Transfiguration Sunday, Year A
March 2, 2014
First Christian Church
I envy those people who can spend periods in prayer or meditating. The reason I am jealous of them is that this is something I can’t do. It might be a result of my Apserger’s diagnosis, but I can’t focus on things for very long. This means that when I’m trying to pray, my mind decides to think about other things. I can go from praying to thinking about what I have to do at work, to where I plan to go on vacation, to wondering if I had made that student loan payment, to…what was I doing now?
My brain can’t sit still. It is always busy and I envy those who can just rest their brain to focus on what’s at hand. I am reminded of a graphic that has made its way on the internet: someone explains how hard it is to focus when they have ADHD and they give a demonstration at the same time. The sentence goes, “I Wish I Could sleep, but my ADD kicks in and one sheep, two sheep, cow, turtle, duck, Old MacDonald had a farm, Hey Macarena!”
Today is Transfiguration Sunday, it’s the last Sunday before Lent which begins on Ash Wednesday. This story of Jesus going up to a mountain top and being changed is always told on this Sunday. It’s the last tale of Epiphany, that time when we see Christ being revealed to the world and it ends with a bang.
Jesus goes up to an unnamed mountain to pray. He brings along three of his disciples, Peter, James and John. While they are up on the mountain, Jesus is transfigured or goes through a metamorphosis. Sunlight pours from his face as the Message translation states. At the same time Jesus is now in conversation with two people and neither of them were disciples. He was talking to Moses and Elijah, the giver of the law and the last great prophet. It was odd enough for Jesus to be lit up like a Christmas tree, but he is also talking to two men who were supposed to be long dead.
The three disciples have seen this all and you have to imagine they are a little bit bewildered and downright scared. Peter decides this is the perfect time to talk about a capital campaign. He wants to build shelters for all three of them to memorialize this moment in time. That’s when that voice comes, interrupts Peter and tells everyone that Jesus is God’s son and that he should be listened to.
I’ve heard this story many times and it’s always told in the same way: why couldn’t silly Peter just keep quiet and live in the moment? Why was Peter so stupid?
The thing is, Peter is just doing what we would all do if we were in his shoes. Peter was shocked by what he saw. He couldn’t focus on what was important at that time, which was to listen to Jesus and take in the moment. No, he decides it’s time to build something for the Big Three.
I wonder if Peter was aware of his Jewish history. He would have learned that it is on top of mountains that God’s people come in contact with God. It was on a mountain top that God gave Moses the law. It was on a mountain that Elijah challenge the King of Israel and the prophets of Baal and where God reminded the people who was God. My guess is that Peter was too stunned to be thinking about such things. He was focused on doing something instead of siply being in the moment.
As I said, I think Peter is more representative of all of us than being an outlier. We too can be focused on other things; paying this bill or going shopping, wondering what color the carpet should be in the church sanctuary. We can get so focused on doing work that we leave Jesus behind. God’s calling out of Peter is a reminder to him and to all of us to be present throughout our life, because if we are too busy with other things, we might ignore the presence of God in our midst. This was a God-infused moment and Peter was missing it.
I’d be remissed if I didn’t touch upon another related subject going on here. Peter did have a case of spiritual ADHD, but noticed that after God speaks how the disciples fell to the ground. The passage says they were afraid. Fear can also take our minds of God, to see where God is working. Fear is a natural response to things that we don’t understand, and let’s be honest seeing your friend lit up like a Christmas tree and talking to two dead people is a great reason to be scared.
But look at what Jesus does. He comes and touches the disciples and tells them to not be afraid. When we are so busy with life that we aren’t paying attention or when life leaves us scared, Jesus is there offering a healing touch telling us not to be afraid.
We are getting ready to head into the season of Lent. This time of the year is a 40 day period (excluding Sundays) leading up to Easter, a time when we take stock of our lives and prepare for Holy Week and Easter. As we enter this time, I ask that you be aware of those moments in your life where God is present. Even better I hope you will make time to be alone and be attentive to God’s presence. I also hope you will use this time to think about when you were scared and be mindful that Jesus is there offering a touch and a word of encouragement.
This congregation has had a very momentous year that would leave most people fearful and focused on the small stuff. I’m not asking you to not be scared. I am asking that you be aware that Jesus is there offering a word of hope as we continue to seek being church. Even when we are scared, we are not alone. We are never alone. Thanks be to God. Amen.