"Get up and do not be afraid." Matthew 17:7b
This is Transfiguration Sunday, this year we get the story from Matthew's gospel. There are things I have never noticed before in reading it this time. I have never paid really close attention to who is on either side of Jesus and what that might represent. I've never really taken in the need of the disciples to not be afraid. I think it all relates though in the story and in our stories.
You have Moses on one side of Jesus and the prophet Elijah on the other. When we think of Moses we cannot help but think of the giving of the law, sometimes we think that is all that is necessary as disciples is to follow the rules. When we think of Elijah it gets a little hazy, Elijah who? What did he do? Well for one he visited a widow who fed him and made sure she had a never ending supply of food, even though she thought it was her last. Later he brings back her son to life and this woman is not an Israeliite (1 King's 17). So on the one hand we have the law and on the other we have compassion, God's steadfast love for the world.
Now the community of Matthew, who this book was written for is dealing with a debate in this balance. They thought because Jesus is a Jew, that Jesus had come to reform the Jews. They were a community who were used to worshipping in the synagogue and they have been kicked out. The leaders do not wish them welcome anymore. What does this do to what we believe?
Isn't this relevant to what the church feels today? We can be up on that mountain wishing for the good old days of the church and its acceptance in society or we can decide on a new transforming way for us. Which way we choose to go is up to us. Peter wanted to keep it there, freeze the moment in time and for many this is what they call for. A return to the good old days, where the church was full, where we prayed in school, in government, where we were the only ones at the table. Others have decided to live into new ways of thinking about church, about buildings, about growth, about mission, about compassion. It has opened up a whole new way.
The thing is, as with any transforming moment, we can get stuck in our fears. Afraid God won't provide, afraid God is limited by our own finite vision, afraid we can't include others at the table, afraid of peeking to close at death. Here is what Jesus says to us "Get up and do not be afraid." Don't let your fear hold you to the ground. Don't let you limited vision of what is possible stand in the way. Don't loose faith. Be transformed, all these areas are opportunities of transformation, if we just take them that way. The way of faith and growth is sometimes hard because sometimes it requires us to move instead of being stuck in our fears. Yet if we move we may find the way forward and be blessed in trying.