I was tremendously unprepared to visit the Holy Land. Logistically, my plans were resolute—the two-week course on “The Palestine of Jesus” was absolutely all-inclusive, and I even had purchased travel insurance for my airfare. The latter ended up being an expensive mistake, but that is beside the point.
I was prepared, and yet I wasn’t. Despite being surrounded by thousands of years of history—all of which is particularly relevant to my vocation—I felt as if I was unable to register the significance of walking on that ground, and it made me angry. I wanted to “get it,” but I knew that I couldn’t.
Perhaps you’ve felt this on some vacation of yours, and maybe it was even to the extent that the anticipation and/or memory of such a thing far exceeds the reality. Think of a trip, a holiday, or your wedding day…it’s kind of disappointing to experience something wonderful and yet be burdened by the thought that you weren’t prepared to fully comprehend the sacredness of the moment.
When Jesus walks up Mount Tabor with Peter, James, and John, his face and all of his body and clothing becomes a dazzling white. Moses and Elijah appear and have a chat with Jesus, and when they leave a cloud surrounds them all as a voice proclaims that Jesus is “my” Son, the Beloved.
Peter, who always has something to say (and always needs something to do), suggests they build something to commemorate the experience. Instead Jesus leads them down the mountain, instructing them not to tell anyone about it until after the resurrection.
The thing is, they really didn’t quite grasp the whole resurrection thing yet, nor did they understand this whole transfiguration thing yet. Peter, James, and John, were having all of these wonderful experiences with Jesus—the Living God in their midst—and they weren’t prepared to comprehend the sacredness of the moment.
These disciples would spend their lives, after the resurrection, with a deep conviction about the events, which led up to and included the resurrection. They would form communities of varied people based on belief in the transcendent and yet imminent reality of a Living God who values more than wealth and domination.
We live our lives in similar ways—not that we’ve seen Jesus transfigured on Mount Tabor—but we have experienced moments of transcendence, thin places, God sightings, and what have you. Yes, we can scientifically explain why music seems to enchant our souls or why good wine changes our lives, but there seems to be something more to it, doesn’t there?
When we have big, wonderful experiences like tremendous vacations, memorable holidays, or the day we make a commitment to our beloveds, we may not fully realize the potential or sacredness or significance of those moments, but we have opportunities to grow into them as God continues to sustain our blessed existence.
Curtis Farr is an Episcopal Priest in West Hartford, Connecticut. He lives with his husband, Antonio, and rat terrier Sabina. He enjoys Batman, eating, and watching HGTV (in that order).