Now For Something Completely Different: Transfiguration

As much as I love tackling all the scholarly, research-driven papers required for my graduate program at Regent College (seriously, I’m geeky like that), the odd creative writing or reflective assignment is a welcome change of pace. One of the many delights of Eugene Peterson’s courses (offered through Regent’s distance ed program) is his inclusion of left-field assignments that, indeed, work out oft-neglected cognitive and spiritual muscles. One of the requirements for his course on “Jesus and Prayer,” for example, is to create an “imaginative reconstruction of the Transfiguration.” My first reaction to the assignment:  “Huh?”  My second reaction: Terror.  My third reaction to the assignment is what follows.

Mount Tabor

(Matthew 17:1-9; Mark 9:2-8; Luke 9:28-36)

 

280px-Mount_Tabor4Moses

Jesus said something about “meeting on mountains again,” and all three of us laughed.

I have to admit, hovering that close to terra firma, smelling those old earth smells on the current of a dusty wind, Sinai came rushing back to me.  I could almost hear that ancient trumpet. I could almost taste that oddly fragrant smoke.  For a moment I felt the old tingle in my nerve endings, the knot in my stomach—even now, my muscles seem to store in their memories the sensation of turning to jelly in the midst of that Presence …

Jesus was grinning at me.  It was so strange to see him contained in skin, whiskered and just a little wizened from thirty years of sun.  He turned to gaze out over the valley.

“How does the Promised Land look?” he asked.

I thought about all the old yearnings, the way I had strained towards the promises. The longing for plenty. For peace. For home.

I turned to look straight into his eyes.

“You look great.”

He chuckled. He was starting to flicker, first like a burning bush, then bursting out brighter … closer and closer to the way he looks now, on the throne.  Elijah was squinting at him, mesmerized as always.  Jesus was the Promised Land, alright, but another nickname was coming to mind now.

“Shekinah,” I whispered. “it’s almost time.”

“I know,” he said. “One last exodus.”

I told him he was not alone, that soon it would be finished.  Things he already knew, of course. I started to tell him how glad I was that he had fulfilled the Law …

He laughed again.  “You and the Law,” he said.  And then, touching my arm, he whispered, “You did good, you know.”

I felt his love move through me like milk and honey, the way it always does. And I began to say in chronos what we live to sing in kairos …

Thank you.

I love you.

Holy.

 

Elijah

Jesus said something about “meeting on mountains again,” and all three of us laughed.

I don’t know if he was thinking of Horeb, or of Carmel; they were both hovering in my mind’s eye like mirages. The sound of Jesus’ voice always puts me back in the cave, of course, remembering the shock of finding in the whisper what was absent in the earthquake. But a recent rain had left the Tabor trees heavy and damp, so how could I not also think of water-soaked Carmel, of that instant when the first log sparked and crackled, and I almost fainted with relief.

Jesus was talking to Moses; I was staring. It was so strange to see him earth-bound, dust on his sandals, blisters on his toes.

“How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of him …” I murmured.[i]

Jesus turned and put his hand on my shoulder. “That Isaiah,” he grinned, “is quite the prophet.”

Even as he chuckled he was starting to radiate, heat pouring off him like wood on the altar, more and more like his usual self.

Moses was doing what he could to minister to him, the way the Father requested. But what can the servants give to the King?

I cleared my throat. “Soon,” I began, “the world will know that you, O LORD are God, and that you have turned their hearts back …”[ii]

He reached out his hand again, steadying me as I hung vibrating in that odd twilight between heaven and earth.

“Yes, Elijah,” he said. “Yes, they will.”

I felt his love move through me like a mountain breeze, the way it always does. And I began to say in chronos what we live to sing in kairos …

Thank you.

I love you.

Holy.

 Peter

Jesus said something about “meeting on mountains again,” and all three of them laughed.

I thought I was dreaming, of course. Wouldn’t you? But I willed myself awake and gave my head a shake.  I didn’t dare get up.  I shielded my eyes with my hand and made out three figures—Jesus and two others.

I can’t even tell you how I knew it was them.  Moses, for heaven sakes. And Elijah. I just knew it in my gut, instantly.  The way I knew, whenever the winds were right, where to find the fish. Or the way my wife seemed to sense it every time there was a new little life in her belly. Or the way, only a few days earlier, I had finally known in a flash who Jesus really was.

They were talking, teasing each other, it seemed, in the warm, relaxed way of old friends. And then they were looking out over the valley, confiding in low and serious tones, bent over the world like doctors conferring over a patient. After a while, I didn’t recognize the language any more—all vowels and air, more music than speech.

Jesus started to glow. You know when the sun hits the surface of the lake so bright and so hard that you feel like your eyes will catch fire?  That’s how it started. After a while it was too much, I had to look away. I could see James and John doubled over, shaking, cowering. Like me.

Out of the corner of my watering eye, I saw Moses start to float up. Elijah, too. I couldn’t stand it. I panicked.  I’m not proud of it. I started babbling, something about tents and keeping them there.  I wanted to do something—I wanted the world to see what I saw, to know what I knew.

James was giving me that “Oh, Peter” look.

They left, of course. But I didn’t have time to mourn, because a cloud settled in and there was a voice.  The voice.

This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him![iii]

That’s a direct quote.

Eventually, the cloud lifted, and the glow slowly faded until Jesus was just Jesus again. I felt cold. When I shivered, he came over and put his arm across my shoulders.

I felt his love move through me like a beach fire, the way it always does. And for once, I couldn’t think of a single thing to say.

It’s different now.  Now I sing in kairos what I struggled to say in chronos …

Thank you.

I love you.

Holy.

 


[i] Isaiah 52:7

[ii] 1 Kings 18:37

[iii] Luke 9:35

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