I read a great book recently called, ‘Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.’ It was written in 2012 by Susan Cain, who was a New York City corporate lawyer trying to figure out her place as a listen first, speak softly second, introvert within a career and world that seemed to celebrate being the loudest, most outgoing, most aggressive person in the room. While introverts tend to garner most of their energy from solitude or smaller groups, extroverts tend to be energized by more social interactions.
Her research, stories, and thoughts beckon the reader to learn some interesting facts and ask some great questions. Did you know that most research suggests that between 1/3 and ½ of all humans are introverted? Another interesting study has to do with biological sensitivity to the outside world. In short, introverted people seem to be more sensitive to sensory experiences including seeing, listening, feeling, tasting, and even smelling. This works within interpersonal relationships as well. Introverted people may not be the first people to speak, or the most charismatic leaders, but they do tend to listen actively, and even observe other people’s body language and facial expressions better than others.
Many great questions, not only the surface level questions of how to celebrate introverted people, but also some deeper, possibly theological questions, are presented. Why did God create people with different personalities? How are we, as children of God, supposed to use our uniqueness to glorify God? How can we love others as God loves us?
This book got me thinking not only about my own experience of the outside world, but about others as well. Have you ever wondered why you don’t seem to fit in at times? Ever wonder why some people naturally get along better with others? Ever wonder if some of the slightest things about you, the way you look, sound, or even smell, are being noticed by others?
A lot more people than we give credit wrestle with these questions. All of us at one point or time struggle with who we are and how the world perceives us. Why can’t we look like the models on TV? Why can’t we be as gregarious as the popular kids in school? Why do we tend to mess things up during family gatherings, or at work, or even at church? Why can’t we be more like George Clooney or Taylor Swift?
One thing I’m convinced of more and more as I read the scriptures is how God uses these very people, who have asked many of those same questions, to do God’s work here on earth. Today we read about Moses, a man who was slow of speech and a murderer, who was called by God to help deliver the people of Israel from bondage. We read of Jesus and his disciples, who were just a few moments previous to following Jesus working menial jobs as they struggled in the day to day living of the biblical lower and middle class. Yet despite all of these social shortcomings, God used these people for nothing short of miracles in this world.
Our faces say it all. I love the stories with Moses. I find it intriguing to read about him as a leader of the Israelites. Time and time again Moses seems to be beaten down by the day to day rigors of leadership; whether it is by the hardening of pharaoh’s heart, or the constant complaining of his people. Plagues, threats, chase scenes, hunger and starvation, even idols; and yet here is Moses, waking up each day and saying, ‘here I am God; use me.’
Today we read of Moses coming down from Mount Sinai after spending 40 days and 40 nights with God. You see, there was this ‘thing’ with the previous 10 commandments, and the tablets broke, and someone said the dog did it, but we know what happened: Moses lost his temper.
Anyways, Moses goes back up the mountain, talks with God about all that happened, and God writes on two new tablets. Moses is able to spend some quality time with God once again on Mount Sinai, and when he comes down his face shines so much so that his own people are afraid. You see, Moses was one who knew God, and the people listened. They could see it on his face.
In a pretty similar way our gospel story this morning celebrates the Transfiguration of the Lord, or the changing of Jesus while being on the mountaintop. The story according to Luke tells us that Jesus went up to the top of the mountain with three of his disciples: Peter, James, and John. When they were on top of the mountain they encountered a miraculous site: Jesus was transfigured before their eyes, and Moses and Elijah, two of the greatest leaders of the Israeli faith, were with him.
We read in verse 29 & 30:
“And while [Jesus] was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly [Peter, James, and John] saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. “
Now Peter, bless his heart, did not know what to do. Like many of us would want to do, he wanted to mark this occasion for history; I guess the modern day equivalent would be a selfie or a status update? Anyways, God wanted to set the record straight as we read in verses 34-36:
“While [Peter] was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.”
Today we celebrate this story each year as the moment that Jesus was identified not just as a great teacher, but as the very Son of God. Peter, James, and John were witnesses to this miracle, and were given new understanding as to who and what Jesus is all about.
I wonder what their faces were like when they were coming down that mountain with Jesus. Yes, we know that Jesus face was shining on top of the mountain, but I wonder about Peter, James, and John. We know they kept silent about what happened on top of the mountain, but what did their faces say? What did their unspoken actions say?
Have you ever had something you just couldn’t wait to blurt out, but you weren’t supposed to? Maybe a surprise, or a secret, or fantastic news? I remember a few Christmases ago when my brother came to visit at my parents’ home. I knew something was up; the energy in the room when he arrived was just too high! Finally, he gave a Christmas card to my mom, and inside was the news: her present was on its way, in the form of a new granddaughter! That was it! And even my brother, who can hold a straight face with the best of them, could barely contain his joy and excitement.
I bet this is how Peter, James, and John looked when they came down from that mountain…like the cat that ate the canary. I’m sure that there were some quick glances between them and Jesus every now and again, maybe even a quick smile. How amazing it must have felt, to have experienced such a thing. And then how frustrating it must have been only to be told not to tell anyone about what happened!
And you know what else I wonder about? I wonder about the introverts in the rooms where these guys hung out afterwards. I wonder about those extra sensitive people; if they figured things out, even if Peter, James, John, or Jesus wouldn’t talk about what happened on that mountain. I’m sure they knew that something was askew, even if no one would tell them differently. Later, after Jesus would ultimately give his life on the cross and be resurrected, Peter would have his opportunity to share who, exactly, Jesus was.
Here lies the challenge, opportunity, and Good News of such stories in our lives here today. Here we have the story of Moses and Jesus, both whose faces shined by the presence of God. Their very faces communicated the presence of God in the world. Peter, James, and John, would certainly have been changed by this momentous occasion. Nothing would be said. Yet, despite nothing being said officially, no dwellings being built, no selfies taken to mark the occasion; the glory of God would be celebrated. It showed in their faces. It showed in their actions following these mountain top experiences. It showed in their daily living. God would be glorified.
And this is the Good News today for us some 2000 years later. We may not come face to face with God, but we are witnesses, along with Peter, James, and John, to Jesus the Christ, who was transfigured on top of the mountain that day. We may not be able to quite put the appropriate words to it, but our faces should say it all. Our relationships should say it all. Our lives should tell the Good News of God’s saving love in Christ Jesus.
We are not perfect beings. In fact, we are much like Moses or Peter, James, or John. We have messed up often in this world. We have regrets, and doubts, and fears. We don’t always say the right thing, or do the right thing, or think the right thing. We often wish we could be more like George Cloony or Taylor Swift.
But we worship a God who claims each and every person on this earth as children of God. Whether we are introverted or extroverted, well spoken or slow to speech, faithful or with doubts, God claims us all, and uses us all to share the Good News in Christ. And the best part of all of this: we can share the Good News with all who will listen!
May our witness to the glory of Christ be honest and genuine. May God bless us in calling us to be messengers of this Good News. May our faces say it all.