Scripture passage: Luke 9:28-43
This is the passage for Transfiguration Sunday, March 3rd. As this is one of John’s favorite passages, he will be preaching on it this Sunday as he will be in Guatemala on March 3rd.
This story of the transfiguration may be puzzling. We don’t generally experience things as dramatic as this story. The gospel story for today is a transformation story, where Jesus experiences transfiguration:
where plain and ordinary Jesus of Nazareth is transfigured and becomes the Christ of glory at the end of time,
where Jesus the carpenter from Galilee is transfigured and his face begins to shine like the face of God at the very end of history. No longer is he just Jesus of Nazareth but the Christ of glory.
This story is rich in possibilities for us and each of you will find different takeaways as you ask the question: “Where is God for me in this text?”
Some focus upon the mountain top experience. Others focus on what happens when Jesus and the disciples come down the mountain. One such meaning is this: there is the potential to never look at things the same way again; everything now has the potential to be more than it seems.
We are going to go hiking on a high mountain with Jesus and three friends, Peter, James and John. The text for today says that it was a “high mountain.” A high mountain in Israel was and is Mt. Tabor, not far from the village of Nazareth, some 1,800 feet high. So we have four friends hiking on a high mountain, Jesus, Peter, James, and John.
The Bible says that at that moment, Jesus was transfigured. Other gospel writers go into greater detail than Mark’s Gospel does about Jesus’ face changing, describing it as shining like the brilliance of the sun, shining radiantly with a glare that you couldn’t look into.
What all the gospel stories have in common is this: Peter and the disciples have just experienced something completely other worldly.
I would encourage you to look at the different renderings of this story in Matthew and Mark and Luke.
I would also encourage you to notice Peter’s response. Peter says let us build a tent, a shelter. Building dwellings and pitching tents is part of Peter’s vocabulary as a Jew. That is what he knew to do.
It was part of his story. Remember the Israelites pitched tents in the wilderness for 40 years. The ark of the covenant which housed the 10 commandments was kept in a tent called the tabernacle. In the time of Solomon that tent became a grand, fixed structure, the temple. If you were a Jew living in that time, when something amazing happened, when God makes an appearance, in that time you built a tent, a shrine. Peter is responding worshipfully in the way he knows best -- in his own story as a good and observant Jew. His actions remind me of the saying: “when we don’t know what to do, we do what we know.”
That is all I will go into for now. I look forward to hearing your insights as we as a community gather around this text.