The very strange story of the Transfiguration is grounded in a realistic depiction of human frailty and intransigence.
Falling back on the familiar when we have the chance to take a leap into the unknown. Undergirded by our faith.
Not at all irrelevant as “climate change” slides down the slippery slope into crisis.
Whilst this story ( Luke 9:28-36) does call, I like to think, for some wild and far-fetched speculation as we read it, our reading will also be grounded in everyday humanity. Grounded in our failings and our potential. Which in its turn authenticates the strangeness. Helps us to grasp it, value it, rather than dismiss it.
Jesus takes Peter James and John ‘up on a mountain to pray’, at which the disciples are gifted with a bright and mysterious vision of Jesus, authenticated, as it were, in conversation with Moses and Elijah, the legendary sources of near-supreme spiritual authority, for their people .
Like going for a drive in the country, and coming across a couple of A-list celebrities.
Transforming Energy surrounds Jesus . Preachers have seen it as a foretaste. A signpost to what is to come. But we are told of Jesus’ forthcoming ‘departure’. So it’s not at all about standing still
Peter’s – perhaps understandably – odd reaction is not to soak in this fleeting gift and use it as a stepping-stone for reflection. For him, it’s not awe, but overdrive.
He looks to build “refuges/booths/shelters”. He puts his energy into slowing things down. To preserve the moment. Like a fan besotted by celebrity. Clings to a fleeting moment which is only given as a moment
We are told he “didn’t know what he was saying”. I wonder if we know what we are saying, when we ponder the authority of the radiant and transformative messages we hear from climate scientists. The intoxicating message of impending catastrophe. The urgency of action. The journey, which should already have been under way. Ah yes.
We sigh. And we go back to the car-park. Get back on the planes. We go back to the reassurance of our conspicuous consumption .
What refuge would we offer, perhaps up on one of those ‘viewpoint’ car-parks that adorn our beautiful country.
Would the friends of Jesus be unusually adventurous outdoor folk, set out on foot, or would they rather have gone for a drive in the country?
You can get unnecessarily scholarly about the ‘shelters’. Maybe that is the fall-back refuge of those of us who preach, or try to pre-wrestle these stories to the ground for congregations.
Maybe there is a reference here to the ‘Feast of Booths/Tabernacles, otherwise known as Sukkot, though the season seems to mitigate against it. Whatever, Peter suddenly roused from his sleepiness, aims to offer temporary refuges, with the implication of prolonging the moment, and, traditionally, of waiting for the Messiah, when he has the chance to head off with Jesus on the journey to see where he might lead.
But by then, Moses and Elijah, the two authenticating conversationalists (I wonder who we would choose, or who we would see?) are already on their way.
Before the disciples know “what next”, the mysterious cloud overwhelms them and identifies Jesus in no uncertain terms as ‘my Son’, perhaps rebuking their misinterpretation; setting in perspective what it means to mistake the gift of a call to action for an encouragement to procrastinate.
What is the tone of this heavenly voice? Is it irritation that they didn’t read the signs in the first place? Is it kindly, giving yet another chance to ‘get’ what Jesus is about. Does it say “Get on with it!”
Many are the “maybe’s”. But following Jesus into the hazardous unknown, leaving behind our fall-backs, is what Eco-Congregation is there to encourage, as we approach the season of Lent, and then Easter.