Everything you want to know about The Transfiguration you can learn from your local crossing guard . . .
There was once a new Episcopal Priest who was sitting in his upstairs office very early one morning. Suddenly he saw something very strange. He saw a sort of a mist forming in the corner of the room, and vaguely, he could see a form that almost looked like Our Lord Jesus Christ.
The priest immediately picked up the phone and called the bishop’s office, and the secretary answered. When she heard his story, she rolled her eyes and patched him through to the bishop who wanted to know how he could help the young priest. The priest could hardly control himself; his lower lip was quivering as he said, Oh bishop, You’ll never believe this, but I believe that Jesus Christ is in the process of manifesting himself right now. . . right here in my office! What should I do, It’s clearly Jesus Christ, I need to know what to do.
The Bishop thought for a moment, and then he said….Well, try to look busy.
There is really little that can be said about what happened in that mist up on that high mountain at the time of our Lord’s Transfiguration. It’s one of those events in the Gospels of which about all you can say is,You would have had to be there.
Well, it is my contention that we have many opportunities to be there.
The Transfiguration wasn’t a one-time event, but an event for all time. It is a symbol of many such holy moments that can happen in our lives every single day of the week, if we only stop, look and listen.
I want to call your attention to Peter in today’s gospel. We find him in the midst of a glaring miracle, and what does he do? – He speaks!
Wouldn’t you think that just this once he would be awe-struck and tongue-tied? No, he jumps up in the presence of the ghostly apparitions of Moses and Elijah and Jesus and what does he say?
He basically says, Lord, Let’s set up some tents and do a little camping for a few days. Poor Peter wants to build a monument to the moment. He makes the mistake I make so many times. He assumes that God’s presence will be absent, or at the very least, less profound once they leave the mountain-top experience. He’s afraid he won’t be able to find any holy moments like this one once they go back down to the valley of life below. And so Peter wants to speak, and he wants to build.
The Transfigured Lord is forming in the mist, and Peter wants to KEEP BUSY!
Do you know why it’s so easy for me to pick on St. Peter? Because it’s a safe way of criticizing myself anonymously.
It’s easy for me to find God’s presence in the middle of a beautiful liturgy in the sanctuary with glorious music descending from above the stained glass windows that look like they were crafted by God’s angels!
It’s easy for me to find a holy moment in middle of a church program that comes off without a hitch. But it’s also easy for me to get busy and to forget to open my eyes and my ears to find the presence of God – to see a miracle – in the less thrilling moments of my life and ministry. Peter missed the moment even when God was present in a pillar of cloud. How much easier it is for me to overlook him in the cloud of defensiveness that surrounds me when someone disagrees with my vision for the church. How much easier it also is for me to miss him when fatigue clouds my awareness.
I remember one night, many years ago now, when I was sitting at my computer working on something – a sermon or a bulletin or a newsletter – and my youngest daughter came over to me with her pet Guinea Pig in her arms and wanted to show her to me. I remember I reached back with my hand on her shoulder (never looking at her) and I said, Not now honey. Daddy’s busy. I will look at your pet a little later.
I went on writing whatever it was I was writing, but the image of this precious little girl with bright red hair holding this pure white little creature of God in her arms kept running through my head. It nagged and nagged at me, but I went on typing and clicking my mouse – until the picture was so vivid in my mind that I knew it was purer and holier than anything else I was doing at the time.
I got up and ran into her bedroom only to find her fast asleep and her pet returned carefully to her cage.
Like Peter at the Transfiguration. I was more interested in building a monument to MY moment, and I ended up missing a real moment. I was better at building than just being!
Here’s a really good question. I’m not sure where I came up with it, but I do think it’s a good one:
What if we could see everyone in the world as though we were falling in love with them? When we fall in love, what happens in us? Our beloved one, who everyone else knows is perfectly ordinary, becomes an extraordinary transfiguration for us.
You see, our vision quest as Christians is not really so much to see GOD as it is to SEE AS GOD SEES. If we can’t see others as transfigured, then we’re far more likely to see them as disfigured. In this high-speed, high-tech,computerized, busy and bustling world we live, we need, more than ever, to look and listen for what visions lurk just under those everyday, ordinary clouds. Let’s face it, we all probably need to SPEAK LESS AND LISTEN MORE. We need to stop building and just be!
Have you ever noticed that God’s prophecies in the Old Testament usually begin with the words HEAR O ISRAEL. That’s sort of the equivalent today of SHUT UP AND LISTEN!
When God speaks his call to Samuel, Samuel says, SPEAK LORD, FOR THY SERVANT LISTENS. My problem is most of the time I want to say LISTEN LORD, FOR THY SERVANT SPEAKS! And when God finally does speak in today’s Gospel what does he say?
He says, THIS IS MY BELOVED SON. . . LISTEN! And maybe one of the reasons that Jesus instructs the disciples to TELL NO ONE about the experience is because he wants them to just be present to the holiness of the moment. Maybe Jesus just wants them to peer through the shadows of that thin place where they stand.
Too often I build monuments to ME! Do you ever feel like that? There’s an epitaph on a grave marker of a woman who died in 1899. It reads, This monument is a tribute to the memory of Lydia Smyth by her husband Carl Smyth who carved it for her. Similar monuments $50.00
Hopefully we don’t come to church out of a sense of duty, but because it’s one of God’s thin places. Church is kind of like a mountain-top experience. Mountains give us an all-encompassing panoramic view, but if you’ve ever noticed, there’s very little vegetation on high mountain peaks. Most of the growth takes place in the valley below.
So after we gather at that thin place we call the Communion Table on Sunday, should that be our tradition, let us go forth from that place and remember those classic words we heard over and over and over again from the crossing guard lady on the way to school: STOP, LOOK AND LISTEN.