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February 15, 2015, 9:10 AM

Bathed in Glory!


Mark 9:2-9 (CEB)
Six days later Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and brought them to the top of a very high mountain where they were alone. He was transformed in front of them, and his clothes were amazingly bright, brighter than if they had been bleached white. Elijah and Moses appeared and were talking with Jesus.Peter reacted to all of this by saying to Jesus, “Rabbi, it’s good that we’re here. Let’s make three shrines—one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”He said this because he didn’t know how to respond, for the three of them were terrified.
Then a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice spoke from the cloud, “This is my Son, my Beloved. Listen to him!” Suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus.
As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them not to tell anyone what they had seen until after the Human One had risen from the dead.
 
Bathed in Glory
 
One of my favorite television shows, and one of the longest running out there, is “The Simpsons.” I love the satire, their commentary on our culture. For twenty six years I have laughed at the antics of this hugely dysfunctional family, and impressed over and over with their ability to capture aspects of our society and shine light on their with humor. My favorite character on the show is Lisa Simpson; this sweet little nerd, type A personality, who loves school and structure and organizing. She excels at music and education and has the cutest giggle.
 
My favorite episode is one in which Lisa has a major meltdown at school—“The PTA Disbands.” In this episode, the teachers at the elementary school all go on strike. The PTA has a huge fight and disbands. So, some parents take it upon themselves to teach school in the absence of the teachers. Lisa’s class ends up with a parent that is very hippy-esque; all peace and love, feel and experience, no judgment, no structure, no testing, no grading—just be.  As you can imagine, this drives Lisa crazy. After several days of this completely structure-less classroom experience, Lisa explodes; “Look at me! Grade me! Look at me! Evaluate and rank me! Validate me!” And all the type A personalities watching (like me) went “yes!” We understood. Too much change, too fast, no structure, lack of control, all equals meltdown.
 
Peter is experiencing much the same thing in our reading today—The Transfiguration. So much has already changed in his life. He has left his home, his occupation, his family, to follow this traveling Rabbi. And in his following he has witnessed miracles and healing, has heard teaching that have opened his mind to new ideas and new ways of living. But he has processed all of this change by holding firm to the structures of his faith—the religious structure he has been grounded in since his childhood. Rabbi’s call disciples to follow them, learn their ways, absorb their teachings. Peter never imagined he would be called to be a disciple, he didn’t believe he had made the cut, but he had seen Rabbis and their disciples, so had a framework in which to place his own call and following. And this isn’t any Rabbi, he and the other disciples believe Jesus to be the Messiah, and Peter’s religion has a structure for that as well. There are definitions and scriptures, teachings, about the Messiah. Peter has been fitting this Jesus experience into that structure he has inherited from his culture and faith, but it has been a tight fit.
 
Until this moment.
 
Suddenly, in a flash of light (literally), all that structure and framing has been obliterated. Jesus, radiant in the glory of God, throws Peter’s Messiah definitions out the window. All the qualifying and quantifying Peter had is place is gone, and he is overwhelmed and terrified. Peter suddenly finds himself quite literally in one of the faith stories from his childhood. He is upon the mountain with God. He is face-to-face with the radiant glory of the divine. And to drive the point home, Moses and Elijah suddenly show up. In some way Peter cannot understand he is confronted with the very presence of God, in Jesus, so…he reverts to what he knows. If this is Moses in the wilderness, if this is Elijah on the mountain, there is a festival for that. Sukkot. The Feast of Booths.
 
Each year, in the observing of Sukkot, the people of Israel build booths, tents, and live in them for seven days to commemorate the Exodus, the celebrate all that God has given them and give thanks, to honor the gifting of the Torah-the Law. Peter grabs hold of this structure from his faith tradition and declares, “let’s build booths;” seeking to place some framework around the overwhelming experience.
 
But God interrupts. God interrupts Peter’s frantic attempts to qualify and quantify the experience, to comprehend what is happening and place religious walls around it. Now is not the time for theologizing and understanding, for doctrine and dogma and polity. Now is the moment to simple be present, to experience the intimacy of this moment. “This is my Son, my Beloved.” This is the opportunity to experience real holiness and assurance of God-with-us. Peter is called to bask in the light, wonder at the glory, experience awe. Be overwhelmed. Be transformed.
 
The Church is grappling to understand. The Church is frantically trying to understand this new millennium and the people who occupy it. What do we do with these “spiritual but not religious” people who have turned away from organized religion? Leaders, both lay and clergy, desperately seek programs and ministries that might attract these “spiritual but not religious,” these SBRs. We shore up our theology, get our structures in place, debate doctrine, and qualify and quantify, seeking some control. And then we go all Lisa Simpson on the SBRs—“Look at me! Look at me! Come to worship! Serve on a committee! Pledge! Help with the next dinner! See us!”
 
Oh, how we need this Sunday—Transfiguration! This might one of the most important holy days on our church calendar in the new millennium. What are the SBRs looking for? They want divine experience, holiness, intimacy, transcendence. They hunger to know there is something bigger than themselves and to feel it in their lives in a real way. And here it is! Transfiguration! Not to be understood, but to be experienced! This is the moment to bask in the light, to wonder at the glory, to experience awe. Be overwhelmed. Be transformed. To be!
 
Thanks be to God! Amen! 

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