Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters – one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” Mark 9:5
Peter’s awkward suggestion to put up three shelters on the mount of transfiguration presents us with a striking metaphor of our human tendency to try and capture the glory of God. It teaches us that God not only reveals himself to us in extraordinary ways at times, but also that we find it exceedingly difficult to deal with such revelations.
The history of the Christian church contains a number of remarkable and exceptional accounts of God’s intervention in human lives and churches. More than one supernatural incident has been reported by eye witnesses of the great revivals of previous centuries, and also by biographers of John Wesley, Andrew Murray and others.
However, church history also records that for every transfiguration a cluster of shelters is left behind. When the glory departs the shelters remain as hollow shrines – grim testimonies of our doomed efforts to prolong divine visitations, or even fabricate them.
These shelters come in many shapes and sizes, and usually differ from denomination to denomination. What they have in common is the underlying assumption that we are responsible to house the Spirit of God somehow, to make him stay with us, to possess and own him. We can try and do so by containing God in our creeds, in the imagery and statues of our buildings, or by scheduling healings and miracles as though God’s power is a magic at our disposal.
Let us remind ourselves that Jesus once likened the work of the Spirit to the wind, blowing when and where it wishes. We can capture God’s sovereign Spirit no more than we can catch the wind.