Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. 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.” 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!” When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.” And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone. 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.”
Boy, that was some trip up that mountain! Who was ever going to believe this? But it doesn’t matter because Jesus tells them to be quiet about it, tells them to go back to their lives, go back to their work. Really? How in the world can you just go back? How in the world can you go back to things the way they were after basking in glory? Well, maybe that’s the point. Maybe we can’t.
I think that all of us are given glimpses of glory, tastes of the Divine, from time to time, if we only pay attention. The Celts called them “thin places”, the places where heaven and earth, where the sacred and the ordinary, suddenly, if only for a moment, touch as if they are somehow part of each other, perhaps even dependent on each other. It is a place of liminality, betwixt and between. It is a place that belongs not to one or the other but instead is some sort of shared reality as the Sacred and the ordinary spill in to each other. The people of whose journeys we read in the Torah believed that no one could ever see God without dying. They talked of God as consuming fire and destructive wind, a rushing force that passes over the earth leaving little in its wake. That thin place, the place where the earth meets the sky was one of no return. They assumed that no one would ever come back down the mountain.
Maybe we’ve become a little too accustomed to this God we know. Maybe our glimpses of glory have become a bit too pre-planned. Maybe our thin places have gotten a little too thick with earthbound images of who God is in our lives, of how much of God we really want to encounter. Because, you see, when you truly encounter those glimpses of the Sacred and the Holy, those you truly do not expect, when you let yourself be surprised by a cloud, you cannot help but be changed. In a way, the early Hebrews were right. When you encounter God, that you that you’ve made dies a little. It has to, it has to make room for a God you never knew.
So on our way down the mountain, we realize that we cannot stay. We cannot stay and bask in glory forever. We were never called to that, to some sort of pious and righteous existence high above the world. We were sent, sent down the mountain, back to the world. But a part of us has died. And from the ashes, we will rise. Because, you see, that’s the only way it will happen. So go, be careful where you walk. We have to go down the mountain. We have to go back. Jerusalem is waiting. But we are different; we have basked in glory. For now, we will be quiet about it. There are others waiting to join us on this journey. Someday they will all understand. Someday we will understand. But in the meantime, we are just called to go.
As you prepare to begin this Lenten journey, where have you encountered those thin places, those moments of almost, just almost, touching the Sacred?
Grace and Peace,