Mark 9:2-9 Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.
As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.
Reflection When Peter witnesses the dazzling Presence of the Spirit of God and the prophets Moses and Elijah with Jesus, Peter wants to keep the Spirit with him and so suggests “let us make three dwellings.” Here is the thing, along with countless theologians I have preached a fair few sermons chastising Peter for trying to cling to Jesus and the dead prophets by securing them in dwelling places. I have berated Peter’s notion of making an earthy dwelling for the Spirit of God as if the spiritualization of matter was not a good thing.
Here is another perspective. The Episcopal priest, teacher of our Christian Wisdom tradition and author of numerous books on contemplative theology and practice, Cynthia Bourgeault puts it this way. “If the heart is awake and clear, it can directly receive, radiate, and reflect the unmanifest divine Reality.”* Sounds like we (matter) are intended to be a dwelling place for Spirit.
When we choose to turn toward God, our lives are transfigured which basically means any barriers or false notions of separation between God and us melt away. The dark cloud of unconsciousness recedes as we wake up to the truth of our being, that like the exemplar Jesus, we are aflame in the Spirit of God with us. We are both human and divine.
In order to “be” all we are intended, we must receive our full inheritance and radiate Divine fire in the way we choose to live our lives. I believe when Peter protested, “Let us make three dwellings, one for (Jesus), one for Moses and one for Elijah,” he was expressing in concrete terms a deeper spiritual wisdom and longing to “receive, radiate and reflect the unmanifest divine Reality.”
Christian life is a both-and process; receiving and radiating the Spirit of God. When we consent to our full inheritance as both human and divine beings, (which means no more justifying our less than Divine behavior professing, “I am only human,”) we wake up, fully alive and cannot help but radiate the dazzling glory of God with us.
* Cynthia Bourgeault, The Wisdom Way of Knowing: Reclaiming an Ancient Tradition to Awaken the Heart (Jossey-Bass: 2003), 33-35.
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