Reflection - February 28, 2017

By Darren McClellan

published 3/1/2017
Dear Friends,

I regret that it has been some time since my last “Reflection.”  You probably have not missed the weekly email in your inbox, but I bemoan just how quickly my discipline in writing them can wither and fade. 

With the season of Lenten disciplines nearly upon us, many gathered in worship last Sunday to hear the gospel witness of Jesus and his Transfiguration.  While Jesus’ face “shone like the sun,” Peter, who so often represents the church, did his best to memorialize this revelatory event in order to prolong his mountaintop experience (Mt. 17:2-4).  He was, after all, in no hurry to return to the prospect of taking up a cross (Mt. 16:24). 

As St. Augustine commented centuries ago,

Peter sees this, and as a man savouring the things of men says, “Lord, it is good for us to be here.”  He had been wearied with the multitude, he had found the mountain’s solitude; there he had Christ the Bread of the soul.  What!  Should he depart thence again to travail and pains, possessed of a holy love to Godward, and thereby of a good conversation?  He wished well for himself; and so he added. “If Thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for Thee, and one for Moses, and one for (Elijah).”  To this the Lord made no answer; but notwithstanding Peter was answered.

Then comes the cloud.  Clouds are frequently used in Scripture as signs for the presence of God, and tend to serve a disorienting purpose.  When you are enveloped by a cloud, (whether literally or figuratively) you often have to stop what you are doing because you realize that you cannot see a thing and you do not have clue where to turn next.  Such “clouds of unknowing” can be a prime environment for repentance—a catalyst for conversion, if you will—as our previous self-confidence is blurred by the billows of a certain uncertainty. 

Considering Peter’s restlessness in the cloud, St. Augustine added,

He desired three tabernacles; the heavenly answer showed him that we have One, which human judgment desired to divide.  Christ, the Word of God, the Word of God in the Law, the Word in the Prophets.  Why Peter, dost thou seek to divide them?  It were more fitting for thee to join them.  Thou seekest three; understand that they are but One.

When imagining our personal interests for the future, or those of our United Methodist Church, can we handle the answer of the cloud?  Do we listen to the voice that thunders through our fog, or presume to know what Jesus would want ahead of time and thereby chart our own course?

There is a risk in not following our human instinct, of course, with the problem being that revelation is often more than we can stand.  Should we be willing to subject ourselves to the thundering voice of God in our midst, or wait on the wind of the Spirit, or listen for the voice of Christ instead of our own, then we are likely to find ourselves flat on the ground. Those who remember that ‘we are dust and to dust we shall return’ shall not be surprised nor overly dismayed by this posture, but such humiliation is generally repudiated by most. 

Nevertheless, we might also recall that in due time Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.” And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone (Mt. 17:7-8).

This is good news, though not cheap or easy.  It is a journey reminiscent of Passiontide. 

May God grant His Church a holy Lent…in our prayers and in our life together.

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me…(Ps. 51:10).
Grace to You,