The texts for this Sunday 2/14/21 are 2 Kings 2:1-12; Psalm 50:1-6; 2 Cor 4:3-6; Mark 9:2-9.
Marilynne Robinson is one of my absolute favorite authors and I have read her books many times. I am currently back in the one called Home. Her writing captivates and generates many thoughts. She’s the only author I could imagine at the time to follow reading Tolkien.
The Boughton family are Presbyterians living in Gilead, Iowa in the book. A quote from the book that will reveal nothing about the story:
“Their grandfather had sent a significant check to Edinburgh, asking a cousin to assemble the library needed for instruction in the true and uncorrupted faith. He had received in response a trunk full of large books, bound in black leather, in which they all assumed the true faith did abide.”
Here’s the thing I say and think an awful lot. I don’t know. The quote above represents to me that certainty, at least as far as it goes, of thought and belief in right and true tenets and formulae. I mean no disrespect. None at all. I often think I would be better off in many ways if I was able to settle into some sense of faith that is unwavering and certain.
But… yeah. I don’t know. It’s not doubt necessarily. It’s not skepticism. It’s just a lack of willingness to claim certainty. Maybe those things aren’t different. Ha. I don’t know.
And so we come to the Transfiguration. And the 2 Cor text which solidly claims that the Whole of it all is found in Jesus the Christ. Christos. Messiah.
I find comfort in the way Mark’s gospel describes the event. Jesus is covered in white beaming, dazzling light! He’s transformed on the mountain before them and there appears with him Moses the lawgiver and Elijah the Prophet. And it seems to indicate that Jesus is the One who fulfills the law and the prophets. But then a cloud overcomes Peter and the boys. It overshadows them. And a voice from the cloud proclaims that Jesus is the Beloved Son. He’s the anticipated Messiah.
I find comfort in the contrast. The both/and of the dazzling white light and the overshadowing cloud. Peter, James, and John know and yet they don’t know it seems. Obviously, as Peter responds by wanting to build some tents so they can hang for a while. They recognize something mysterious. It’s still clouded for them. They can’t put a finger on it. But they experience recognition. The longing that our spirits have to be unified, reunified, with the One Mysterious God. And here he is revealing that Mystery in Jesus. Beyond what we can fully grasp as in a cloud, but a sense of recognition nonetheless.
I don’t know. I know folks who hold fast to doctrine and rigid belief and they bear beautiful spiritual fruit. I know folks who go a bit beyond the traditional and land in the mystical aspects of the faith and they bear beautiful spiritual fruit. I know, unfortunately, many who claim to be solid Christians and yet their fruit is not something I desire. And then there’s me. Often even when it may appear that I am shiny on the outside, well… it’s not hard for me to be aware of my own flaws and need for rescue.
I’ll write more about recognition tomorrow, but to me that’s what I feel when I read these passages. I do not know if Jesus was really transformed on the mountain alongside the lawgiver and the great prophet. Hear this though–I do not have any problem even for a second to think that this happened exactly as it’s written. It’d be kinda wild to put in the part about Peter getting all jittery and rambling on if this was a story just for metaphor.
I have no firm understanding or set of guidelines to offer on Jesus. But I do believe he is the Christ. The Messiah. I believe that he is the fulfillment of the story beginning with Abraham… with Adam and the beginning of all things. I don’t know how it all works. I don’t claim to have a firm grasp on the right answers to all the questions. But I do recognize the Beloved. I recognize him as through a darkened glass, or as being overshadowed by the cloud of glory. But my spirit longs… my spirit desires… it yearns for life and love and peace and humility and grace and forgiveness and joy and goodness and gentleness…. for the dazzling Glory of the Beloved Son.
I should end there, but… it takes a relationship, it takes years and years and conversations and breaking bread and dealing with grief and joy and all the things of life and existence… I don’t know what I want to say. Or I don’t know quite how to say it. These words and concepts are so familiar to so many. I suppose it would be easy to draw conclusions about what I write or don’t write–on any of my posts, but especially ones such as this. In some ways I try so hard to avoid any ‘statements’ that my thoughts can be muddled and confusing. In other ways I simply want to convey that I have faith without certainty. I am ok seeing the dazzling brightness while being enveloped by the shadow.