Peter, James and his brother John think they have it made. The week earlier they’d heard Jesus talking about taking up their cross and following him. They didn’t quite know what to make of all this cross and life and death business that he’d been talking about but they did get invited to leave the muck and dirt of the valley and travel up the mountain side with him.
And why not? Who doesn’t like a nice trip to the mountains?[audio http://www.buzzsprout.com/33052/246072-don-t-pitch-your-tent.mp3]
You can kind of picture these guys going up the side of the mountain with Jesus. ‘Hey, Peter, what did he say about taking up a cross? Who knows, don’t worry about it James, we’re going to see the mountaintop’ And who here hasn’t at one time or another heard something at church and said ‘yeah, yeah, yeah, blah, blah, blah’ and moved along smartly from there?
This is the situation Peter, James and John find themselves in. And then it gets interesting. Very interesting.
Transfigure is related to the word transformed and Jesus was transformed before them. For those of you who are Calvin and Hobbes fans, transfigure and transmogrify aren’t so different. He was changed, transformed, transmogrified, transfigured before them as his face shone like the sun and his clothing became dazzlingly white. Moses and Elijah flank him on either side to complete the picture for those gathered on the mountain
In this transfiguration Peter, James and John see the glory of the Kingdom of God in the person of Christ. Jesus’ face shines like the sun, his clothes are dazzling white, Moses and Elijah show up. Aaaaannd…. They missed it. Surrounded by the glory of the Kingdom of God they ask to pitch a tent and camp out. ‘Look at us, we’re surrounded by the glory of the Kingdom of God so this is where we’ll hang out and bask in God’s glory.’
It is easy and comfortable to celebrate God, to say ‘Yay, God!’ when we’re on the mountaintop. And the kingdom of God certainly surrounds us on the mountaintop. The mountaintop is certainly part of God’s creation, after all. Surrounded by Elijah, Moses and Jesus the mountaintop would be a great place to camp out. That’s what Peter, James and John would like to do. Can’t blame them for that.
But Jesus has another idea. No, no, no silly rabbits he says to them. I’m here, don’t be afraid and we’re not staying on the mountaintop.
The mountaintop is nice but reality is found in the valley, is it not? We all have our mountaintop moments but that isn’t where we spend most of our time, is it? When it gets right down to it we spend our time in the valleys. Sometimes in deep valleys of sadness and despair but most of the time we spend our lives in the regular ol’ run of the mill valleys. It is where life happens. For us and for others. And that is where we’re called to go, just as Peter, James and John are called.
What Jesus is getting at is that mountaintops are nice and I’ll be there with you. Deep valleys of sadness and despair are hard and I’ll be there with you. But don’t forget, the regular ol’ run of the mill valleys is where you spend most of your life and I’ll be there with you, too.
It is easy to give God praise when we’re on the mountaintop and it is easy to turn to God when we’re in the deep valleys. The hard part is to turn to God in the every day, run of the mill parts of our lives. In the regular parts of our lives, we want to maintain some semblance of control. We want to map out our lives so we know what is happening next. We maintain to-do lists in piles of paper or on our phones. Or both. We maintain calendars in handy folders or on our phones. Or both. And in all this we give ourselves the delusion that we’re in control.
The Dalai Lama frames this pretty well when he was asked what surprised him most he said, “Man surprised me most about humanity. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money.
Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”
Jesus has already told the disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”
The danger that each of us faces is that we live our every day, run of the mill lives in the delusion we’re in control and turn to Jesus at the high points and the low points and an hour on Sunday. Jesus is saying, “I want all of you, all of the time.” If we live for Jesus and the rest of the stuff is just what we do instead of living for the rest of the stuff and Jesus is just what we do then our lives change dramatically.
That doesn’t mean we don’t keep our to-do lists and calendars but it fundamentally changes the WHY we keep track of things. That doesn’t mean we don’t go to work and take care of our families or those around us and do the million things we do in our every day run of the mill lives.
It does mean our reason for doing any of it shifts to Jesus
Too often we’ve made this take up your cross, lose your life business all about dire doom and destruction kind of stuff. And it can mean that. Millions have been and are being martyred, killed for their faith in Christ. But it also means our every day, run of the mill living is also centered in our faith in Christ.
If we’re living for ourselves we’ll lose track of our life. If we live for Christ, we will find our life. Thank God for that.