|Annie Watson, ARCWP|
Every once in a while I need to get my “fix.” Yes, I am addicted to a few things in life, like popcorn. I really love popcorn. Recently I have learned from a popcorn making connoisseur how to make really good homemade popcorn.
I also have to get my family fix on a daily basis: my husband, children, and grandchildren. There is my talking-on-the-phone-to-my-friends fix that I need to do on a daily basis. And, of course, I can’t lie to you: I have a Starbucks fix!
Getting a fix has a bad reputation because it suggests one is addicted to something that is bad for you. For example, a heroin addict needs to get his or her fix. We could, however, be addicted to things that are less dangerous, like for example, good books or Chinese food.
We all have our addictions, good or bad. But I’m here today to talk about our “Jesus fix.” This may be the one thing that brings all of us together, the one thing we all have in common. Most of us have some form of an addiction to Jesus.
The good thing about needing a Jesus fix is that we won’t suffer from physical withdrawals if we have to go a few days without him. Unlike some of our other habits, like surfing the internet or playing on our cell phones, we don’t have to rely on fickle technology to keep in touch with him.
So how do we get our Jesus fix? Some people get their Jesus fix by praying to him. Some, who are of a more mystical nature, get their fix “abiding in his presence.” Some simply get their fix by reading about him, either in the pages of the Bible or in the pages of books written about him.
Can you imagine being one of Jesus’ first disciples, the men and women who actually followed him around and got to hang out with him? How about that for a Jesus fix? Furthermore, can you imagine being one of Jesus’ closest friends? How exciting, interesting, and sometimes perplexing that must have been.
According to the Gospel writers, three of Jesus’ disciples seem to have fit that bill: Peter, James, and John. We often call them “the inner circle.” If the biblical writers had not been so patriarchal and enamored with “male privilege,” they would have included women in Jesus’ inner circle because we know they were there!
Nevertheless, we will stick with the way the story is told. Peter, James, and John have the privilege of hiking with Jesus up a mountain. They go there to pray—to get their God fix.
Mountains are important in the worldview of the biblical writers because God was thought to be up there. Therefore, a mountain got you as close to God as humanly possible. In the modern world we have had to rethink our understanding of where God is because we know “up there” is a lot of empty space, planets, stars, and galaxies.
Still, I don’t think many modern people would argue that there is not something about mountains—and nature in general—that make us feel closer to God. If you want a God fix, a climbable mountain or hill is a good place to go if for nothing more than the solitude it provides.
So Peter, James, and John accompany their friend and leader up the mountainside to pray. While they are praying something extraordinary occurs. Jesus’ face changes and his clothes become dazzling white.
Of course, in the ancient world, no one’s garment was ever “dazzling white.” They didn’t have laundry detergent, bleach, or washing machines, and, more importantly, they were always walking around in the dirt. In that place and time, nothing was very clean by today’s standards.
Frankly, I don’t know why a Madison Avenue advertising agency has not yet picked up on the idea of using this story to advertise their client’s laundry detergent. (Don Draper of “Mad Men” fame would be all over that!)
This story—what we call the “Transfiguration Story”—is like a television commercial with the sole purpose of trying to sell Jesus. Like all good commercials, it employs a little exaggeration while effectively communicating the central truth. And the central truth of the Transfiguration Story is that Jesus is One. Very. Important. Person.
Two of the most important historical figures in the Jewish faith pop out of nowhere: Moses, who represents the Jewish law, and Elijah, who represents the Jewish prophets. A cloud appears, reminding us of the pillar of clouds that led Moses and the Israelites through the wilderness.
The voice of God speaks from the clouds, reminding us of Jesus’ baptism. Not only does God repeat what was said at Jesus’ baptism that he is God’s “beloved” or “chosen” Son, the voice demands, “Listen to him!” Again: One. Very. Important. Person.
Moses and Elijah share something else in common with Jesus: their deaths are shrouded in mystery. There are no bodies to be found. The book of Deuteronomy tells us that Moses died and was buried in the land of Moab, with this added caveat: “but no one knows the place of his burial to this day.” That’s the story-teller’s way of asking, “Did he really die?”
Elijah, of course, didn’t really die, according to the book of 2 Kings. As if he is hailing a cab, Elijah is picked up by a chariot and horses of fire and lifted up in a whirlwind. What a way to go, right?
And then there’s Jesus, who dies, is placed in a borrowed tomb, and is raised from the dead. All three—Moses, Elijah, and Jesus—are biblical jabs at the power and finality of death.
We get the point: the storyteller is trying to sell Jesus. To use the language of television commercials, Jesus is a “new and improved” version of the Law and the Prophets, the two pillars of Jewish religion. This is savvy, creative story-telling, enough to make any Madison Avenue advertising agency envious.
The Transfiguration Story is just one of those stories that are rich in imagery and meaning. For me, it is one of the best stories in the Gospels to read when I need a Jesus fix. My face may not change and my clothes may not become dazzling white when I read it, but I am reminded that there is more to life than popcorn and Starbucks!