Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Transfiguration: God Has the Long View

Luke 9:28-43

I know it is a well worn theme this one of Peter's yearning to stay put on that mountaintop in the presence of Jesus and Moses and Elijah. Perhaps the fact that it has captured so many before is why I find myself settling there once again. For you see, it seems to me that the pieces all fall into place in those remarkable moments when the past, present and future meet in the persons of Moses, Elijah, and Jesus. For at least a moment, I imagine, it all makes sense in a way it surely does not nearly often enough.

And oh, I have to believe that the desire to 'make sense' of things is universal --- at least among those who have the luxury to think beyond surviving the next day. Who among us does not occasionally ask 'why?' Indeed, who among us doesn't sometimes come up short when we seek to understand life's meaning and purpose, especially as we live with the occasional, if not necessarily constant, experience of suffering and injustice and seeming scarcity.

And so just for fun a few days back--- I pulled out my phone and decided to ask "Siri" just what the 'meaning of life' is. As you can imagine, 'her' answers ranged from the ridiculous to the humorous to the surprisingly profoundly practical. For instance:
Life: a principle or force that is considered to underlie the quality of animate beings. I guess that includes me.
And then, contradicting 'herself':
I find it odd that you would ask this of an inanimate object.
And this, certainly my favorite:
All evidence to date suggests it's chocolate.
Or this:
I don't know, but I think there's an app for that.
Or finally, in an entirely practical vein, 'she' seems to offer advice to give content or texture to life's 'meaning:'
Try and be nice to people. Avoid eating fat. Read a good book every now and then. Get some walking in. And try to live together in peace and harmony with people of all creeds and nations.
Perhaps if you ask you'll get different answers. Either way? It is a universal quest, this trying to make sense of it all. As the disciples on that mountaintop did so long ago. And as, no doubt, they also did the day before and the day after that memorable vision was experienced.

Indeed, a few months back, last week, and probably again tomorrow, I found myself or I will find myself shaking my head and giving thanks that God has the long view, because I certainly do not. Most of the time I am hard pressed to understand, much less find words for the reasons behind much of life's struggle and suffering. Oh, it is so that sometimes when a life has been long and well lived, I can take some comfort in the 'natural order of things.' Far too often, though, this is not the case. And then, truly, I just don't get it. Which is, I expect, exactly why Peter wanted to hang on to that remarkable moment of clarity when it all made sense. For it must have seemed then that God had a plan, and a good one at that --- and yes, one where victory would be won where it should, for once. With Jesus.

Only of course, the scene before us now also doesn't necessarily answer our most profound questions. We don't, for instance, hear why terrible things happen at all.

  • Instead, what we receive is an image or experience of a kind of belonging in Jesus' connection to or fulfillment of all that has, all who have, gone before.
  • And it offers this remarkable promise received in blinding light that in the end, God is in charge.
  • And with that we can surely be confident that despite a whole lot of evidence between now and then to the contrary, Jesus will not be defeated.

So all of this is to say that while all the pieces surely fell into place for Peter (and James and John, too) on that mountaintop so long ago, they and we might be hard pressed to find words for it. (Perhaps this is the reason they kept silent in its wake.) Oh, maybe it is so that for all the truth that the past, present and future are in that instant crystal clear, perhaps we are still only left with what I have relied on for so long: this confidence that God has the long view when I do not. And maybe that is all we actually need as we move off that mountain with Jesus and are met by a whole crowd of folks with all their human hurts and hopes and foibles. Perhaps the promise in that shining image of Jesus on the mountain alone gives us what we need for what comes next, whatever it is.

  • What do you suppose that experience on the mountaintop was like for Peter, James and John? Why do you think they kept silent in its wake?
  • How does it change your life of faith that you can be confident that God has the long view? How does this shining image of Jesus on the mountaintop shape your living in faith?

  • In Luke's telling, when they come down the mountain, Jesus and the disciples are met by profound human need. Are the Transfiguration and what follows connected in any way? Why or why not?

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