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The poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote this
"Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes.
The rest sit round it, and pick blackberries."The gospel reading for this Sunday, in the Common Worship Lectionary, is Mark's account of the Transfiguration of Jesus (Mark 9: 2-9). This mysterious event opens a window on another dimension, a deeper reality, revealing Jesus of Nazareth bathed in God-light. His close friends Peter, James and John were led by Jesus on a night-hike up a mountain. There they saw Jesus, dazzling bright and talking with the great prophet Elijah and the great law-giver Moses.
Images of light and fire were traditionally used to describe God’s presence. No wonder Peter, James and John were terrified. They didn't know what to say. So Peter blurted out the first thing that came into his head - it's good here, let's erect 3 tents. The disciples don’t show up well - one reason why for me the story rings true. I can understand Peter wanting to contain and prolong the amazing experience. As if one could contain and control God?
I don't think Peter, James and John were any more spiritual than anyone else, but they were chosen to glimpse God's glory in the face of Jesus. On the mountain they saw Jesus was greater than Moses or Elijah, greater than the law and the prophets. Moses heard God in earthquake and thunder. Elijah heard God in the‘still small voice’. Peter, James and John heard God when the cloud came down and a voice spoke, “This is my Son, the beloved; listen to him”. And then all they saw was Jesus and they walked down the mountain, back to the ordinary, with him.
Lent begins this week, on Ash Wednesday. During Lent, having glimpsed God’s glory through the gospel, how can we listen to Jesus? And what exactly does that mean?