Six days later.
The Gospel opens with these words. Whenever an event is marked by days since - it’s clear something big took place.
We often mark life events in this way. One year ago we entered pandemic life.
Five years ago, the doctors gave you a cancer free diagnosis. 9 days ago the residents at Trinity Village received a 2nd dose of the vaccination. 13 years ago I went on my first Valentine’s Day date with the man I would marry.
Even the iconic Canadian band the Barenaked Ladies start a song like this.
It's been one week since you looked at me, Cocked your head to the side and said, "I'm angry”. Five days since you laughed at me, Saying, "Get that together, come back and see me”. Three days since the living room, I realized it's all my fault, but couldn't tell you. Yesterday, you'd forgiven me, but it'll still be two days 'til I say I'm sorry.
Milestones are marked by the passage of time. While the passage of time communicates importance, the main takeaway with these quantifiable marks is that God doesn’t leave us in one place. Life is dynamic.
Six days later. We wonder, what happened six days ago that was so important it was forever immortalized in the cannon of scripture? Six days ago Jesus told the disciples what was about to happen and it was probably a bit much for them to get their heads around. Jesus, their beloved - would suffer, be rejected, and killed.
Put yourselves in the disciples shoes. To hear of your beloveds suffering, rejection and death causes you suffering. It’s like your child being bullied on the playground or just as concerning is your child being the bully. Or if we listen to the experience of our brothers and sisters of colour - who climb the mountain of injustice day by day - who face the continuous aggressions / micro-aggression of racism - such suffering, rejection and even death is no strangers to them. Because they suffer - society at large suffers.
These hard words are bonded with grace. Jesus tells the disciples he will rise after three days but in all honesty, after hearing all of that bad news they likely missed the the good news part about him rising after three days. For many, it’s difficult to hear the little tidbit of good news when first there is so much bad news. The Gospel writer certainly doesn’t have Jesus following the 5:1 positive to negative ratio of sharing. I can imagine those disciples walking away from that conversations and in the days ahead saying, Why didn’t we ask him more questions about what he meant. I am curious. I don’t understand where he was coming from. I want to ask more. What does it mean that Jesus will rise after three days?
Thankfully, the good news of God has a way of re-appearing to remind us again and again of its life changing presence. That Jesus comes to rise above. To walk us up the mountain so that we may see the Glory of God. So that we might walk down the mountain and share that same glory with the world.
Six days ago…
A deep fissure of suffering, rejection and death cracked open in front of the disciples.
Now it is six days later. And the heavens are about to open. And the glory of God is about to be revealed. Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves.
Together they will walk up that mountain.
As I ponder this mountain top journey of Jesus and the disciples, I imagine walking up the mountain again in St. Moritz, Switzerland. Climbing a mountain is not a walk in the park. Breathing is laboured at higher altitudes. Vegetation becomes sparse. Rockier terrains are at at your feet. Even as vegetation diminishes and earth becomes increasingly inhospitable, along the way beautiful wildflowers of all varieties line the pathways. Clouds decrease visibility. Muscles strain with exertion. Ankles can twist with a mis-step. A sense of foreboding can come the further up the mountain you climb but also transcendence. Relief washes over you when reach your summit - wherever that is on the mountain for you. Joy surrounds. The view is breathtaking. The possibilities endless. This is a place to dwell for a while. You can’t stay too long. You need concentration and a good amount of energy to make it down the mountain safely.
Six days later, is a day that add brilliance and puts dazzling perspective into the hardships of 6 six days ago. On the mountain top, an undeniable God light beams and light radiates. To the disciples, Jesus’ outward appearance changes. He is illumined and so is the bigger picture of which he speaks. The glory of God shines for them to see. Jesus is transfigured in front of them. His outward appearances changes. They too are changed. …
A transformation is taking place. Their inner lives of faith are being transformed. Life with God is dynamic.
The wheels start turning in the head of the disciples. Trying to figure out what is happening. They recognize in his presence formative faithfuls of the past - Moses, Elijah - Pastor Schmeider and Deaconess Weiker. Yes, God is here and recognized to be at work. The faithful people of the past make an appearance in the present.
And then, a voice is heard from the clouds speaking to the beloveds, affirming love and encouraging listening. The disciples are in the midst of a moment that they want to hold onto. If we build three dwelling places, perhaps it will continue. How good Lord it is to be here.
What words of wisdom does this text speak into our lives today?
This scene is often used to talk about mountain top experiences with God. Those big moments when God’s presence in our life has been powerful and clear. I think everyone might experience a few of these moments in their lifetime. When you attribute something - comfort, invitation, correction, a prayer answered, or a hope given - to God’s handiwork.
For me, the ordinary, everyday, less dramatic God moments are by far the norm. Moments of transfiguration in our lives are moments of transformation. They sometimes happen as big aha moments on the mountaintop but often is the case they occur in the ordinary day to day when we’re at the base of the mountain. The mountain top moments help us to step outside of the current situation for a minute to see the bigger picture.
It is like moving between the balcony and the dance floor.(1) On the dance floor you are immersed in the dance with others. On the balcony, you stand apart for a moment to observe how the dance works before you rejoin. You are both inside and outside of the situation. Neither, swept away by the dance or aloof on the mountaintop.
Like so many stories of faith, this one invites us into this mysterious and life giving space of how God transforms lives and how these lives transform the world. So many of our sacred texts and rites pivot on this transformative moment of God turning toward us in love and how we turn with our lives, hearts and light toward God and the world.
This texts asks us to recognize the presence of God in these big and small moments of relationship with our creator and creation. Moments when we experience God’s presence in extraordinary mountaintop ways, don’t happen often but can profoundly shape lives and guide our steps as we re-enter life at the base - where there is suffering, rejection and death.
What stories do you tell about God’s presence in your life? Maybe there are no mountaintop stories just ordinary every day stories of accompaniment. How do you speak of God’s accompaniment with you along the pathway of life.
How has God transformed your life?
How is God transforming your life in these pandemic days?
Beloved, listen, the voice says from the clouds.
Listen to these moments.
Listen to your lives.
Listen deeply to each other.
And if you’re anything like the disciples, to listen even deeper ask a few questions. Maybe we don’t understand all that we think we do. Curiosity opens space for life to take on its dynamic character. God will radiate life and love in our asking.
1. Beaumont, Susan. Leading When You DOn't Know Where You are Going.