The following is a reflection on Luke 9:28-36, the Gospel lesson for the Last Sunday in Epiphany, year C, according to the revised common lectionary.
While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”
When the Israelites were freed from Pharaoh’s hand, and they were wandering in the wilderness, God’s Presence stayed with them in visible way: a pillar of fire by night, and a pillar of cloud by day. When they got scared, hungry, thirsty, and they needed to find God—all they needed to do was look to the cloud.
When Moses climbed Sinai to received the Ten Commandments from God, a cloud descended upon the mountain, obscuring it. The people looked up, and they could no longer see Moses, nor what was transpiring.
When God instructed the Israelites to construct a portable Tabernacle, God filled the tent with his Presence in the form of a cloud. And, later, when Solomon built the Temple, once again a cloud filled the sanctuary.
So, when the cloud descends atop the mountaintop with Jesus, Peter, John and James…we shouldn’t be left surprised at what’s happening.
The Presence of God is enveloping them, as the Presence of God has done time and time again to God’s faithful people.
God’s Presence manifest as a cloud says something about God. Because, clouds don’t bring more clarity, they obscure. They hide.
And, in this sense they remind us of the mystery of God.
In our world we want to know things. We want Google always at our fingertips to tell us everything about anything, and we want Facebook to instantly tell us everything else—like what our friends had for dinner and how mom’s cruise is going. As humans we’ve always had a hunger and thirst for knowledge—well ever since Eden that is. And, as technology has advanced through the millennia, we want more and more knowledge within our grasp at all times.
And, for faithful Christians that’s no different with our relationship to God. We want to know things about God. We want to know how to relate to God. We want to know how this story, or this proverb, or this anecdote applies to our life. Tangibly. Really.
And, why wait? We’d like to know right now, please.
But, a relationship with God isn’t so easy. God isn’t composed of a series of facts, easily digestible and readily relatable.
God is a mystery. God’s Presence is enveloped in mystery. In fact, coming into God’s Presence isn’t like downloading a set of search results. It’s like entering a thick cloud, where everything is obscured. Distorted. Colorless. Disorientated.
But, there, in the midst of the cloud is the Presence of God who has come to be with you.
As Christians, we need to learn how to sit in the cloud. As Christian leaders, we need to teach our flocks to do the same. We need to teach patience, and how to be comfortable not knowing about something, but rather really knowing Something.
Moses came down from the clouded mountain with his face radiant—changed. Because it’s in the cloud that we’re changed.
Peter, James, and John are changed on that mountain—forever. And, not because they learned lots of fun-filled facts. In reality, they probably descended with more questions than answers.
But, like Moses, they met the Living God. And, that’s what changes us. That’s what alters the course of our lives. And, as Christians, that’s what we’re all about: being in God’s Presence.
What practices do you or your faith community do to intentionally seek out God’s Presence?