Peter, James, and John reaction to Jesus’ Transfiguration
- Amidst the mystery and glory of Transfiguration there is also fear and confusion.
- Peter’s first reaction is to make three shrines and mark this place as holy. He sees through “love eyes” and wishes to remain, an understandable reaction. Instead Jesus instructs them of the need to go back down the mountain.
- But the disciple’s desire to stay on the mountaintop makes sense. Down the mountain is the human condition, heart ache, hardship, unjust systems, exploitative power, violent governments, and death. No wonder they wanted to stay in that moment despite the accompanying fear and confusion.
Through the Eyes of Love
- Ice Castles is the story of a woman who reached the mountaintop and subsequently falls to the deepest valley. After a successful figure skater loses her sight, she hides away in the privacy of her own despair.
- Like that movie, Peter felt a similar tension between love and despair. While he saw the high, holy moment of Jesus transfigured through eyes of love, he knew what was waiting for him at the bottom of the mountain and hid in his own despair.
- During the past year, seeing God in the new ways through our sacred and special moments has been both a blessing and a challenge. In this space, there are times of high, holy moments when we just want to linger knowing tomorrow and the descent down the mountain is coming.
- But Jesus reminds us that our work is not on a mountaintop. Instead our work and mission is in the valleys, or places of spiritual, physical, and relational hunger.
The Transfiguration theology of John de Gruchy
- In his book on Dietrich Bonhoeffer, John de Gruchy writes about the transformative power of Transfiguration as it relates to the dismantlement of apartheid. Transfiguration is not just a mystical moment of divine revelation, but a moment which challenges our conception and relation to the holy.
- Our mountaintop experiences of God can only be understood in the shadow and activity of the valley, or the crucifixion and human condition.
- Jesus taught his disciples that they needed to descend and confront the ugliness and pain of the world. In this way, the Transfiguration helps to teach and reach across the tough and terrible parts of life.
- For de Gruchy, the Transfiguration represents the spirituality of seeing the splendor and activity of God amidst the ugliness and pain of life. From the holy spirit we are gifted eyes of love which embolden us to do ministry in the world.
Take Away and Call to Action:
The very same God we experience on the mountaintop is with us in the valleys. As we prepare for the journey of Lent, take a moment to reflect on a high, holy moment that caused you to see God, your neighbor, or yourself in a new way.
As we know, mountaintop experiences come with the temptation to chase emotion. Instead Jesus extends an alternative invitation:
- Chase the mission of God in our world.
- Chase what it means to be commissioned to baptize and teach
- Chase what it means to be people of justice, advocacy, and compassion
May we know that God is with us in both the peaks of valleys of life. And may we all look at God, one another, and all of Creation through the eyes of love.