Apologies again for the weird formatting.
the disciples get a bad rap in the Gospels
they never seem to understand anything Jesus says
and even when they're shown convincing proof
that he can do what he says he can do
they don't believe and seem puzzled when Jesus rebukes them
just before the Gospel we heard today,
the disciples are seen complaining that they're hungry
and have no bread to eat
just before that Jesus had fed the 5000 with just 5 loaves and 2 fish
and he is understandably frustrated that they can't make the connection
we might say they have no vision
it seems Peter doesn't have vision either
many of us know the story of the Transfiguration well
—and think Peter is an idiot
it's hard not to read it that way
he's gone up the mountain with Jesus to pray
and when Jesus suddenly glows with an unearthly light
it's as if Peter's seeing Jesus for the first time in all his glory
his heart is full
and he's got butterflies in his stomach like he's in love
and he sees God, really sees God in this Jesus
and it's amazing
and he thinks
"I'll put up some tents so we can stay here always
cause this is so cool."
what an idiot, right?
how could he not see what was right in front of him?
how could he not see God revealing Godself and not interrupt?
we, of course, are rational and perceptive people
and we would certainly have been silent and pious
in the face of such holiness…right?
I don't think so
at the sight of my buddy suddenly clothed in dazzling white
and talking to long-dead prophets
I probably would have screamed like a little girl
the history of the church doesn't give us a positive example either
every time a mystic or prophet had a vision,
we codified it
isolated the moment from creation
created a worship service around it
or added to our protocols so we'd be ready the next time
we are nothing if not prepared for the unexpected
the thing is, God breaks in anyway.
why do we do it?
why keep ourselves so scheduled that there is not time for pause or silence or prayer?
is it because we don't actually feel the presence of God?
that we feel like frauds if we admit we don't know what we're doing spiritually?
that we need to hide from a chaotic and seemingly immoral universe by being busy?
think of the times you've tried to make a difference and failed for whatever reason
for years people have been trying to revitalize historic Old Saint George church in Clifton
making it a gathering place, a café, anything
Leighton and I used to go there for lunch every week
they always had fresh, seasonal foods
like corn on the cobb or summer tomatoes
or ribs that melted off the bone
and we always met interesting people there
musicians, business people, homeless men, and visionaries
Old Saint George burned down a couple years ago—it’s vacant
many of us know people who are addicts or mentally ill
and their behavior can be irrational and hurtful
we try to help by forcing them into rehab or intervening
and often it doesn't work and they spiral away
in her recent book Leaving Church
Barbara Brown Taylor laments this same situation
she was a small-town parish priest
working hard to make a difference
when she realized there was no joy in what she was doing
She writes, "I pecked God on the cheek the same way I did Ed, drying up inside for want of making love."
that's something we don’t talk about in church
but that's just it
we've been making dinner and making money and not making love
maybe our need to build tents on the mountaintop is because we are so in awe
because we long for something beyond ourselves
not a god-shaped hole
but a pull towards the god we somehow already know
and who knows us
the story of the transfiguration is not about Peter's being an idiot
and trying to pin down what can't be pinned down
it's about his longing for God
he is amazed and overwhelmed by the vision before him
all his life he's desired to see God
to have proof of his faith
to experience that deep joy
and he does
he sees the immediacy of God
the physical incarnation of God in all things
more than that, the story of the transfiguration is about God
God desires us in return
God created us out of love, out of desire for another
how can we not speak of falling in love with god and god with us?
isn't that why you're here today?
You've met God somewhere
on the road
in a stranger
in your family
in a book
even in church
and you've fallen in love with Jesus
the Psalm assigned to yesterday's feast of the Presentation
speaks eloquently of this desire:
"my soul longs, indeed it faints for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God."
That is beautiful—"my soul longs for the Lord…"
can you feel that?
like the speaker's heart is pounding
and there is an ache in her chest
and she is leaning towards God
to hear the words and just be in the presence
And what does God say in response?
At the transfiguration
after Peter's vulnerable cry
and attempt to cling to the experience
after he falls to the ground in embarrassment and awe
his face flaming in recognition of what he's said
Jesus leans down and takes him by the hand and says
"Get up and do not be afraid."
Or maybe he's saying "I love you. Don't worry."
we're going to keep trying to make a difference
we're going to keep messing things up
we're going to keep doing some pretty fantastic things
and in every moment of every one of those things,
God is present
God is transfiguring us
no matter how low we are
no matter how perfunctory our attention to God
no matter how highly we think of ourselves
God is present
God is transfiguring us
in your longing for more and better
in your longing for understanding or connection
in your longing to reach out and invite in
God is present
God is transfiguring you
God desires you and your love
even when you don't.