Mark 9:2-9: Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them.
And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!”
Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them anymore, but only Jesus.
As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.
In Mark’s telling of the Transfiguration, we get a more poignant view of the character of Peter. In the verses preceding, Peter had responded to Jesus question about who He was, with the correct answer, the Son of the Living God. And then, Peter wants to build tents for Jesus, Elijah and Moses. He goes from knowing exactly what his faith is about, to being flustered and saying something silly because he didn’t know what else to say.
But we tend not to talk about Peter’s gaffs. We certainly don’t look to expound upon our own times that we have responded in a less than adequate way because we simply didn’t have a clue what to say. What I want to suggest here is that these moments are key for us to understand our faith and to grow in our faith.
I have always admired Peter, because I tend to think I’m a bit like Peter. Some days eloquence comes from my mouth – other days it is sheer gibberish! But maybe, just maybe I learn as much or more from the latter, as I do from the former.
When we are willing to admit that we didn’t have the words; we didn’t know how to respond, we have an opportunity to learn about ourselves and our faith. When we speak a good word to someone, one that resonates deep in their soul, we can walk away believing we have done well in a pastoral sense. However, there is little challenge in this for us to grow, to go deeper, to reflect on the true justice issues facing people in our community. When we open our mouths to speak and no words come out, we are left asking ourselves why? That helps us to reflect on the issues, ask what we can do to change the situation in a pastoral or faith sense. It helps us remember that we don’t have the answers, but we do have a relationship with the One who does have them. And those answers are only discovered in a long term faith relationship.
I realize this probably isn’t the prototypical Transfiguration sermon, but I do believe it is an important one for us to grow in faith and spirituality.
The Rev. Canon Keith Nethery