Sabbath Evenings – Between Holding On and Letting Go
Today is Transfiguration Sunday marking the transfiguration of Jesus from Luke 9.28-36. Traditionally, this is celebrated the week before Ash Wednesday [this week] and the beginning of the believer’s Lenten journey.
At times, in sermons, Bible Studies, etc., etc., the transfiguration story has been explained as a variation on a theme, i.e. “The mountain-top experience that didn’t last very long. Therefore, we all must eventually come back down and get back to living in the valley.” But this story is much deeper than a devotional downer. The story is intensely human [Peter, James and John are invited to go along. They are strugglers on many levels. Shall I list all the scriptures?] And it’s also intensely redemptive [Jesus’ and His ministry of demonstrating the incredible grace of God through a path of suffering].
Think of a time when you lost, are losing, will lose something or someone. There is this strange ambivalence that shows up. Dr. Dan Allender defines ambivalence this way:
Ambivalence is the emotional battle with two (or more) minds, wills, and desires. It is not being double-minded in the sense of being duplicitous or two-faced; rather, it is feeling two contrary energies moving us in opposite directions, being caught in the bind of opposing desires, feeling divided and torn. (The Healing Path, p. 92)
Tension. Torn. Go left or right or is left better? Stay or leave; but if we stay . . . but if we leave. Hold on or let go, or can I do both? Think or feel, or refuse and go with the status quo; neither think or feel. Will I lose something if I choose the one and not the other. Suspended between the top and the bottom. I can’t move. I won’t move. I am afraid. Is this about trust? or hope? or faith? [O God, calm me. Help me to receive your tenderness at this moment.]
Back to our story. [Should I start with the disciples or with Jesus?] Peter wanted to preserve the moment. To linger. To hold on. [My brother, I so get that]. Peter could no more grasp on the mountain what he would have to grasp on the flatland – the struggle was in both places. Ambivalence. His and the other disciples struggles were here and there.
I picture Peter, James and John eager to spend the afternoon with Jesus having an intimate conversation about what he had spoken of in the verses before (21-22) – shocking stuff about His suffering and dying. Yet that is exactly what the mountain-top experience was all about. Moses and Elijah were talking with Jesus about his exodus, his departure from this world. God confirms again that Jesus is His beloved Son – His chosen one. The scandal of the cross is clearer. For Jesus it will be the path of death and resurrection. In my little theological mind I say, “No wonder Peter wanted to hang on and stay put on that mountain with Jesus!”
These are great verses. Really an extraordinary story to begin the season of Lent. Where does your story connect with this one? Where does the ambivalence of holding on and letting go impact your life? And why does it matter to rehearse the story of the transfiguration year after year? Because Jesus is anything but ambivalent – confronting His future: “As the time drew near for him to ascend to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem” (Luke 9.51) Even though we are ambivalent (just read all the verses after v. 51) , Jesus is not (v. 61). He continued to love the disciples in their holding on or their letting go. [You too, dear reader. And me.]