Updated: May 4
Here is the reflection I've written for the St Davids Diocese website this week, the link will take you to others reflections from previous weeks as well as mine. https://stdavids.churchinwales.org.uk/
In Matthew 17:1-8 Jesus and his disciples, Peter, James and John make their way high into a mountain to be by themselves. During their time there, Jesus is physically changed in front of them, Moses and Elijah appear to them, and they hear the voice of God calling, revealing who Jesus was to them, instructing them to listen to him. After having been told to listen to Jesus, He says to his disciples ‘Rise, and have no fear’. When they did that, they saw no one but Jesus.
Life today is consumed by the outbreak of Coronavirus. St Davids has become empty, police check points have arrived, and life is changing at a pace that no one could have imagined. I have found myself questioning who I am and what is my role as a deacon?
The disciples and Jesus go to a place where they are isolated from the rest of the world. No one will have any idea what happens on the mountain, except those with whom the experience is shared. What was the purpose? To further reveal to the disciples Jesus’ divinity, yes. However, if we look to other places in the bible where similar transformations occur, I am thinking particularly of Revelation 1: 13-16, are we seeing a glimpse of the heavenly realms yet to come. Peter, James and John did not have to do anything for Jesus to be transfigured in front of them, only to be in that place, on that mountain top isolated from the rest of the world.
Moses and Elijah have appeared alongside Jesus and in his enthusiasm and willingness, Peter decides that he should perhaps provide tents for the three men. I can understand Peters eagerness to be involved, to provide, he doesn’t know what else to do perhaps, or maybe faced with three such important people he feels he should provide shelter for them. I too regularly find myself saying to Jesus, shall I do this, or maybe I can do that. There is no response from Jesus, no answer to his offer, despite Peter’s best efforts to provide, his offer is cut short as they are overshadowed by a cloud and the voice of God directly addressing the disciples and telling them to listen to Jesus.
Out of a misplaced sense of what he should do Peter was urgent to set up three tents. This seemingly selfless act was dismissed, ignored because there was something more important to focus on, that something more important was God telling them to listen to Jesus. I find myself wanting to do something, I feel guilty that I am not finding some magical way of reaching parishioners, that I am not streaming live services from my front room, or constantly posting another anecdote or piece of helpful scripture. There is nothing wrong with any of these things, and in fact it is wonderful to see so many friends and colleagues doing just that, but it’s not me, or the thing that I need to be doing at this time.
Their world like ours had just changed. They were no longer uncertain about who Jesus was, no longer wondering if he was a prophet like Moses or Elijah, they were sure, Jesus is the Messiah, the one who will bring about the fulfilment of scripture, the disciples world now looked radically different. But in an instant, it all returned to normality. Different, but the same. Jesus was no longer transfigured. He says to them ‘Rise and have no fear’, and in this instant, whilst Jesus remains the same, the disciples were transformed.
During this time, removed from the world and from each other, when we are sat on this mountain top, I believe that it is important to watch, wait and listen for Jesus, we need to slow down our eagerness and listen. The time will come, when we will need to take action, come down off the mountain and re-join the world. In verse seven, ‘But Jesus came and touched them, saying “Rise, and have no fear.” And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.’ A reminder perhaps that we should allow ourselves to be touched by Jesus, to allow him in those times when we are fearful to reassure us that we should rise and have no fear. Instead of looking forward to coming out of lockdown and isolation, perhaps instead we should be enjoying our time on the mountain with Jesus.