And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. – Mark 9:4-6 (NRSV)
Poor Peter, to have these fumbling words about building tents memorialized forever. I imagine Peter here as being starstruck, like someone unexpectedly bumping into Senator Elizabeth Warren at the airport and blurting out, “You walk really fast.”
Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything…
When we come face to face with people we admire, it’s only natural to be at a loss for words. We project on our icons all the best qualities of humanity and forget that they are human beings too. Elijah and Moses were both human beings, subject to fear and self-doubt. They cried out to God for help and lamented at how inadequate they were to their calling. And yet even so, they stand surrounded in the glorious light of Christ.
It’s okay to admire great people. It’s okay to intend to break forth in a psalm of praise equal to the Magnificat or Nunc Dimittis, but wind up offering to build Moses a tent instead.
But just remember, you are a child of God, with a calling as holy and unique as that of Moses, or Elijah. You can do great things, just as they did.
God, illuminate me with the light of the saints.
John Edgerton is Lead Pastor at First United Church of Oak Park, Illinois.