One of the challenges of being a Christian in the 21st century is that in this age of scientific reasoning, logic, strategic plans and Gallup polls is that there is little room for mystery. Now we do love a good story and we have plenty of television shows, movies and books such as Supernatural, Grimm, Once a Upon a Time, or Twilight that might spark some conversation around things that go bump in the night or other things we can’t understand but it seems easier to talk about the premise of these shows than our experiences and encounters with God. I’ve been thinking about how we don’t know how to talk about God in our lives without thinking that we need some sort of proof to back it up, how we talk more about what we do as Christians or how as an institutional church we get stuck in talking more about strategies for bringing people to church (Sunday School, music, programs, groups, how to be seen in the community). We love to suck the mystery right out of life and our relationship with God. How easily we lose sight of what is central to who we are and who Jesus is. We often don’t know what to say about Jesus in our lives and the thought of talking about Jesus terrifies us.
Apparently this issue in not new to the 21st century as Peter reminds us. Peter experiences this supernatural, mysterious event of being in the presence of a transfigured, transformed Jesus. Peter, James and John witness the kingdom of God being revealed through Jesus as well as the presence of Moses and Elijah, Israelite heroes long dead but herald the coming of a new age. The disciples were given a glimpse of who Jesus is for them and for the world. Jesus is more than just a teacher, healer or nice guy, as the disciples hear proclaimed by the voice from the cloud: “This is my Son, the beloved; listen to him!” Peter’s gut reaction to this encounter was to suck all of the mystery of Jesus out of the event as it’s clear that no one would ever believe him and so proof, a way to capture this moment in time was necessary; just his story would never be enough. Building a hut for each of these important figures ought to do it! Maybe Peter thought he could give tours to people of the mountain top with the three dwellings and then that would bring people to faith in Jesus? Without some sort of tangible object to point to this was a story that would surely get a few raised eyebrows and ignored as a figment of these three disciples imagination. This thought alone would terrify them, they would be thought of as crazy if they told anyone; they have no proof that Jesus is God’s son-the promised messiah, other than their own account from this day. At the end of the day, all they had left was Jesus-is that enough?
We, too, worry that our own encounters with the living Christ, are not enough. We think that we don’t have adequate words to give life to our stories, we don’t have a hut, a picture, we don’t know what to say and it scares us to death that we will look crazy, or in my case, crazier than usual. Yet, we all do have these encounters, each one of us, I am confident has a story to tell about God in our lives. But we know that talking about Jesus in our culture is not all that popular and so we let fear of trying to explain the mystery of faith distract us. We know that we can’t quantify for the world how Jesus showing up in our lives is not about pie charts, strategies, empirical data or proof but is about deep emotion, deep connections with other people, deep mystery and deep love that is beyond what is celebrated on Valentine’s Day.
But what Peter didn’t quite get and what we struggle with too is that we are not people of proof, but people of the story. Not just any story but God’s story. When God says to the disciples, “This is my son, the beloved, listen to him!” it’s not to listen to Jesus for rules, or commands but to listen to Jesus’ life, listen to the story of God’s love for the world that Jesus’ words and actions convey.
God sent Jesus as tangible proof of God’s love, yes, but it’s more than that, Jesus with humanity personally continues to tell us the story begun at creation; a story that includes all of us, God and how we are intertwined into this story. Stories connect us, person to person, age to age, generation to generation. Jesus came with words and actions of healing, teaching, praying, suffering, dying and rising to share God’s love, mercy, forgiveness, and hope. Our story with God encompasses times when we are high on a mountain top, moments of bright light and clarity, journeys down into a valley with uncertainty and questions and moments of fear. Our story is one where we look up and there is only Jesus, Jesus who promises to be with us always, offers us community to share our faith journey and our stories of our encounters with God that defy words and proof.
God’s story is one that the world needs to hear, can change the world and we bring with us into our daily lives whether we know it or not. I wonder if we really believe that this story-our stories of Jesus can change, transform or transfigure the world. What if we offered our community the mystery of God who loves them just the way they are, who is with them always, even when they can’t feel God, the mystery of unconditional love and acceptance from the people of God and the hope that God is at work and won’t stop until all is reconciled and the kingdom of God is fully revealed? What if we believed that we tell it every day, wherever we are. What if we believed that we tell it at work, school, and in how we choose to spend our free time. Jesus’ story of eternal life for all, mercy and forgiveness lives through us all of the time. We don’t necessarily have tangible, concrete huts to prove God’s story, but what we do have is who we are as people of God and the promises of Jesus Christ. And it’s enough. Thanks be to God.