In a tiny Williamsburg living room last Tuesday night, we all stared down at the Mark 9 passage printed on our laps. After three readings, we talked about the transfiguration of Jesus over hot tea and no one had it figured out. These men, the closest friends of Jesus, saw humanity in full glory and they were scrambling for the right response. I've been trying all week, but I can not find the right imagination to stand on that holy ground and watch as glory made Jesus glow.
But I am so thankful for Peter.
I think we would be friends, Peter and me. It would be a reckless friendship, but an adventurous one. I imagine Peter's immediate response to set up a worship service with three tabernacles bursting from his hope to usher in the kingdom with the light of Jesus' transformed face. In the middle of these glowing moments of glory, maybe Peter was grasping for the best thing he could think to do.
In the presence of Jesus, don't we all do that? I don't actually know what Peter was thinking, but I know what sometimes happens when I sense Jesus is near. I kind of hyperventilate.
I might be in a group of friends or about to take communion or walking alone between Bedford and Fulton. It can really happen anywhere - the sense that Jesus is present and His glory is real. I am sad to say I don't feel it all the time, but when I do I immediately want to do something. And I want that something to be the best thing.
I get nervous and flustered and hasty. At the same time that I want to savor the beauty and miracle of Jesus' presence, my heart swells to take part in it - to be swallowed up by a beauty that covers everything ugly and wrong.
I fear I will miss those moments - that I'll arrive at 30, 40, 50, and 60 years old and think back on all the times I didn't choose the best thing in the presence of Jesus. I fear I will look back and realize I didn't have eyes to see the miracles or that my response will be clumsy and cluttered.
And then I think about Peter. And I realize it is okay to tend towards hyperventilation in the presence of glory. It is okay to not know how to do the best thing or to not know exactly what the best thing is. All of this confusion about my response to God's glory is okay because the transfiguration is about Jesus.
Lent is not about subtractions and additions as much as it is about getting near the glowing heart of the Lord.
The fasting makes room for the feasting. The fasting churns up hunger for the feast and it is not about our response to the taste but about the food we choose to eat.