Making a dwelling
2nd Sunday of Lent, Year A
6-9 year olds
In the Gospel this Sunday, Jesus takes three of his best friends, Peter, James, and John, away by themselves. At first it seems like an ordinary day, an ordinary hike up a mountain. But in the Bible, when we hear about people going up a mountain, that's a sign for us. There is going to be an encounter with God.
(I have a friend who lived in Israel for a few years. She laughs at the mountains of Israel. She says they are not really all that big--they are more like large hills. Not at all like Mount Everest, the tallest mountain in the world! Not difficult to climb at all! But it is on these mountains of Israel and of Egypt that people in the Bible have encounters with God. I wonder what that means... How much does God want to have an encounter with us, if it is not too hard for people to get up the mountain?)
And oh, the encounter they have! Jesus--the Jesus they know and love--begins to shine with a great light that is dazzling. It is still him, but he is more than he has ever seemed. Something strange happens to time, too. Two people who lived and died more than 500 years before, appear and talk with Jesus: Moses, the one to receive the Word of God in the Torah, the law; and Elijah, the prophet who was thought to return to announce the coming of the great light sent by God. (Hmm...)
This is all so wonderful that Peter wants this time to go on and on. He says,
“Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
A dwelling is a home, a place to live. The word Peter uses, "dwelling," is the same word for "tent." Peter wants to pitch three tents so that this can be a home for Jesus and these two great men. Maybe he hopes they will live here and he can come to visit.
But Jesus doesn't want to dwell on the mountain. St. John, the one who goes up the mountain with Peter and James and sees these great things, says,
"And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory" (John 1:14)
Jesus wants to dwell with us. The mountain encounter is not a permanent arrangement. He will come down the mountain again, and live among the people, and journey towards the cross and the Resurrection.
The encounter, though, is not over yet! They hear God the Father speak,
This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased
The same words God the Father speaks at Jesus' baptism! (Take a moment to check it out, they're the same! Okay, one word is different.) Jesus' baptism is another moment when something unusual happens to time. But at this moment, God adds one more thing,
listen to him!
Well, that's pretty clear, isn't it? A clear instruction from God the Father. Just as the sheep of the Good Shepherd listen to him and follow, so Peter and James and John know to listen to Jesus. They follow him down the mountain, towards the cross and Resurrection.
Listen to Jesus. We can do that, too. We are doing it already, today, aren't we, as we listen to the Word of God, think about it, and talk about it together? Maybe during Lent, we can listen to him even more.
One more thing. The word for dwelling, the word that means tent, also means tabernacle. The Jewish people kept the Word of God in a tent they called a tabernacle, a place for God to dwell. In each of our churches there is a tabernacle. Inside the tabernacle is the bread that is holy, the bread that has become the Risen Jesus for us.
We can listen to Jesus in the Word, and we can also visit the tabernacle--both places where we know Jesus has pitched his tent among us.