Today is the Feast of the Transfiguration in which appears one of my favorite lines in all of scripture in Luke’s gospel:
“As they were about to part from him, Peter said to Jesus,
“Master, it is good that we are here;
let us make three tents,
one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
But he did not know what he was saying.
It makes me laugh each time I read it.
But then it makes me think…
How many times, Lord, did I not know what I was saying? How many times have my words been haughty, or arrogant, or just downright hurtful? How many times did I rush to talk to try to impress someone and have it blow up in my face when I said something stupid? How many times did I think I had all the answers and in reality had none and needed to take more time to listen before I would speak?
And then, how many times have I heard others say things that I found hurtful or mean and reacted with the same kind of hatred back perpetuating the cycle of violence in speech?
I did not know what I was saying.
There are plenty of times that I react harshly when just waiting in silence and contemplating what I should say would do nicely.
And here Peter clearly misses the forest for the trees. Jesus is overlooking Jerusalem, where his exodus will take place. Alongside Elijah and Moses, Jesus sees both His end and our beginning–a new kind of promised land.
And while Peter witnesses this…a foretaste of what will be for us…a glimpse of the Resurrected Christ…he also responds with the wacky…
“Let’s build some tents! Let’s never leave! This is awesome.”
Um, no…rockhead. You don’t know what you’re saying.
We can’t ever stay on the mountain top. We need to go to Jerusalem and it is there that we will need to suffer in order to die and rise to new life.
I just welcomed back a group of women from Canisius who spent three weeks at an orphanage in Poland and if anyone knows about this it is them. They had their emotions pulled and prodded throughout that time of being with the children. How many would they have liked to take home with them? How many of them wanted to stay there forever? Jen, (pictured with me, right) the group’s leader even flirted with the idea of not returning.
But she did not know what she was saying.
For she was changed on this “mountaintop experience” and now the real work begins—for after we are transfigured, we can no longer be the same. We have been changed. When we experience Christ’s transfigured life and realize that this too is meant for us…we can no longer live in the happy-go-lucky world of the mountaintop. We need to go and do whatever this change calls us to do. For these women it might be to be more sensitive to children who need someone to parent them, even if for a short time. It might be to consider the needs of adoptive children here in the United States and to see how we can change laws so that children can find good families to keep them safe and loved. It might be something else.
What mountaintop do you wish to stay on that keeps you from the scary Jerusalem experience of your life? The place where you will most be changed is where you will meet Jesus on the cross and then transforming from THAT experience is where you will be changed the most. It is where you will most appreciate and find new life, better life.
And it is where you will most find God, even if you think it is somewhere else where you are comforted most by God’s presence.
In spiritual direction, I often tell people that it’s the things and the places that most frighten them, that God is probably calling them to look at most carefully. It’s in the relationship that needs to change or the job that just doesn’t work.
God just might be offering you something else.
And that might be a bit scary.
But it is also what gives us a deeper experience of God in our lives and allows us to live more richly.
For the women of Canisius who have returned from Poland, we say “Well done.” You left the comfort of the United States and ventured to another country and were a bit uncomfortable in serving the needs of others. And now we continue to challenge you to go beyond the next hill. To come down from this amazing experience of Poland and to see where you have changed. And to be changed again. To become women for others in a different way, one that may be difficult for you, but nonetheless, better for your growth as a person and better for the world who experiences the gift you are to all of those you encounter.
And most of all, know that on that journey you will meet God. And that finding that presence of God in these new experiences will be life-changing and will provide more than enough for you to be all that you are, nothing more, but more importantly nothing less.
And that gift of yourself is all that God asks of you.
And dayenu, it is enough! You are enough! And you are a blessing to each of us and to all you meet. Amen.