2 Kings 2:1-12 Psalm 50:1-6 2 Corinthians 4:3-6 Mark 9:2-9
How did we get here? Here, to this mountain top with Peter, James, and John, Elijah, Moses, and Jesus? What a magnificent day! We do not really have words to describe how bright and dazzling Jesus became – “such as no one on earth could bleach them” has to be good enough. The disciples (“they”) were terrified.
We have been journeying with Jesus through the gospel of Mark. Jesus, light of the world, has been revealed to us as one who heals – even on the Sabbath, one who heals the blind, which only God can do, one who eradicates demons, who already know who Jesus is. Jesus is revealed as a learned teacher (rabbi), one who taught with authority. Today we hear the booming voice of God: “This is my son, the beloved. Listen to him!” Elijah and Moses vanish; of the great prophets, then, God must be talking about Jesus.
We know that this church’s namesake, Peter, is important on this and on many days. He’s kind of a rock star, right? The name “Peter” comes from “Petra,” Greek for “rock,” so of course Peter is strong. It may be disappointing to find out that Peter can also be understood in a nickname sort of way, and the nickname can have the connotation of – are you ready (I’m sorry)? – sort of rocky, or blockhead. Yep. Peter is in good company with you, me, and Charlie Brown. And that is a very good thing. If Peter can see Jesus be transfigured in such a magnificent way, well then, maybe you and I can, too.
As magnificent as it is, we do not have to stay in the complicated, unimaginable, and terrifying part of the transfiguration. After all, we, too, have to come off of that mountain – come out of that vision – and move on with the rest of our lives. We cannot stay “in glory” with Jesus forever in this life. We have another journey to take.
Before we move off of the mountain, I’d like to share a story …
Charlie Brown and Linus were looking at the clouds one day, lying on their backs on the pitcher’s mound …
Charlie Brown says, “Linus, do you ever see anything in the clouds?”
Linus: “Well, yes Charlie Brown, I do. For instance, that one over there bears a striking resemblance to Michelangelo’s depiction of the Creation on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
And that one, there over the school, looks like a map of Scandinavia, see; there’s Denmark and Sweden. And that one there looks like a helix. Do you ever see anything Charlie Brown?”
Charlie Brown: “Well, I was going to say a ducky and a horsey but I’ve changed my mind.”
There you have it. You can see the Sistine Chapel or you can see a ducky. Wherever we are in our spiritual journey, we can voice that place, say it out loud. There is no reason to change our mind about what we say that we see. Peter speaks up, over and over again, and through everything that we might say that he does wrong, he becomes the rock on which the church is built.
Do you see, hear? It’s about becoming and being. God says, “this is my beloved Son,” and it is so. God says, “let there be light,” and there it is. Jesus says, “follow me,” and we say
“let’s stay here.”
We are a steadfast bunch, aren’t we? Over and over we do what God tells us not to do. God continues to seek us out for God’s good pleasure anyway. In all of our imperfection, we are created in God’s perfect image. But we cannot stay on the mountaintop. No football team, no sports team, wins forever. There are practice times and game times, winning and losing. We are not called to stay where we are in our spiritual life, either. If Jesus is a farmer and faith a garden, then there is ground to till, seeds to sow. If we are in our world right here, there is snow to shovel in making a path for Jesus. There are people who need our help, both physical and spiritual. What will clear that path to the Lord? Whatever we might imagine, there is work to be done. We are called to follow Jesus.
In a few days, I will invite you to a holy Lent. We will enter into a season of very “not mountain” time. We might give up something, that in the giving up we are reminded of what Jesus gave up for us. We might make room for something else, a spiritual practice, a few minutes a day of reading the bible or praying or simply being still. Quiet. We are making a path for our Lord. We are tilling God’s garden of hope, fruitfulness, healing. This is not “whiter than bleach” time, but “let’s get our hands dirty” time. We start with ourselves. In what part of today did we follow God perfectly? (I know, it’s early!) Where did we “miss the mark?” Where did we, like Peter, seek to stay in magnificence and overlook the fact that life has much more than that in store for us. We cannot avoid this journey with Jesus when see way that we will take it.
In the next few days, I encourage you to clear a spiritual path for Lent. From what might you fast? What is it that draws your attention away from the healer? What keeps you from sitting at the feet of the rabbi? Prepare for the journey of Lent in a way that is meaningful to you. Read a book, or a single meditation. Create a holy garden, a “God garden” in your home. Mine has in it some sand, a rock, a cross, and a tiny bit of water. I’ll need sustenance for the journey.
Just as we cannot stay in glory right now, neither are we called to make this spiritual journey alone. Who is with us? Jesus, yes, and all the saints who have gone before us, saints known and unknown, saints known to God alone. Peter was the rock of the church that we might not have to be alone as we look at our errors, struggle with our beliefs, and praise our awesome God. We are not alone. Let’s get ready for Lent.
Will you walk with me?