Triptych of 3 photos

The Transfiguration

In our digital age, it’s become so easy to capture any moment in a picture.

Holidays, weddings, even the meal we’ve just ordered can be recorded for posterity and uploaded to social media – shared for our friends to comment on and be impressed by.

 A modern photo snapper
A tourist photographer

But we can’t freeze our lives at a fixed point just because we like it there. Even if we did, what would we miss by not moving on to the next stage of our lives?

Capture the moment

Judging by Matthew’s Gospel account of the Transfiguration, the disciple Peter would have been the photographer at the Transfiguration (Matthew 17: 1-9).

His response to the extraordinary moment – Moses, Elijah and Jesus on top of Mount Tabor talking together – is to freezeframe the event with three booths.

It has been a mindblowing experience: so extraordinary that the Gospel writer almost runs out of words to describe what Peter, James and John tell them afterwards.

His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light … Matthew strains for a description as the poetry of the opening of John’s Gospel comes true before their eyes:

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling place with us and we beheld his glory.

John 1: 14

When the drama was over Peter offers to build three tabernacles. Why?

  • Perhaps he simply wanted to prolong the experience!
  • Maybe he needed something to be able to come back to himself and relive the moment.

The voice of God reminded Peter that he was missing the depth of what happened on the mountain. Jesus was more than an equal with Moses and Elijah: ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!’ (Matthew 17:5).

It’s a reminder for us not to limit God’s possibilities. As CS Lewis writes:

It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

“The Weight of Glory, and Other Addresses”. C. S. Lewis

What if Peter, James and John had turned the mountain into a shrine and created a tourist attraction around the ‘Moses moment’? They would have been witnessing to the wrong thing.

It makes us ask :

What do we witness to in our lives?

Do we freezeframe our holy moments? Do we try to return to golden moments in our church lives that possibly never really existed anyway?

Do we keep trying to live in the glow of special times when our churches were better resourced or has bigger congregations?

All the time Jesus and the disciples were at the top of the mountain, normal life continued at the bottom and, eventually, they had to come down and resume their lives too.

They walked with Jesus as he set his face to the cross. Ultimately the resurrection was the event that they pinned their colours to.

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