Before I was married, I was dating a woman who I had met in conversation at a parish event and we talked about how much we hated our careers–my career then was in radio, hers in television. We were sympathetic to each other and we comforted one another and this romance began to blossom. And after about a year of this we were at that point where we had to decide if this relationship was going to grow beyond just dating and into something deeper. I think both of us realized that we had nothing else in common. But we tried to convince ourselves that we were happy, in love, that we should get married and have children and live happily ever after.
And we just kept spinning our wheels. We were so afraid to get back out into the dating world and start all over again with someone better–someone better suited for us–that we were willing to stay right where we were.
I was a lot like Peter. Peter wants to stay put. He’s got everything that he needs right here–the prophets of old Elijah and Moses–who were messengers of God’s old covenant. He’s got Jesus who he literally dropped everything for and they are up on this beautiful mountain where everything is seemingly beautiful and Jesus is literally dazzling white.
Peter says let’s stay right here! I like to imagine this scene as Jesus and Moses and Elijah finishing up their talk but just before Peter doesn’t hear a word that they are saying but comes bursting into the middle of the conversation and interrupts by saying “Lord it’s good that we’re here! Let’s never leave! It’s never going to get better than this.”
But he doesn’t realize that this is just a glimpse of what awaits Jesus. And beyond that glowing glimpse is a bit more. That voice…the voice in the cloud wakes Peter and the others up and scares them and tell them to LISTEN. Because that conversation that jesus and Moses and Elijah were engaged in is what they really need to hear. They are overlooking the mountain–looking at Jerusalem. And talking about the NEW exodus. The next step for Jesus is to go to Jerusalem where he will be arrested, tried, found guilty and killed and laid in a borrowed tomb.
Not exactly the same ending to this story that Peter envisioned. Peter wants jesus to stay the same. To be this vision of glory for all time and be with Elijah and Moses.
Jesus gives these men a sign of things to come–He shows them what his resurrected body will look like. This is a sign not just for Him but for all of us. But in order for Jesus to enter into this kind of glory–he’s got to come down that mountain–go to Jerusalem and die. And then and only then can he enter into his glory. For Jesus to physically change, this scene has to change from the beautiful mountain to Calvary.
And not only doesn’t Peter like that but I don’t either and I suspect that you’re not too happy about it as well. We don’t like change either do we? When someone changes before our very eyes we get really uncomfortable:
And we get uncomfortable when it’s clear that it’s time to move on and we fear what lies beyond our own mountain.
The truth is that we’re all afraid of Jerusalem. The root word of Jerusalem means wholeness or completeness. We’re afraid to get beyond what we know, to give up what is stale and unhealthy because we’ve gotten used to things the way they are. We’d rather not change because we’re afraid to risk what’s familiar in the hope that things might get better, more complete.
Lent is all about accepting that we need to make a change. That we need to grow.
Indeed that can be a scary time. Lent is that cloudy period–like the disciples were in– where we’re afraid but where we also are called to listen. And when we listen, we see what has to happen. We listen to that voice deep in our souls that tells us the truth. And the truth, as we all know, sometimes hurts.
When I finally broke up with that woman it was painful. It was hard and I was indeed afraid that I’d never find love again. But what happened after that? Friends started telling me that I seemed different. I seemed more relaxed, happier. One co-worker even said, “Since you broke up with that woman you are glowing. I’m so happy you are looking better. She was weighing you down.”
I started to feel better about myself and was able to become more confident. Confident enough to leave my career that was also unsatisfying and to then get into ministry full time. I went to lunch with that same co-worker after I was doing ministry for a few months and he said, “You are glowing! You look so happy!”
It was that confidence that also led me to find my wife. Who loves me so much more deeply and without hesitation and who makes me so much better than I ever could be alone. On our wedding day that same co-worker came up to me and said, “Dude, you are glowing!”
That’s what it means to be transfigured. To make a scary change in order to be completely changed. And while that can be frightening and we may have to spend time in those dark clouds, we have nobody to look to that’s better than Jesus for our model. For when Jesus takes those first few steps off that mountain towards Jerusalem and towards that scary cross the end result is resurrection. Jesus moves beyond that pain and death and fear into a stronger, better resurrected life, a life that death cannot even kill. Love and truth always overcomes fear and doubt.
To be transfigured means to grow up–to accept that we need to grow, that there’s room to grow. Lent gives us that opportunity to come off of that mountain and accept those growing pains–to face the tough, hard decisions that we need to make in order to grow into a better way of being the best person we can be. And when we do that we realize all that God has in store for us.
May this lent move you into that place where you can face your fears, move towards your crosses and though it might be a bit painful, may you too, be able to see yourself in a new way…a better way…a way that allows you to let your light shine to the world.