Mark 9:2-9 (NRSV)
Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus, 'Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.' He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, 'This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!' Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them anymore, but only Jesus.
The whole scene of transfiguration is surreal and enough to scare anyone into silence. Anyone except Peter.
Peter just can't seem to help himself. In the face of fear, he starts babbling about contentment and construction. In the presence of the unknown, he blurts out the first words he can think of. Standing near a power he can't describe, he fills the empty, awesome space with words.
Peter is not alone in his impulse or response. I've heard the same in moments of trembling transfiguration. I once stood in the dazzling light of a Grand Canyon sunset when a woman behind me asked her companion, "What exactly are we supposed to be looking at?" It was funny then, but I recognize I've done the same when I've been afraid or unsure about what's ahead of me. I have stood in the midst of uncertainty and fear in a relationship and tried to talk my way into understanding or meaning. I've filled many "empty" places with words, words, and more words.
It seems more and more that words fill the spaces in our days: television, radios, YOUTUBE, podcasts, FACEBOOK posts, Twitter, Instagram, even this reflection. Words permeate our lives and they can keep us from connecting to the power and presence of God in our midst. They can crowd out the silence into which another voice can speak.
How and when might we hear God speak if we let go of some of our words -- and the words of others -- and simply rest in the amazing and awesome divine power? What if we responded to fear and uncertainty with silence instead of a steady stream of words? We just might discover that we, too, will be transfigured and changed by grace and love.
God, our God, keep our mouths closed and our hearts open. Speak to us in the silence and fill our empty spaces with your grace. Amen.
associate minister at Asylum Hill Congregational Church in Hartford