this lent, we at Catawissa Avenue UMC have been journeying with peter. we have acknowledged that it is a broken journey, and, as far as that's concerned, it looks like our journey. never was the brokenness of pete's journey, than in yesterday's text from matthew 17 about the transfiguration of Jesus.
to be clear, peter was still stinging from the wound of hearing these harsh words from Jesus: "get behind me, satan!"
we're going to talk more about that next week (why don't you join us at 319 catawissa avenue, sunbury pa at 10am?), but for now suffice to say that Peter isn't feeling too hot about himself. remember, its a broken journey.
but the tide turns. here at the beginning of matthew 17, Jesus invites peter, james and john on a hike, and pete must be so relieved to be back in the inner circle again, even after that whole 'satan' episode. so they go hiking, and they end up climbing up, up and further up until they've reached a peak. and that's when it gets all sorts of crazy. jesus starts shining like the sun (son?) and his clothes get all electric, and then moses and elijah show up, and it seriously feels like we are about a verse or two away from peter, james and john being joined by ringo and belting out a verse of "we all live in a yellow submarine." it is jesus' magical mystery tour.
and peter loves it. why shouldn't he? just a few days ago he felt like persona non grata, and now here he is a witness to one of the most amazing sights ever seen by human eyes. he is seeing this crazy rabbi from galilee hanging out with the greatest of the law and the prophets, shining like the radiance of the sun, and, now that he's back in good graces, pete doesn't want to leave. and so, never one to be shy, peter makes his move. he goes up to Jesus and says, "look, Lord, this is pretty awesome, i'm not going to lie. in fact, this is so great, that we shouldn't rush it. we should just stay here for awhile. i'll tell you what, you just keep hanging out with your boys, and i'll build some shelters for the three of you, so you can spend the night and keep this going tomorrow. i know, i know, its a ton of work, but that's the way i roll."
i can just hear the false humility in Peter's voice. as if he's doing it for Jesus and Moses and Elijah, that trifecta of the Hebrew hall of fame. it is easy for us to read it that way, perhaps, but we too soon forget that peter is really happy with this situation, having made the transition from scorned to special again, he doesn't want it to end. he also wants to avoid that whole "going to jerusalem and being arrested and killed by the Jerusalem leaders" thing that Jesus was talking about earlier. maybe some fresh air and some time with some holy ghosts would help Jesus change his mind. pete would do whatever it took to make that happen.
and so pete makes his own kind of transfiguration that i think many of us make, too: from sojourner to settler. he goes from being a companion of jesus on his journey to jerusalem, his date with destiny, to being a constuction-worker, trying to make Jesus a home-owner and quit the journey altogether.
but just then God speaks and says, in effect, shut up (listen) and get going. and once again, peter must walk away with his tail tucked between his legs, which makes for slow progress down the mountain, i must imagine.
and it begs the question for us: are we being sojourners or settlers? are we journeying forward, marching to zion, moving further up and deeper in, or have we somehow been transfigured into those who are known for digging in and settling down? is our faith journey more like a raging river of love, or a stagnant sickly puddle, where nothing ever changes, except for perhaps more rot? maybe it isn't the most pleasant image, but i'm quite certain its a fairly accurate one.
if peter's episode at the transfiguration tells us anything, its that we need to shut up and listen to Jesus, who is telling us the plan, and then we need to get up and get going and follow him, even if it scares the satan out of us. standing still is for sticks in the mud. when he ascended into heaven, in an eerily similar story, there is a similar imperative: go! go and make disciples! get going! get up! get moving! stop standing here and staring! stop settling in and strapping in to the stagnancy of comfort. start walking or crawling or jumping or skipping or running or rolling or whatever it takes to get down off the mountain and move forward to the places where love has a chance to make itself perfect in weakness and brokenness and the business of living.