Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Transfiguration Midrash

I wrote this a couple years ago as an exercise to "get inside the scripture." Later I found out that this practice of "fleshing out the details" of a Biblical story was practiced by Jewish Rabbis in an art called "midrash." When we give ourselves the opportunity to put into words or on a canvas what our mind sees when we read a scripture, it sometimes illuninates more of the truth of that particular passage in our devotional life. I recommend doing this yourself as a discipline of Lent. Here's an example:

Transfiguration Mountain
One evening, a week after our master had asked us who we believed he was, we were all slumbering in a grove of trees outside Cesarea Phillippi. The night had the chill of crisp air and I had not yet drifted into sleep. I was still imagining if I would be one that Jesus spoke of when he had said earlier, “there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” Lately, I could see that Jesus was beginning to get frustrated about something. He kept telling us that we weren’t getting the point of his stories. Then, as my eyelids were growing heavier, I heard the Master say out loud, “Who will accompany me up the mountain to pray?” Most of the disciples were asleep, but next to me James snapped out of a dream. He said to me, “Brother John, Am I dreaming? I thought I heard the teacher ask if someone would walk with him up the mountain, and I saw he was wearing a crown made of thorns!?” “You’re dreaming,” I answered, “but he did call for us to accompany him up the mountain, let’s go!” All of us usually argued over who of us would get to accompany the Master on walks alone. I relished the chance to walk at his side. Peter had been standing against a tree, away from the fire, so he could watch the woods and warn us if we were being approached by intruders. Jesus, James and I walked down to Peter and Jesus asked him if he wanted to come with us on a hike.

We were camped halfway up the mountain already, so the climb became tedious quickly. We were climbing around large rocks and the ground was not stable. Our feet kept stepping on loose areas and little landslides of rocks and dirt would slide down the mountain in clouds of dust. Soon we reached the snow. Jesus was walking a few paces ahead of us, and in the moonlight I saw that there were sets of footprints on either side of his! When I looked up, it seemed as though the moonlight had left the rest of the world and all concentrated on him. Then, I could see that in the light reflected from the Master, the owners of the other footprints had appeared! I could sense, much like you can hear your father’s sneeze in a busy marketplace, but in this same way I could see—I knew that the other footprints belonged to Moses and Elijah! They were speaking with one another, and I could tell by the looks on their faces that Moses and Elijah felt about as proud to be walking with Jesus as we did. I wondered if all the prophets and angels argued, like we did, over who got to accompany our Master different places.

We were all stupefied. Peter seemed to be the most effective at fishing his voice out of his stomach and stammered: “Master, it is most fortunate that we have come with you….I, I, I can pitch three tents for you and for Elijah, and for Moses.” Moses looked at Peter fondly. He understood that we were homeless and on the run with Jesus like he and his followers were homeless and on the run from the Egyptians—with Yahweh on the run with them in a tent of His own. It seemed that the tents were no longer the right idea---but the cloud of our unknowing grew thicker, and actually seemed to materialize around us. From it, I could feel the words surging through my body like I was standing inside a thundercloud and the lightening was entering my ears and grasping my heart. The words confirmed what Peter had exclaimed to the Master’s question a week earlier—“Who do you say that I am?” “My Son…My Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” the voice uttered. “Listen to him!” I could not even turn my head to look at James, but I felt him grab my hand, and through it, I could feel that he was seeing and hearing the same thing. The voice sounded like the sweetest notes from the lyre—and like a person’s dying breath. We were all stuck, hearts pounding, breathing heavily. We began to pray the prayer that our Lord had taught us to pray. My knees hit the snow, then ----------I could feel his hand burning me like the electric words that had burned my heart. Jesus said, “Get up and do not be afraid.” It seemed that the cloud evaporated as I took in what I thought was going to be my last breath. I saw Jesus standing in front of us with his hands on our joined hands. The night was dark again, and in the moonlight I saw that a host of footprints were all around us in the snow. Jesus started back down the mountain, and we quickly followed. He turned his head and said, “Tell no one about this vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.” The questions were popping in my mind like a rabbit darts into her hole. As the rabbit feels safety and contentment in her hole though, the questions seemed to be put to rest as soon as they entered my mind. Peter, though, asked him question after question. He needed to hear from the mouth of our teacher what I felt in my heart. We were walking with the Savior!

4 Comments:

At 12:39 PM , Anonymous Joyce Treas said...

I really liked the way you painted a beautiful picture of the Transfiguration. As I read it I felt like I was there -- I would like permission to have one of my members read this on Sunday -- I believe it will bring the Transfiguration to life for my congregation. Thank you again for sharing

 
At 2:26 PM , Blogger Nathan Mattox said...

I don't know how else to reach you but here Joyce, but I'd be happy for you to have the midrash read at your upcoming service. My only hope is that it helps those who hear it imagine the mystery of the Trasnfiguration in new light.
Nathan Mattox
(now pastor in Morris, Oklahoma)
www.morrisokumc.blogspot.com

 
At 6:45 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a great interpretation! You really put your readers in the scene. This is a way for it to come alive for people. Again,with your permission, I'd like to read it tomorrow too! RevDeb

 
At 12:44 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I also thought that this was lovely, and with your permission, may read it to my folks on Sunday.

Revempy

 

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