Honoring or Following?
Recently I read the obituary of the former principal of the elementary school I attended. While we had known him to be kind, fair, and concerned for our education, we were unaware of the true scope of his humanitarian and philanthropic work. Only after his death did we come to see his interactions with us at school in the broader context of a life dedicated to serving others.
Maybe you’ve had a similar experience while attending a memorial service. How nice it would be to gain this perspective on someone while he or she was still alive.
Something similar but more profound happened to Peter, James, and John atop the Mount of Transfiguration. As Jesus’ disciples they knew him as teacher, healer, and friend. But on that day, when Christ appeared in radiant glory with two of the most revered figures of Jewish history, they learned he was also the fulfillment of the law (represented by Moses) and the prophets (represented by Elijah), and were reminded he was God’s Son.
Peter wanted to memorialize the moment and honor Jesus, Moses, and Elijah by building a series of shrines. Commemorating such powerful, yet fleeting experiences is a very human impulse. Yet we cannot hold on to past or present. Our lives continue; sooner or later we must leave all physical shrines behind us.
Would it not be better to build a dwelling place for Christ in our hearts—simply to allow such sacred moments to inform how we live and interact with others in the future? It’s easier to praise Christ than to follow in his footsteps, but that’s not what our Lord asked us to do. Jesus said, “Follow me” (Mark 1:17). God said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, listen to him!” (Mark 9:7).
Derek French, pastor, East Hills Moravian Church, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
Transfiguration of Our Lord
February 15, 2015