Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Well, Then Again...

In this morning's gospel lesson, we read what happens as soon as Jesus, Peter, James, and John come down from the Transfiguration mount, and it isn't pretty. As soon as they reach the bottom of the hill, a man comes up to Jesus and says, "Sir, would you please help my son. He has seizures that throw him both into fire and into water. I asked your disciples to cure him, but they couldn't. Can you help me?" And then we see a side of Jesus that we don't often see.

In a moment of seeming frustration and impatience and disappointment, Jesus says, "You faithless and perverse generation! How long must I be here with you? How long must I put up with you?" That didn't make a lot of sense to me until I remembered what had just happened on top of the mountain. In a miraculous moment, Jesus' clothes began to shine, and Moses and Elijah appeared next to him. Peter, for all his thick-headedness, says to his master, "Lord, can we stay here? Let me build three booths so we can remain in this special place." But, of course, that wasn't to be. God's voice thunders in the clouds, and the magical moment is gone.

But then Jesus has to go back down the mountain and deal with all the stuff that's waiting for him. And that's where we see Jesus asking, "Oh God! How long, how long must I really be here." I think he was reconsidering Peter's offer. I think he wanted to go back up and dwell in that place where everything was right. I think his cry is an acknowledgment that the world is a broken place and that there's much work to be done--perhaps too much work. But Jesus remains, and he heals, and the story goes on.

Jesus lived in two worlds. He was God, and he was man. He was stuck in an oddly liminal life of both divinity and humanity, and he worked to try to make God's presence and God's reign manifest on an earth that so often looks anything but godly. And that can catch up with you after a while. Being in those irreconcilable places can wear you down.

But at the end of the story is a call to faith. Jesus told his disciples, "If you had the faith of a mustard seed, you would be able to move mountains." Indeed, if you were able to live in the realm of faith and not only in the limited world we know so well, then you could do all of these things, too. In other words, we are called by God to live in this world but to maintain the sort of connection with God that enables this world to be transformed. That's what faith is. It's to live here and now--with all the sin and disappointment and physicality and brokenness that goes with this world--yet still be able to see the miraculous as possible.

I don't know if I could ever move a mountain. I'm pretty sure the answer is no. But I'm called to transcend the limits of this world by co-inhabiting the kingdom of God. Faith is that light in a dark place. Faith is that confidence in the midst of doubt. When everything else says, "No," faith says that through God we can.

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