That one, shining moment.

This moment doesn’t come out of nowhere.

Jesus has sent his disciples out into the world to face the reality of demons and disease; he “gave them power” over those terrifying things they would face (Luke 9: 1-2).  Upon their return, Jesus means to take them aside and hear of their ‘time on the road’, but the crowds get wind of this secret meeting and they follow.  Jesus, seeing the inevitability of the presence of the crowds, not only welcomes them, but manages to feed them from a mere mouthful (Luke 9: 10-17).  These events prompt a rash confession from Peter (Luke 9:20) and then a brutal return to reality by Jesus as he reminds them that “the Son of man must undergo great suffering…and on the third day be raised.” (Luke 9: 22).  Then the promise that “…some standing here…will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:27) brings us to this morning’s text.

Luke’s gospel has been building up to this moment of revelation.  Luke has told Jesus’ story carefully from the beginning – mingling the ministry of John the Baptizer with the growing influence of Jesus, but from here on, it will be all about Jesus.

“Now  about eight days after saying these things…” – about the same time required between birth and the required presentation of a first-born male in the temple – Jesus and three of his disciples step out of the stream of their ordinary activities; up on a mountain to pray go Jesus, Peter, James and John.  And while he was praying, it happens.

Something incredible – who knows what to call it – Jesus is changed.  His face, his clothes, the very air around them shimmers with glory.  Too tired to act – Peter and the brothers can only note the presence of giants: Moses – Elijah – this is big, really big!  Here on the mountain, a presentation was being made – a statement of intent, if you will.  The presence of God’s power – God’s glory – was announced as a fact. It had been there all along, of course, but in this moment, that glory is made perfectly plain.  So, Peter, what are you going to do about it?

“Let’s build three dwellings…”  Sorry Peter, thanks but no thanks – this is not a moment that you are meant to preserve – this place is not meant to become a shrine.  The glory of God is not meant to be contained.  You’ve seen it, and that is no small thing, now you’ve got to make sense of it

When all was said and done, Peter, James and John say nothing to no one – they simply go back to the main road with Jesus – trying to act as though nothing happened.  That is the only choice, isn’t it?  This mountain-top moment is really just a flash in the pan; not enough evidence to do or say any more than has already been done or said.  Peter has long ago made his confession, after all.  Demons have been subdued (one supposes) and hungry crowds have been satisfied.  How does this ‘shining statement’ make any difference to the disciples – or to us, for that matter?

The truth is, there  are not nearly enough of these glorious moments for our liking.  “God is good”, we say (“All the time!”, is the camp response) and yet the moments that we can point, with absolute certainty, to the goodness of God – to the glory and majesty of God – are few and far between.  We are too well acquainted with sorrow, grief and pain.  Even as a people who proclaim the good news, our proclamation is often muted by the hard facts of life; our communities struggle; our witness is ‘under-appreciated’;

we question our purpose and harbour doubts about the future of our faith communities.  What would we give for the kind of shock therapy that met Peter, James and John on the mountain that day…

Though we have not seen it, the glory of God is in our midst.  For three weeks my family have struggled with grief and loss – a long, lonely drive buoyed by your cards and prayers; we confronted the death of a very special lady, and said our goodbyes in a place that used to be home; we are struggling, as a family, to understand this new reality, and it has been difficult to imagine God’s glory making an appearance.  But when we least expect it, glory cracks the tough shell of frustration and grief, and shines briefly and brightly enough to show us there is a way forward.  Sometimes it is a kind word at an unexpected moment; a card in the mail, or a face at the door.  Maybe it is the way the sun breaks through the clouds after a storm and makes the fresh snow sparkle.  It might even happen as we worship, when a word or a moment catches you unaware and helps you believe that all is not lost – that God is indeed Good.  It will be like that from now until Easter – five weeks of Lent working towards the horror of that Friday and the jaw-dropping joy of that Sunday when, once again there was a moment of glory that lets us be sure (if only for a moment) that God is with us; that God has found us; that God is very good.

Amen

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