"Master, it is good for us to be here;
let us make three dwellings..."
- Peter - speaking to Jesus after the transfiguration event.
The Bible is full of ancient stories meant to help people find wisdom and enlightenment and a connection to the divine. Tragically, the weaponizing of the Bible by many Christians reduces its value to that of a crude machete - wielded in arrogance, exclusion and condemnation. If someone’s first impulse with a ancient sacred book that culminated in “God is love” and “love your enemies” is to make it a weapon in the arsenal of their prejudice, perhaps it says less about that ancient book and more about the state of that person’s development. For many others - the Bible is a source of enlightenment and growth, helping us to see deep truths, to appreciate science and the world we live in, to experience our shared humanity with the other seven billion neighbors who share our planet, and to become a better, less selfish, more generous and open version of ourself. Take for example that time something weird happened that time Jesus took a few of his followers to a mountain top to pray:
“while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly they saw two men (long dead heroes of his country), Moses and Elijah, talking to him… Now Peter and his companions … saw [this… and] Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, "Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings… (Luke 9:28-36) ”
Peter’s response to this dazzling vision / revelation / transfiguration is predictable and illustrative. Often we confuse our experiences of connection with *God for the container or experience it arrives in. When we “pitch our tents” on any of these mountaintops, we end up outstaying Jesus and spending decades defending our claim. (*If the word God has too much baggage to be useful for you, just substitute another that’s helpful for you: mystery, universe, love, being itself, or fabric of reality - or whatever word works for you to talk about the mystery were are caught up in.)
- We experience God *at church*
and become attached to *the building*
- We experience God *on a missions trip*
so we can’t wait to *go back*
- We experience God *through Christianity*
and we mistake the trailhead for the Mystery
But, when we try to lock God into a particular container, we end up in the God management business. We expect him to predictably show up in the same place at the scheduled time - but when God either doesn’t show up - or shows up in an unexpected way - we are forced to either deal with the disappointment or attempt to manufacture the promised experience by ourselves - both options tend to involve grief.
Yes, we saw God *there* but it was the unveiling that mattered most - the container, however valuable matters less. Our new, larger view of God, gives us new glasses to see the holiness of all of life. Learning to see God on the mountain tops gives us the faith to look for him in the valleys and everywhere else. Seeing the glory of Jesus in his humanity, allows us to see the glory of our neighbors.
When we receive transfigurations, visions, and epiphanies with gratitude and an open hand, we find the courage to resist the very understandable urge to pitch tents and camp out, and the freedom to look up with new eyes and see the mystery and glory everywhere.
Such Transfigurations Reveal God:
- everywhere and in everything
- the timeless current of love that connects us all
- being itself that gives being to all other beings
- the fabric that all else is painted on
- the loving mystery animating all
We need these sacred moments and experiences or we end up stuck in our black and white thinking and categories. It is a transfiguration that allows the disciples to see, eventually, that Jesus was more than they had imagined. It was a transfiguration experience on the road that allowed Paul to see through his devotion to his prejudice and persecution of others. Jesus hinted at transfigurations when we said, “whatever you do to the least of these, you do unto me.” Paul stated it outright when he taught that we are “collectively” the body of Christ. These mystical revelations invite us to new, more unified mind, a reboot and upgrade our operating system that allows us to see realities that have always been present, just waiting for someone with the eyes to see and the ears to hear.
The invitation of Jesus is not merely to be life-long-loyal-Christians - the invitation is to walk through the door that Jesus and the Bible revealed. The door to a bigger, more expansive and inclusive realm - often called the kingdom of God.
“...From the point of view of the prophets and of the whole Biblical tradition, God is always, so to speak, beyond our religion. He is the living God. He can never be domesticated… He does not come when we whistle ...What nonsense! As if we can domesticate Jesus and make Him a sort of mascot for our particular concern! Jesus is not tied to any of our systems, not even our religious systems. They will disappear but He remains. Many of our inherited forms of religious thought and piety may have to change and that is a painful thing, for we cling to them very lovingly.
- Leslie Newbigin - Christ Our Eternal Contemporary.