Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. 2 And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. 3 Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. 4 Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 5 While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” 6 When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. 7 But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.” 8 And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone. 9 As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, “Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”
Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
I was in Mexico with a group one time. We were touring a couple of small villages and learning about life in general for these people in abject poverty. They were telling us about the importance of their church and how they supported one another. There was a real unity in the midst of their poverty. Interesting, but it was getting toward lunch time and we had a little bit of a ride to get back. So as the conversation and interaction kept going, I kept glancing at my watch wondering how long before we could return.
It wasn’t until much later that I discovered that the Lutheran pastor there in those villages in Mexico was actually bringing insulin to a diabetic woman in one of those neighborhoods who would never be able to afford it. Somewhere he had been able to procure it, and was able bringing her life-saving supplies. It was a holy moment—his work and generosity, and her gracious appreciation. Christ was present. But I missed most of it because I was concerned about lunch.
I’m becoming more and more convinced that there are many more of these holy moments than we know. We just miss them because we’re too busy trying to do something. So we talk, or plan, or reason our way through these holy times.
I’m wondering if part of the point of the Transfiguration story is that sometimes the only agenda is to recognize a holy moment and simply be present in it. Not to analyze it, improve upon it, or even describe it, but just recognize it and be in it.
As is often the case, Peter gives us an idea of what not to do. He is chosen by Jesus, along with James and John, to go up this mountain alone. And they witness what can only be described as a holy moment. Jesus is transfigured—changed—right in front of them. Shining face, white clothing, Moses and Elijah showing up. Cloud covering them just like it did for Moses. A voice coming from the cloud giving Jesus high praise and accolades. This certainly falls within the general category of “holy moment.”
Peter just can’t help himself. Rather than be part of it, be fully present in it, he tries to improve it. “Let me just build some booths,” he says. “Because my contribution to this unbelievable moment will surely make it better.” What, just being present there with Jesus, Moses, and Elijah isn’t good enough? Don’t ruin this, Peter. Just know this is holy time and you get to be there for it. Absorb it. Live in it. Be aware that there’s more going on than you may know at the time. Recognize that when you start talking you are taking the focus off the holiness of the moment and limiting your experience of it. Just be present in it.
Sometimes the agenda is just to be there. To know you’ve been present. To experience holiness. To be in the presence of Christ.
As Lutherans, we gather together on Sundays around Word and sacrament. We proclaim the presence of Christ with us during worship. Jesus tells us that “when two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”
Isn’t that here? Isn’t that now? If that’s the case, perhaps we could actually become more aware of this as a holy moment. If Christ is truly present with us, maybe we could be more fully present with him.
Try something with me. Close your eyes and sit quietly for a minute. . . .
Think of one word or phrase you need to hear right now. Take some time in the silence and consider what that word would be. Maybe it’s something you already know, or maybe it’s something new. But have that word or phrase in your mind. . . .
Picture Jesus here with you. Hear him as he speaks to you the very words you need to hear today. . . .
Just be with him and listen. . . .
Repeat those words to yourself with Jesus a few times. . . .
Go ahead and open your eyes again. Holy moments happen all around us all the time. We are made new in the presence of Christ.
We are starting the season of Lent on Wednesday. It is the 40 days (plus Sundays) before Easter. It’s traditionally a season of discipline and repentance. You’ll often hear people talking about “giving something up for Lent.” Usually like chocolate, a TV show, or even coffee (but that would not only be unhealthy, it would just be silly . . .).
Rather than any of those things, which aren’t bad, but may or may not actually help us grow spiritually, I’m suggesting we watch for holy moments during Lent. Practice recognizing them and being fully present in them. If we are experiencing the presence of Christ, stop what we’re doing and simply be with him then and there.
Today is a holy moment, here together. There are more, because Christ is active in the world. Let’s watch for him.