Today’s passage is Luke 9:28-36:
28 Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray. 29 And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white. 30 And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, 31 who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure,[a] which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. 32 Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep, but when they became fully awake they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. 33 And as the men were parting from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah”—not knowing what he said. 34 As he was saying these things, a cloud came and overshadowed them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. 35 And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen One;[b] listen to him!” 36 And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and told no one in those days anything of what they had seen.
In high school I had two best friends, and we were known for our planning skills. We organized pajama nights and Halloween soirees, birthday dinners and surprise parties. Our stomping ground was the local grocery store where we purchased our event snacks. To this day, albums of staged prom photos and closets of themed T-shirts reflect our legendary prowess. Many hands make light work, so we always wanted ours busy — filling holes in our calendars and making other friends joyful in the process: feeling useful.
I think Peter was a planner too. He sees Jesus, lit up like a Christmas tree, face transformed. He sees two legendary prophets materialize. He hears about Jesus’s impending demise in Jerusalem. Instead of sitting in reverent silence, or falling at Jesus’s feet in awe, Peter immediately, nervously, tries to make himself useful: “Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” Luke does the interpretation for us: “He did not know what he was saying.” In this situation, I would be Peter.
Peter’s offer is sweet, and deeply understandable, and yet it misses the point. God himself corrects. “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.” For all us busybodies, this is a radical simplification of what there is to be done, and all we must do to be good Christians. Even at church, coffee must be set out, socials must be planned, runny noses of children must be wiped — we must be helpful. A good impulse. But for Type As like me and my high school best friends, tent building can distract from the core of Christ’s teachings, aiming to make us feel important and productive in-and-of ourselves. A voice in a cloud points all our anxious flutterings back to a central, primary vocation: love God, and love your neighbor. Listen to my Son. Sometimes, you don’t need a tent to do that.
At the end of the day, God doesn’t require a perfectly executed party, or a list with check marks next to it. “It is good for us to be here,” Peter announces—but not, as he believes, because there are hands to pound in tent pegs. Rather, it is good for the disciples to be there as witnesses to the glory of God. It is good for them to be there, not as task-completers but as worshipers.
Kate Massinger ’16 is an English concentrator living in Kirkland House.