Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white…a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. Matthew 17:1-9
Living in America, we have been conditioned to fear a lot of things. In many places we have been taught that we should even fear God, or at the very least to fear God’s wrath against our sins or a sin of a community or people. Growing up in the mountains of North Carolina, the hellfire and brimstone God was very real for many of my peers. To counteract this kind of God, my church rarely talked about fearing God at all. Instead, God was spoken of as all-loving, all-forgiving, all-welcoming. I got very comfortable with this kind of God and forgot about another kind of fear of God, which the disciples remind us about today. The fear the disciples demonstrate comes from the times God shows up completely unexpectedly and overturns our assumptions to show us just how much bigger God’s plan really is.
The tension in this story comes from trying to strike a balance of preserving the joyous, exuberant experience of being completely dazzled by the glory of God, and not letting our fear and trembling within that encounter paralyze us from moving forward. When Jesus came to touch the disciples, asking Peter, James, and John to get up and not be afraid, I believe it was the joy and marvel of the experience they just had which helped them raise their heads, look Jesus in the eye, get up, and move forward.
In trying to find a balance between the dazzling spectacle and the aftermath of our vision, it is joy that moves us forward — it holds us when fear threatens to overwhelm us. I believe this is what lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people can offer the church: how to move forward, even when we are afraid, towards the life and love God is calling us.
In the coming months, our denomination will be exploring whether it is ready to move into a vision of the church that celebrates and affirms the marriages of all loving and committed couples. The temptation to lie prostrate on the ground in fear will be real for many people whom we love in our wider church community, as well as the temptation to build a familiar structure in the face of the awe-filled vision God has for us as a faith community. We who have seen the dazzling light of a community that welcomes and affirms all God’s people must hold on to the vision we have seen, in order to reach out and touch those who are cowering in fear. We can hold on to the vision of where God is calling us even in the midst of difficult or scary conversations.
As we move into the season of Lent, we can hold on to joy as a beacon shining against a world filled with betrayal, execution, suffering and loss. What God has shown us, let us remember in the name of Christ who came to dwell with us. Amen.
Yours on the journey,