When I was about 17 years old, I was driving with a friend on the highway and a muffler appeared in the middle of the road in front of me. I don’t mean it suddenly, like magically appeared. It appeared as I got close enough to see what was there. I was going highway speed, fast enough, but not too fast. It was a multilane road, but the lanes next to me were empty – I’m thinking it was likely a Sunday morning. No one else around.
I saw the muffler with plenty of time to change lanes. I pointed to the muffler and remarked on it to my friend. But for some reason, I could not change lanes, all I could do was stare at the muffler. Until bang – I hit it going full speed in my dad’s Ford Escort wagon.
It seems that somehow the front of the car must have hit the muffler and flung it somewhere else on the roadway for another unsuspecting motorist to contend with as amazingly the sound and a small jolt was all we had to contend with. The Escort kept going and seemed none the worse for the impact.
But all I could think about was why couldn’t I change lanes? There was no one else on the road. I had an option to move to the left or the right and avert the impact. And yet, seemingly I couldn’t. I barreled down the road, focused on the muffler, unable to move over, unable to make the change.
In her commentary on today’s passage, Melinda Quivik says that the disiciples in this passage were afraid that they might be harmed – it’s that kind of terror they are feeling. And yet, do you remember what Peter says – it’s good for us to be here. It’s good for us to be here and then he suggests making the situation a bit more permanent.
I’m pretty sure that if I was up on a mountain having a terrifying experience I would be trying to run down from the mountain. Of course, I’m pretty sure that if I saw a muffler in the middle of the lane in front of me and there were not other cars on the road, I would change lanes. Is Peter stunned like I was with the muffler? So focused on what is in front of him, that he seems unable to think about his other options, think about changing lanes?
It makes me wonder about inertia and aversion to change. How many times in our lives do we continue on course because we fear the unknown of doing something different, even when changing lanes means we will avoid disaster? And if we do manage to change lanes – what gives us the personal strength to do so?
The scripture doesn’t really tell us how the disciples go from being terrified to following Jesus back down the mountain other than the declarative statement that they need to listen to Jesus. It makes me wonder – do they just willingly follow after hearing that? Or does Jesus have to convince them? Are they still afraid even when they follow him back down the mountain?
What voices lead you when you are making a change? What guides you through fear to a different reality?
Of course this passage is about reasserting the identity of Jesus – confirming his status as God with us to the disciples, but beyond that I think it’s an invitation for us to consider where is God with us today? Where might God be hidden in plain sight, beckoning us to follow, even if we are afraid, even if following means changing.
This is my Son, the Beloved; listen…
May God open our ears to hear and our hearts to listen. Amen.