It’s good to be here!


Transfiguration 2012

Mark 9:2-9

Marian Free

In the name of God creator of the universe and all that is in it. Amen.

 “It’s good to be here!” That’s how our hymn began this morning: “It’s good Lord, to be here.” I hadn’t thought about it until now, but there are at least two ways in which to use this phrase. “It’s good to be here” may be said in the form of a sigh – we’re here at last, it’s good to put that behind us. “It’s good to be here“ may be an exclamation of pleasure or delight. We say we’re glad to be here because the company is great, the venue is great, the food is great.

The hymn picks up on the phrase that Peter utters into today’s gospel, but it has one significant difference. Peter puts himself into the situation saying: “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here.” Instead of being an impersonal statement it becomes a statement which has the speaker embedded in it. That is, it is less about the event and more about the speaker. It is an interesting reaction to what has happened on the mountaintop. Peter, James and John – Jesus’ inner circle – have had the sort of religious experience that few people have. They have seen Jesus transfigured before them, they have seen first hand the heroes of their faith – Moses and Elijah – and they have heard a voice from heaven declaring Jesus to be God’s Son. They were in fact, in the presence of God. Unless we have had a similar experience, it would be hard to imagine what it must have been like. I imagine that it would have been terrifying, exhilarating, awe-inspiring and humbling all at once. It is the sort of event that would leave one speechless – no words could match the situation that the disciples had experienced.

All the same, Peter can’t help himself. He blurts out: “It’s good for us to be here.” Why does he think it is good? Is it because he, James and John have been given a glimpse of heaven. No. Apparently that is not why it is good that he is there. Is it because he, as part of the inner circle, has been privileged to witness the heavenly Jesus and to discover Jesus’ true identity. No – that is not the reason either. Maybe Peter is grateful that he has had such a life-changing experience. But no, that is not the reason why it is good that he is there. In fact, Peter seems not to have any idea of the significance of the situation. He hasn’t really grasped the enormity of the event or how blessed he has been to have been a part of it. In fact there is no indication that he feels that he has benefited in any way from the experience. The reason that it is good for him to be there is that it is good for everyone else that he is there! It is good that he is there because he can do something to enhance the situation. He can build something that would hold the event in time, a monument to what had happened. It is not that he is blessed to have witnessed something so amazing, but that others are blessed by his being there!

Can you believe it? Peter appears to be telling Jesus how lucky he (Jesus) is that he has taken Peter with him! Lucky Jesus! Where would he be without Peter? Peter knows just what to do in this situation – he can build shelters for Jesus, Moses and Elijah! Jesus can leave it all to him!  This fits with our perception of Peter – he is rash, he always puts his foot in his mouth and he never really understands what is going on. Now he thinks that Jesus needs him. He just doesn’t get it. Jesus, the Son of God, has chosen him among all the disciples to be part of the innermost circle, to see him as he really is and to share Jesus’ most private moments. Jesus who can walk on water, heal the sick, calm the storm, cast out demons doesn’t need Peter. Peter needs him. It is Peter who will change and grow as a result of his relationship with Jesus. However, Peter doesn’t see this, Peter thinks that Jesus needs him and so offers his services at this most inappropriate moment.

As I reflected on Peter’s response, I wondered if it might not be a metaphor for ourselves, for the church. I have a suspicion that from time to time at least, we fall into the trap of believing that God needs us, that without us and without our constant effort, God will be lost – the church will fail and the Christian faith will come to an end. This is evidenced in our constant navel gazing about the state of the church, our anxiety about empty pews and about census figures which reveal that fewer people identify as Christians, the programmes we organize to encourage people to come to church and the ways in which we continually tweak our worship in the hope that more people will join us.

All of this not only demonstrates a lack of trust in God and in God’s presence in the world, but also that we believe that the future of the church, the future of faith is dependent on us. Such an attitude suggests that we feel that God needs our help to be known in the world, that a church is necessary for faith in God to spread throughout the world. Of course this is a ludicrous idea! God can and does manage quite well without our help. Without our help, God created the universe. Without our help God called Abraham and formed the people of God. Without our help, God sent Jesus into the world and without our help God continues to make Godself known to a multitude of people and in a wide variety of ways. And still we think that God needs the church and that God needs our help for the church to survive.

When the situation is put like that we can see that there are times when we can be likened to Peter, that there are times when we fail to wonder at the gift that God has given to us or when, faced with an apparent problem we fall into the trap of thinking that God needs us instead of remembering that it is we who need God.

I wonder what it would be like if instead of wanting to build edifices to contain or to commemorate what we have seen and known, if instead of worrying about the institution, we could simply stand back in awe and wonder at the ingenuity and magnificence of God. What would it be like, if we could simply acknowledge and surrender ourselves to the creative power of God and allow God to determine how the future will look?

It is good that we are here. Our experience and knowledge of God draws us together to offer praise and thanksgiving to the one who has given us everything.  It is good to be here to be drawn in wonder and awe into God’s presence. It is good to be here. It would also be good to be content simply to worship God and let God take care of everything else.


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