I went to New York city last week with my wife. I took a lot of pictures. We spent an entire, wonderful day (the typical 65 degree, sunny February day in the city!) walking and seeing all that we could see. We crossed through neighborhoods watching New Yorkers go through their typical day — mothers pushing strollers, construction workers taking a lunch break, kids walking home from school. We also ended up in the typical touristy areas and saw people like us, “foreigners” taking it all in.
At one point, I asked Christy, “How long do you think you have to live here before you stop looking up all the time?” Everything just goes up in the city, and it seems like all I did was stare toward the sky, mouth no doubt gaping open the whole time! I have a lot of pictures of the tops of skyscrapers. And pictures of famous places, and dingy fish markets, and cool stuff, and strange sites … I took a lot of pictures.
Trying to capture the moment — that’s the best explanation I have for it.
This past Sunday, my pastor taught on the text of Mark 9:2-9, the transfiguration of Jesus. He spoke memorably about Peter’s reaction – “let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” So often, this is typical of the human reaction to wonderful and unique events. Let’s capture the moment. But the text tells us that Peter’s reaction was misguided. The voice from the overshadowing cloud gives another option: listen to Jesus. And from the tense of the verb, we might even read it: “keep on listening to him.”
No dwellings, Peter. The mountain-top experience is not intended to be preserved and sealed up. Keep listening.
The sermon on Mark 9 and our time in New York have been running together in my mind today. The main difference between me and the people who live in the city (besides my inability to pull off the skinny-jeans look!), is that I knew I wasn’t going to remain there. I was an outsider taking in the sites for a few moments – and they were staying. The amazing was somehow familiar for them. I would be leaving and I wanted to take whatever I could with me. Thus, I felt compelled to capture the moment. But the sites and the rhythm of city are part of who they are. No need to tote a camera around all the time. Just keep on walking.
Maybe this is part of our formation from the Mark text. Let the daily walk with Jesus be part of who we are. Stay, remain … keep on listening. If spiritual experiences are as foreign to us as skyscrapers to a suburbanite, the temptation is to capture the moment, knowing we won’t be back until we seek out the next mountain-top. But the invitation is to participate in the ongoing relationship until it is part of us, familiar and amazing at the same time.