel contains an account of this moment on the mountain where Jesus is transformed. Transfiguration, to be transfigured is to be changed completely into a more beautiful or more spiritual state. This is just one of the glorious impossibles in the larger story of Jesus.
Here on the mountain we encounter a description of a liminal space, a crossing point between things of the earth and things of spirit. We have a description of what Peter, John and James saw: Jesus as his face was changed, his clothes dazzling white. Jesus, their friend and teacher in conversation with the two great figures of the faith, Moses, the law-giver and Elijah, the great prophet. This is an amazing thing to behold. It offers up a vision of a whole new world but just as we begin to lean in, it is whisked away. A cloud descends, God speaks and they turn and head back down the mountain, unsettled – God’s voice still ringing in their ears – unable or unwilling to speak about what they’ve seen.
Friends, this kind of fantastic vision has never, ever happened to me. However, I believe there are moments when we all, each of us, have experienced God’s presence in some amazing way. And when we do, like Peter, we look around and say “it is good to be here.”
When I was reading around in some commentaries preparing for today, I ran across one that said: do not do this one particular thing. And, I’m afraid, that is exactly what I am going to do – shift the focus from the glorious impossible of the transfiguration to Peter and his utterly human response to it all. It is good to be here and then “let’s stay.”
Several years ago, we saw Yo-Yo Ma in performance with the San Antonio Symphony. He played a concerto – for the life of me I can’t remember which one – and then he returned to the stage for an encore, and then another and then a third one and we were still on our feet, clapping until our hands hurt, roaring for more.
It was good to be there and we did not want the spell of beauty and music that had been woven around us to end. But it did as it must and there was regrouping, walking back to the car, getting in, driving home, the real world slowly rebuilding itself around us.
We could not stay. Peter can’t either – there is work to be done, down the mountain, in the world, on the way to Jerusalem.
The writer, Rachel Held Evans spoke of her relationship with the bible as evolving through stages
the bible as storybook, the bible as answer book, the bible as handbook.
I often think of the bible as a mirror. I hold this story up and see myself, I see all of us, reflected in Peter’s longing to hold on to the golden moment that is – to stay. And friends, I also see all of us – transfigured by God’s presence, the presence I find and you find in this place. God is always transforming us into something more beautiful. It is good to be here – but we can’t stay. Our work lies waiting, down the mountain and through those doors. Thanks be to God. Amen.