28 Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. 29And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. 30Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. 31They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. 32Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. 33Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, ‘Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah’—not knowing what he said. 34While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. 35Then from the cloud came a voice that said, ‘This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!’ 36When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.
Last week, most of central Jersey drove to work in the clouds. We call it fog. It felt like the clouds. On my commute, I pass a dairy farm. Cows that emerged from the clouds just as I approached the sign on the road that says, "cow crossing, 9am and 3pm." The only other time we are "in the clouds" is when traveling by air, right?
Imagine the disciples, those closest to our friend Jesus - climbing the mountain, praying, faithful, tired, praying, faithful, climbing, listening, tired, faithful. And the cloud descends around them. They're within reaching distance of Jesus and still find themselves in a cloud. Unable to see? confused? Unclear. Squinting. Nebulous visibility.
Maybe I'm the only one but, "isn't following Jesus a constant journey of nebulous visibility?" Thank God that Peter, James and John were offered a literal experience of a metaphorical reality.
I can't help but put myself in Peter's perspective who Luke describes as "doesn't know what he's saying." Of course he doesn't know what he's saying. He's experiencing a cloud, a magical, other-worldly moment. He's working it out; he's a verbal processor. "Let's build a few shrines." Sounds like a good first idea. But if Luke recorded his second idea, what would that be. After "let's build a shrine." what's Peter's next good idea?
I'm going to take a guess... "Can we stay here a little longer? I mean, I'm so tired. We've been working so hard and we've experienced so much. Let's just stop for a second and take in the beauty of the mountain, the enormity of our company. I mean Elijah is here; Moses is here. I finally have some clarity. For the love of God, can we just stop the world for a day or two?"
Following Jesus is a life of nebulous visibility.
There's no lingering for Peter (or James or John or you or me) in the clouds. No. Sometimes we're given momentary clarity. Momentary. And Peter is not the only one who wants to linger. I want to linger in when I have clarity too. But the cloud lifts, and the bulletin goes to print and the Lenten season wins in its pursuit of me. There is no time to linger. I am left with my half understanding vision of who Jesus is and how it relates to the tradition that is passed down to me.
I am left with the thing that is in front of me - the person, the task, the text, the issue. What I learned from the cloud is that the only thing clearly in view is the thing right in front of me anyway. Do that.
So like Peter, James and John, I stay awake. Even when I'm tired. And hope for a cloud. I hope for nebulous clarity.
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