Why is this happening?” is the common question we raise in times of crisis. We desperately want to understand even when we know there are no easy or understandable answers. We rush to do. We send flowers; we cook a meal; we talk too much—anything in our attempts to cope with the anxiety around the great unknown we face.
If Jesus’ transfiguration is not enough to shock the three disciples, the sudden appearance in the blinding light of the Hebrew titans Elijah and Moses is enough to completely undo them. Peter freezes and babbles on about a building program. We, like Peter, often find ourselves “terrified” when faced with the Christ standing before us, summoning us to the mission field. And many churches, like Peter, often employ “building projects” as a response. We find ourselves upended from all we knew and with which we were very comfortable.
However, the positive outcome of being upended—even rudely—is that we can end up in a new and life-giving place. A counselor friend reminds me from his practice that instead of focusing on the “why” questions in a crisis, he helps his clients to focus on the “what” questions: What can I learn from this? What can I do differently going forward because of this experience? “What” questions give energy; “why” questions only steal it away.
Peter, James, and John are stuck in the “why” question as they are in most of Mark’s Gospel; the disciples are always slow to catch on. In their defense, upending encounters with the Holy will do that.
Recall a time when a shocking sense of God’s presence confronted you. What questions arose? What did you do with the answers?
In the week leading to Transfiguration Sunday, the texts all deal with holy, transforming light; but they also speak to the awkwardness of waiting for and finally experiencing that light. Elisha’s is a stop-and-go pilgrimage before he sees the chariots of fire. Our psalmist proclaims the march of the sun across the sky while also waiting for the eschatological arrival of God’s justice for God’s people. Paul empathizes with the believers in Corinth who are having to wait and work to “give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God.” Jesus leads Peter, James, and John up a mountain where they wait and are terrified by the cloud of glory that overshadows them.
• Read Psalm 50:1-6. If your life was like the sun arcing across the sky from sunrise to sunset, where in the daytime arc are you right now? What justice would you like to take part in creating before your life sets in the west?
• Read 2 Corinthians 4:3-6. In what areas of your life do you feel blinded to the light God wants to shine there?
• Read 2 Kings 2:1-12. Think of a time you have felt most blessed by God. How long did you wait for that blessing? Was it worth the wait?
• Read Mark 9:2-9. Recall your last "mountaintop" experience with Christ. How would you describe it? How did that experience change you?
Respond by posting a prayer.