•Genesis 12: 1-4 * 2 Timothy 1: 8-10 * Matthew 17: 1-9•
Weekly Scripture Readings: 2nd Sunday in Lent
I have stood many times on top of Mount Tabor in Galilee, just as I have stood many times on top of Sleeping Woman Mountain west of Missoula. Mt. Tabor is the site where tradition claims the event in today’s gospel occurred. The panoramic view from both mountains is awesome.
We are unable to know what really happened, what sort of experience Peter, James and John actually had. I don’t know if they were in fact on top of that mountain, I do know that while the climb was not as arduous or demanding as the climb to the top of Sleeping Woman, it was no piece of cake!
Whatever their experience, it happened sometime after Jesus asked his companions who they thought he was. They were not sure. Peter, James and John had walked with him, seen his actions, and heard his teaching. Now even after some sort of mystical experience, they still did not comprehend. Perhaps Jesus didn’t either!
I think that is a clue telling us Matthew is not describing a physical event. Perhaps Mt. Tabor is a metaphor exploring what it means to engage in the Christ Mystery.
The Mount Tabor experience provides a faith vision of divine presence and power. That Gracious Mystery we name God is not up there or out there — someplace we call heaven. That Gracious Mystery is our deepest inner truth, the life-giving, sustaining reality that pulsates deep within us, bursting to be discovered. Perhaps there on Mount Tabor, for the first time, Jesus fully awakened to that divine presence.
I think that is what this text tells us. The three experienced him in such a state of abiding peace and tranquility they could describe it only by saying, “his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light.”
In one of her poems, Elizabeth Barrett Browning shared this amazing insight into reality.
“Earth is crammed with heaven, And every bush is aflame with God,
But only those who see take off their shoes, The rest sit around and pluck blackberries.”
“Every bush is aflame with God. But only those who see take off their shoes…..”
Every dominant culture reflects the values and basic commitments of a people. In the 11th
century, a French village transported large marble slabs to build a beautiful cathedral. Now a thousand years latter that cathedral remains standing.
There is a lot of anxiety among our peers since the election. Donald Trump’s insurgent campaign seems to have hastened a collapse of respect for established institutions like the media and our court system. Such collapse is troubling for the future of our democratic systems. Will our culture remain intact for a thousand years or even until the year 2020? That depends on all of us.
Since the foundation of our nation, strong faith in the presence and power of God provided our ancestors an ultimate sense of purpose. Our conviction that all persons have dignity fueled and guided the birthing of our culture. Today that faith and that conviction are contradicted and denied by the political currents running through our nation.
Lent summons us to climb Mount Tabor. It calls us to awaken to our deepest inner truth — the guiding, sustaining reality that pulsates deep within us. The great anxiety among our peers since the election tells me that Lent this year is more important than ever. So get with it. However you do it, do whatever will help you awaken to your deepest inner truth. The future of our democratic systems depends on people like us who recognize that “every bush is aflame with God.” For “only those who see take off their shoes” are able to see it. “The rest sit around and pluck blackberries.” I may be wrong, but it seems to me that now more than ever, our future as a people depends on such an awakening.