Peter is impetuous. We know this about him. He's the kind of guy who spouts off in an instant, who says whatever's on his mind without thinking too much about it and who, subsequently, puts his foot in his mouth quite a bit. Such is the case when he starts fumbling around for something to say on the mountain, having just witnessed the Transfiguration where Moses and Elijah showed up in glory to radiate with Jesus.
I know, Peter says. Let me build three shelters - one for each of you.
As if they're going to stay on the mountain awhile.
And who wouldn't want to? This seems like the peak (forgive the pun) of everything. Here stands Jesus in all His glory with the confirming witness of Moses and Elijah, the figures of the Jewish faith. This is certainly everything you're ever going to get about Jesus; this is His moment. It's the perfect place to set up camp and just let things be as they are gloriously going to be. This is it!
But Jesus, of course, has other plans. He's not planning to stay on the mountain; He doesn't intend this to be the shining (another horrible pun) moment of His entire ministry. He knows that His work and His real glory will be exposed not on the mountain, but in the valley; He has to go back to the people, to the streets, to the shores, to real life as we know it.
It's a familiar experience for us. We all have our mountaintop moments. Our faith retreats or revival weekends where we come so face-to-face with the glory of God that we know that this is it, this is the greatest revelation in our entire lives of who He is. We want to build shelters there and stay awhile. Certainly, there's nothing else we need to know, nothing we need to have away from this place. This is it!
We have our mementos and tshirts and journal entries and all the little things we do to remind ourselves of the mountaintop, and we go home, reluctantly, promising ourselves that we will not only never forget this moment, but we will never lose it. We are on fire for Christ and it's always going to be this way, from now on and forever, for we have built ourselves a new home on the mountain, put a little shelter around it, and that's where we're saying.
But of course, it doesn't work that way. And it shouldn't. Because Jesus didn't make us to live on mountains; He made us for the people, for the streets, for the shores. For real life as we know it. And that's the challenge that keeps getting to us, the one that makes this faith thing so hard - we have to figure out how to have a mountaintop faith in a real life that spends most of its time in the valleys. And it's hard.
Like Peter, we're constantly saying, I know! Let me build a shelter here, but true to form, Jesus calls back, Let's not. Let's go back and get our feet dirty again. And so our feet get dirty, then our faces, then our faith, and then, remind us again why the shelters we proposed weren't better than this?
Because this is where love lives. This is where faith really happens. This is where life grows. The mountain feels like everything, but this...the valley, the street, the shore, the people...this is it. This is what we were made for.