Thoughts on transfiguration

Up there, everything had been clear- the lucky ones, Peter James and John had seen things no man had ever seen.  Up there, the strobe lights of heaven had frozen the movement of history, just for a second.  Lawgiver, watchman, messiah and disciples had been caught up for eternity in a moment…or a moment in eternity.  Dazzled by the brightness, confused by the strangeness, Peter mumbling nonsense about building tents- silenced then by the voice of God, whose tent was the heavens.

Later they stumbled down the mountain behind Jesus, like the groupies they were.  Down, down, and down – into the valley, down to the foot of the mountain, down to a scene as muddled as the one which the lawgiver had met at the foot of the mountain so long ago

There were the other disciples, hanging around like extras not yet required on set.  They looked this way and that, avoiding Jesus’ penetrating gaze, muffling their disappointment at being left down here. Hoping to reveal nothing of how their moments had been frittered and their seconds scattered as they waited.

There was a sullen, haunted looking boy.  His hair was plastered to his slightly misshapen head.  His stick-thin arms bore many scars and wheals, as if he’d overdosed on harm. His eyes bulged slightly, as if pressed up against a pair of keyholes to peer in on what passed for normal life.

And there, at the centre, a humbled, broken man, utterly unabashed to be on his knees in public.  Desperation has no room for dignity.  He looked at the face of Jesus.  ‘Lord, have mercy’, he intoned – those words at least he’d remembered from far off days when he’d worshipped the God of heaven  But then God had made his twisted son, and the two of them had not been on speaking terms since.  ‘Lord, have mercy and he recounted the sad litany of insanity and harm which had scarred the boy, inside and out.  He ended his plea with a sideways glance at the sullen, under-used disciples, and said ‘I brought him to them…but they could not heal him’

Close your eyes now, listen carefully and perhaps you’ll be able to hear him.  Listen more carefully still, and you’ll hear that his is not the only voice.  In fact, there’s a whole crowd standing behind him, stretching off as far as the eye can see.  It’s a crowd so big that it snakes away beyond the mountain, away beyond the borders.  It’s a crowd so deep that its members must stand in other eras…other centuries to get in on the act.  Some voices are loud and others soft.  Some are deep others are shrill.  Like a mantra, they all seem to be saying the same thing. Ibrought to your disciplse… but they could not.

Its hard to pick out individuals, but sometimes a voice rises above the others.  I brought my wife to the disciples of Jesus…and they could not.  I brought my father to the disciples of Jesus…and they could not.  I brought my vulnerable daughter to the disciples of Jesus…but they could not.  I brought my neighbourhood to the disciples of Jesus…but they could not. In the end, the sound all blends into one, like the insistent beat of waves on the seashore.

Its still there in the ears of the disciples long after the devil who’d tortured the boy is sent packing.  Its still there when the crowd breaks up and seeps back into the landscape from which it had come.  It still pounds on the shore of their minds, still laps at their feet – teasing, accusing, grinding them down.  Again and again those same words ‘BUT they could not’  .At last, with a word from Jesus – this angry sea was calmed, as others had been before.  Have more faith, he said.  Scratch around and find faith…even as small as a mustard seed. For some even that seemed too much at the end of this particular day.  Find it, he said  And you can even tell these mountains – he swept his arm in an arc around him to jump to it. That picture brought a smile to weary faces.  Most of them could still remember old people in their villages who talked of mountains as the pillars which held up the sky.

Moving mountains?  Fleeing devils?  Mustard seeds?  It all seemed a bit crazy, really.As they shook their heads, nobody saw the foothills of the mount twitch, just a little – as if someone had stamped on the earth far far away.

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