It was hot outside – 93 degrees. The sweat pearls ran down my back, soaking my undershirt and, subsequently, my dress shirt under my black suit, when I was waiting in the basement of the church for the wedding ceremony to begin. During the ceremony, we sang, we prepared, it was beautiful. I felt in the moment. And then we began our vows, and in that moment, this moment of silence before I opened my mouth, a toddler screeched and cried and whined.
These interruptions – don’t we all have these moments during which we are just perplexed by the sheer randomness of interruptions? Perhaps you are thinking right now: “Yeah I hear that kid on the prayground right in the back…” Perhaps you have been to a wedding like ours before where you got distracted, or to a movie theater or the concert hall where he phone of the guy iun front of you starts to ring— and it doesn’t stop! Or, perhaps you have been at an occasion when you yourself accidentally interrupted the event.
Ariel and I went to see Hamilton in January in the Opera House, and during the show, people two rows in front of us got up not once, not twice, now several times, whispering, moving around, clouding my view to King George’s appearance. These interruptions can be perplexing or annoying. They distract us from what we want to focus on. Or they interrupt us in our doings in the moment we really ought to do something really significant. Or, sometimes, interruptions are something we hope for, but they don’t come- like when Marjorie Taylor-Greene begins to speak.
In Matthew 17, Peter witnessed this spectacular thing: After Jesus went on top of a mountain, Jesus’ face began to glow and shine like the morning sun. His clothes gleamed too – bright white, like sunlight mirroring off a snowfall. Peter was so in awe that he began to speak “It is so amazing to see Moses and Elijah appearing here and you being here. Let us build shelter for – and suddenly, while he was speaking, a bright cloud enveloped him and his friends. A voice interrupted him, saying: “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” Peter got interrupted. Was he perplexed? Maybe. Was he annoyed? We don’t know. But this interruption revealed something to Peter, John and Andrew that they had not known before. The Gospel here reveals Jesus as a prophet in the line of Moses and Elijah. Both Moses and Elijah were prophets. They did what had to be done. They were not afraid of the consequences. Moses went to the Pharao to represent God. Elijah did miracles, healed the dead, provided food for the poor. And Elijah never died; he only rose into heaven. And Jesus was in line of those great prophets.
Some interruptions are annoying, and some are important! We may be annoyed by some interruptions. They may distract you from what’s really important – or they may disrupt you from what is insignificant to something that is really important. When a fire alarm, for example, goes off, that is, generally important, unless it is because the battery is low. In every case, whether we want them to happen or not, those moments are uncomfortable because they catapult us out of our routine. And sometimes, perhaps, that is a good thing! When one of your colleagues in your office knock at the door and brings you a coffee or wants to have a brief chat. Like me when Mary Anne knocks at my office door to have a brief conversation. Or, when Thom sends me a very thoughtful email. Or when Michael Benn stops by at my office with an excellent observation.
Some interruptions are noisy, and some are holy! Peter’s interruption, for instance, was a moment of holiness in which God reveals more about who Jesus really is. Here, we hear what God had already said to John the Baptist at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, during his baptism: This is my beloved son! And, the voice says: Listen to him. At the same time, this was not just a show for Peter and the others: Look and see. This transfiguration is about God. It is about Jesus who is God’s son. Here God reveals that the God of Moses is the God of Elijah, and is the God of Jesus.
Some interruptions are noisy, and some are necessary! After our wedding ceremony, I felt as though everything passed by in a glimpse. Pictures, dinner, more pictures, cake, dance, etc. Before the wedding I said “I look forward to eating this delicious menu and the cake.” And my mother-in-law replied frankly: “Oh, you won’t have time to eat. You’ll be busy meeting with people.” Well, told Ariel that day that I really want to eat dinner. We have plenty of time to meet everyone. It was not just about the delicious food but about the moment of pause. This interruption of a sequence of events, the interruption of being in “task mode” was, for me, about experiencing the moment of our day with joy, experiencing the moment of wonder and celebration that we just joined our lives together.
We need to have these holy interruptions, these moments of silence and awe and wonder. Just like God interrupts Peter, “Just take it in, man!” we ought to pause, reflect and take in the moment of wonder. To be clear, we probably won’t very often see a moment where Jesus is being transfigured in front of us. But nobody is talking about that. The point is to find the interruption in our daily lives, in our families, and yes, also in church. Like with all things in our liturgy, it is intended that this passage is placed at the intersection between the end of epiphany and Lent. At the end of this season of witnessing and seeing who Jesus is, God reveals Jesus’ full nature in his fullest way on earth. And it is the first time in our liturgical year that we are being made aware of where Jesus’s ministry on earth ends abruptly: with his death on the cross. We are at the verging point, liturgically. We are at a verging point in time, as well. There is so much that distract us – Where can we find these points of pause and ponder? Where do we let God interrupt us in our lives?