This is the second of two Homily Service blogs this week.
As I explained in the first one (in case you didn’t notice it) this Sunday, 19 February 2012, most of the Christians in the world will be doing one thing, but some of the Christians (and possibly a majority of readers of this blog) will be doing an entirely different thing. Some Christians celebrate the Feast of the Transfiguration of Our Lord on the last Sunday after Epiphany, but most Christians celebrate it on August 6th. That’s why there are two Homily Service blogs this Monday.
This one is for those readers who are preparing to celebrate the Feast of the Transfiguration.
The Transfiguration is a difficult episode in the life of Jesus. He goes up on a mountain with some of his disciples, gets all shiny, and has a conversation with Moses and Elijah to which we are not privy. Then Peter spouts some nonsense, God drops a cloud on him and they all go back down the mountain. It is difficult to know what to make of the scene.
In 2009, Judy Buck-Glenn offered readers of Homily Service some insight into Peter’s (and our) discomfort.
Do the disciples get it? Peter wants to hang on to the glorious moment. He’d like [to] stay up there on the mountaintop. But Peter’s also reluctant to go because he’s terrified. I think he is terrified because he recognizes that death and heartbreak are coming, and he want to keep them at bay. He does not yet grasp Jesus’s teachings about suffering and death. This is why the voice of God tells Peter and the rest to listen to Jesus. What Jesus taught was this: there is no reward without toil and pain; there is no success without suffering; there is no life without death; there is no Easter without crucifixion.
Mountaintop experiences give us glimpses of the world in a wholeness and glory that we cannot live without, but they cannot be indefinitely prolonged. In the end, Jesus must go back down the mountain and rejoin the world of suffering men and women and children. He must take the path that leads to Jerusalem, and to torment and bloody death. The road that leads down the mountain leads to the cross - and beyond it, to Easter. But the cross comes first, and without the cross, there can be no Easter.
In a culture which seeks to normalize “mountain top experiences” while minimizing, hiding and ignoring suffering as ours does, how should preachers seek to deal with the scriptural proclamation of the necessity of both sorts of experiences in God’s economy?
Judy Buck-Glenn (2008): 22 February 2009: Ordinary 7, Homily Service, 42:1, 153-154.
Judy Buck-Glenn is the associate rector at Christ Church Episcopal, in Ridley Park, Pennsylvania.