Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. 2And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. 3Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. 4Then 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.” 5While 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!” 6When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. 7But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.” 8And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone. 9As 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.”
There is a monastery close to where I live and from time to time I have visited the monks there. These are experienced Benedictines, most of whom are life professed which means that they have been in the religious life a long time. Yet despite them knowing what it is to be monks, knowing how to be monks and obviously BEING monks,they chuckle when they tell of how many visitors to the monastery who don’t know what it is to be a monk, or how to be a monk and who, despite not being monks, consistently tell them what they think the monks should be doing!
What is it with our culture that somehow assumes that despite inadequate training or experience we can opine about anything with grandiosity? My doctor was telling me of a similar problem in her profession. “Patients enter my consulting rooms,”she said, “armed with a file of Googled results. They sit down and instead of telling me their symptoms, they proceed to tell me the diagnosis of their condition and what medication they want me to prescribe!” I could sympathise with my doctor because as a priest I have had to put up with other’s “expert”opinions about religion for most of my ministry. My studies and qualifications aren’t worth a hill of beans because everyone is an expert.
You will therefore understand why I take such delight in the Father’s put down of the disciple’s great opinions and plans for what should be happening on the Mount of Transfiguration. Their best laid plans of “Let’s build three booths up here and …” is cut short by The Voice that thunders, “This is my beloved Son, LISTEN TO HIM”
Now here is something the disciples, and the church they founded, is not good at. We are unable to really listen to Jesus. Could it be that, our five year plans, mission strategies and files of Googled answers deafen us to what Jesus is really saying to the church?
Am I being too provocative when I suggest that maybe the church has been booth building for twenty Centuries too long? The record of that moment of transfiguration seems to suggest that Jesus’ desire will most often be contrary to our plans. The disciples want to build booths and Jesus says, “Get up, stop being afraid, let’s go!”
If we read on in the seventeenth chapter of Matthew, we discover that at the foot of the mountain a desperate father is waiting with a suffering son. There is no time for building booths nor basilicas. “Get up, don’t be afraid let’s go” It seems that the glory of God shines on Jesus to get him ready for Golgotha, or a least to heal a suffering boy in the foothills of transfiguration.
Could the same be true for our worship Sunday by Sunday? Do we hear the Father’s acclamation that we are God’s children as a reason to bask in a booth, or as the inspiration to , “Get up, stop being afraid,” and to go down to the suffering of humanity and our personal crosses that wait?
“I’ll be right with you Jesus!
I’m just rolling up this blueprint and the five year plan!
We might still want to build something someday.”