Staying with Jesus
I used to get up early and exercise. At times, I would meet with a friend and we’d exercise together. I’ve done everything from running to tennis to P90X. It’s not easy to get up early, before the rest of the house is awake, to go and punish my body with strenuous physical exercise. It’s a little easier when you have a friend to keep you accountable, but then the motivation isn’t so much personal gain but keeping your word to your friend.
The struggle is intensified when it’s winter. Outside it’s dark, cold, and foreboding. That first step outside to run or to get in the car to go to the gym is the worst. Bone chilling wind assaults the face, causing shuttering and the very deep desire to cry. There are mornings, especially in the winter, when I want to do anything but leave the warm comfort of my bed. It’s safe there, warm and cozy. I’ll admit, there’s been more than one morning where I’ve failed to get out of bed to exercise because the impending suffering would just be too great.
I imagine that the desire to stay safe with Jesus is partly behind Peter’s request to make three dwellings, one each for Moses, Elijah, and Jesus. After all, they’re up on this mountain, and it’s a special moment. Jesus is glowing, and two heroes of the faith are standing there. They’ve even heard the very voice of God declare that Jesus is God’s son. There’s nothing but goodness in that moment. By all means, let’s make the moment last. Hit the snooze button; it’s not yet time to leave the warm safety of the bed.
After all, there’s been a lot of talk of suffering and death. We’ve got to remember the context of this Transfiguration story. Jesus has just told his disciples that they’re going to have to carry their cross, too; they’re going to have to live, and probably die, in a radically self-sacrificial kind of way. The world beyond the glory and safety of the mount of transfiguration is one riddled with suffering and pain. It’s that first big hill on a cold winter’s morning run, daunting, ready to suck out any resolve you might have had.
Even if Jesus would have consented to allow Peter to build the huts, the moment would have been over long before he’d have gathered the materials. Just like that, the experience is over. The only thing that’s left is the words of God ringing in their ears, “Listen to him!”
I wonder if we make our worship gatherings into mini transfigurations? Not that we’ve got a glowing Jesus, but that it’s safe, and we want to set up shop to bask in the glory and warmth of it all. Now, it’s good that our worship together is safe and warm, but if at the end of the day it doesn’t propel us out into our world so that we can give ourselves in suffering love, then I’m afraid we’ve missed the point. We won’t have listened to Jesus at all. We most certainly won’t have carried our cross.
While it’s good and necessary to worship together, let us always continue to listen to and obey the commands of Jesus. May our worship usher us into the presence of God so that we might go out and be the wounded hands and feet of Jesus for the world.
Prayer: Oh God, forgive us for longing to only stay with you in safety and warmth. Grant us the strength to go out into our world to live for it the way you lived for it. Amen.