What do you do with the Transfiguration story? That’s this week’s lectionary reading, Luke’s version. I get the feeling the Transfiguration story must be important, but I’m not really sure why. Kind of like District Superintendents. :) (Joke.)
Luke has a line in the story that has caught my eye this time. Luke 9:32 says, “Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him.” (NRSV) It reminds me of another time the disciples got sleepy, in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night Jesus was arrested. Only that time, they went right ahead and fell asleep.
“Since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory.” Maybe the whole thing was a result of sleep deprivation? You know how when you stay awake really late at night and you start getting all loopy? Maybe Peter, James, and John were just really, really sleepy and their minds were playing tricks on them.
Or maybe it’s more about “staying awake” spiritually, so that you don’t miss an opportunity to see Christ. Maybe sin is essentially evidence that we are spiritually asleep, not aware of Christ’s presence, unable to recognize the glory of God revealed in Jesus Christ. And the thing about being asleep is that sometimes your dreams are so vivid, you don’t realize you are sleeping. That is, until you wake up.
This metaphor is helpful for me in thinking about many sins. Sin is a vivid dream in which your perceptions seem real and good and right and just, but they are only a dream. Upon waking up and seeing Christ’s glory, you realize that your sinful life is just a dream, and salvation is an ongoing attempt to stay awake spiritually so that you will live a life that God intends. The devil LOVES this situation, you know? With this sleeping/dreaming arrangement Satan has worked it out so that we are sinning, but we don’t realize we are. Not only do we not realize it, but we actually think we are being righteous, so we just keep on sinning/dreaming, all the time unaware of our sin.
Consider affluence. How many of us try to live in the dream that says it is okay for some people to have a big house, two cars, closets full of clothes, pantries full of food, while other people lie on heating ducts downtown with all of their worldly possessions stuffed into a dirty backpack beside them? I know I do. Any excuse I try to offer is the equivalent of pressing my spiritual snooze button. “Just ten more minutes, okay Jesus?”
There’s something here also that reminds me of one of the themes from “The Matrix.” Neo was awakened to the ugly, painful reality of the world, having been in an altered state of perception in which his life seemed to be quite ordinary and relatively easy. The most insidious sin is not a horrific, blatant act, but rather the attitude of indifference displayed by all of us who are asleep to the reality of the world.
Peter, James, and John stayed awake, despite their sleepiness. That is vital to our salvation, to be awake and alert for opportunities to glimpse the glory of God. How easy it is to drift off into quiet, comfortable, blissful slumber and dream the “everything’s okay” dream. But the call of Christ is to remain alert, stay awake, get your hand away from that snooze button! Wake up and see the glory of Christ.