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Spiritual Alchemy

The narrative lectionary reading for this upcoming Sunday is from Mark 9:1-8.  It is the story of the Transfiguration of Jesus.  Jesus takes 3 of the disciples up to the top of a mountain, where they have a vision of Jesus speaking to Moses and Elijah.  All three are dazzling white in appearance.  When Peter offers to make memorials for them, a voice from a cloud speaks to them, stating "This is my son, marked by my love.  Listen to him!".  Then the vision ends and they see only Jesus, and Jesus tells them to keep it to themselves until after his resurrection. 

As I read this story in preparation for Transfiguration Sunday, and the coming Easter season, I am struck by the context of what happened just before this.  Jesus is walking with the disciples and asks them "Who do people say that I am?".  The disciples share some of the rumors they have heard and then Jesus asks "Who do you say that I am?".  Peter, impulsive as ever, speaks out "You are the Christ!".  Proclaiming Jesus as the long awaited messiah, the anointed one, the King.  Jesus tells them to keep that to themselves and begins teaching them about the need for the messiah to suffer and die rather than conquer and rule. 

Jesus' teaching must have been gloomy, and hard to hear.  He was destroying the hope his disciples had in the coming kingdom.  Instead of proclaiming a new rule, and freedom from the oppressors, he was telling them that the oppressors would win, and that the long awaited king of the Jews would be defeated.  In frustration Peter pulls Jesus aside and rebukes him for all the negative talk.  Jesus replies "Get behind me Satan!". 

Six days after this, Jesus takes Peter and 2 other disciples up the mountain to see the transfiguration.  Can you imagine how Peter was feeling as he was climbing the mountain?  His hopes are crushed, he has been publicly rebuked and shamed as the enemy (Satan was the word for adversary).  His Master, his best friend was talking about his coming death, and wouldn't listen to reason.  The movement to overthrow the oppressors was over, his leader had given up.  But then, at the top of the mountain, Jesus shows him something new.  A glimpse into a future that he can't quite understand.  Peter witnesses the future Jesus, the Christ glorified and talking with the 2 largest figures in Jewish history, Moses and Elijah.  Peter is so excited, his faith and hope are restored.  As he comes back to himself he interrupts the moment, impulsively offering to make a memorial.  Jesus must have smiled to himself thinking "Ah, there you are, Peter, my old friend". 

It took a miracle for Peter to see the light in Jesus again, but Jesus could see deeper.  Jesus knew the light in Peter was still there.  That even in the face of such a hard truth, Peter would shine again.  May you see the light of Christ, even in the darkest moments of your life, and may you be given eyes to see the light within yourself, even when it seems unreachable.

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