2 Peter 1:16-19 and Luke 9.28-36
Glimpses of Glory – Back in the 1980s I used to do a lot of walking in the Lake District. One of my favourite places is Lake Buttermere – I love sitting on the ground at the end of the lake closest to Buttermere village on a still summer evening. It’s a place I identify with a key moment in my life.
I was sitting there one summer day in the 1980s. The lake was completely still and the towering masses of Robinson, Fleetwith Pike and Chapel Crag were reflected perfectly in its blue waters. It was a day to die for! It was in the middle of this beauty that for the first time I felt that God loved me. I had known for years that he did, but this was different. My heart was strangely warmed and I felt what I believed to be true.
This was for me a “Glimpse of Glory.” A moment when something changed for ever. You may well have had a similar experience – perhaps looking at the face of your first child or grandchild, perhaps listening to an evocative speaker, perhaps sitting with a dying friend or relative as they finally meet their Lord. Perhaps even the first time that we came to believe in Jesus. Moments which change our lives. Times when we gained a new perspective on our lives. Moments when something seemed to fall into place. Defining moments in our lives. “Glimpses of Glory.”
For Peter, James and John the Transfiguration of Jesus was one such moment, a moment when the curtains of heaven were drawn aside and they saw Jesus as he really was, as the Son of God in all his glory. This was their “Glimpse of Glory” and as Peter reminisces in his letter – it clearly changed their lives.
But moments like these are elusive. We can’t manufacture them, we can’t make them happen. Whatever you call them, “Glimpses of Glory”, “Mountain top experiences.” We want them to last for ever, but they don’t. “Mountain top” experiences cannot last. They slip from our fingers. Just as suddenly as we have encountered them, they’re gone. They become part of the past – sometime just good memories to reflect on.
Peter’s first response is to speak almost without thinking, “This is a moment to die for,” he says. “It must be captured. We must build churches or shrines.” Peter wants to cling on to the experience, to make it concrete, physical.
We read his later response in his letter: “we were eye witnesses to his majesty,” he says. But what mattered to us was the voice of God speaking to us in the experience. “And what we need to do,” says Peter, “is to allow the experience to be the first fruits, the deposit, the guarantee of the truth which has yet to be revealed.” Here are his exact words ….. “Be attentive to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.”
Peter knew that his “Glimpse of Glory” was more than just a positive experience, it was a glimpse of the way things really are, Jesus as King and Lord in Glory. Peter knew that just for a moment he had seen things from God’s perspective. That rather than building a shrine to the experience, he needed to allow the truth of the experience govern the way he lived, until God’s reign in Jesus was obvious for all to see.
So Peter says to us today. “Those moments in your lives, where the veil of heaven seems to have been drawn aside and you have felt God’s touch, or been overwhelmed by joy, where you have encountered truth not just as ideas but as living reality (like I did at Buttermere), where you have been deeply affected by the faith of a relative or friend . Allow those moments to be for you, lamps in the darkness, the precursors of the dawn. For they are moments when you have seen with God’s eyes; moments when you have seen the way things really are, and the way they will be. Don’t create physical shrines, but take from them the courage to believe until the day dawns and the light has come.”