On Monday, I spoke out against a certain Super Bowl commercial, which (in the words of a colleague) had many “seeing red.” While this post resulted in a chorus of “Amens,” Quincy Worthington pointed out that there is a fine line between righteous anger and self-righteousness. Words can convey unintended meanings. Passionate cries can ring of a certain kind of arrogance, perhaps bred from ignorance. Be that as it may, I then offered a response to Quincy’s open letter in defense of my righteous anger. For me, this was an intense yet instructive back and forth.
Now, my mind is little quieter. I’ve also spent time with the Transfiguration account in Luke in preparation for Sunday’s service. As I am grateful to Quincy, who was a fellow student, I am thankful to a former professor at Union Presbyterian Seminary, John Carroll, for his erudite commentary on the Third Gospel.
In terms of Sunday’s text, John notices that Luke’s version gives an “expanded role” to the disciples. They see the glory of Jesus in dazzling white or, better yet, witness this event. Witnessing is a defining feature of discipleship in Luke. Yet the disciples do not comprehend what they see. Peter wants to build a booth for Jesus, Elijah, and Moses “not knowing what he was saying” (Luke 9:33). What was Peter’s motivation? Not fear, as in Mark 9:6; rather Peter fails to understand another detail that only Luke mentions: the content of the conversation with Moses and Elijah (Luke 9:31). Peter cannot grasp that Jesus’ ministry must lead to the cross in Jerusalem.
I wonder if Peter was likewise enthralled by his idea of who Jesus was; perhaps that’s what motivated him to speak. He wanted to build a memorial for his understanding of the Messiah.
I, too, am sometimes guilty of seeing my ideas in a kind of transfigured glory. Speak truth to power! Defend the poor! Look at that, I think, my thoughts are shimmering in their own greatness! I’m not really that vain; but maybe come across as so. It is tempting to be star-struck by our perspective (or our counter-perspective) and stay on the metaphorical mountain, cloistered by our own opinions. Ironically, we may become blind to a greater truth more dazzling than our own standards of justice.
John Carroll concludes his section on the Transfiguration: “Forget the booths, Peter; the Messiah has work to do.” I hope and pray that the exchange over the past several days about food, poverty, and privilege has inspired you too. Hopefully, something has sparked a thought and motivated you to leave the internet banter behind and make a difference in the world. For, while the Transfiguration account ends with the silence of the disciples, let’s not keep insights from our conversation to ourselves. I would refer you to the very end of this Facebook feed in which more friends, Nelson Reveley and Lindsey Phillips Williams, have posted some wonderful resources. Forget the blogs; the community of faith has work to do.