There is a story told about Jesus and a few of his followers. He has been healing and making pronouncements, calming storms and feeding thousand, and then he takes a few of his disciples up on a mountain, at which point he begins to pray only to be transformed into an appearance that can only be likened to lightning and his friends Moses and Elijah show up for the occasion.
(insert record scratch)
For me this story appears to serve no purpose. I have already suspended a lot disbelief, I’ve gone along with the miracles and enigmatic statements, but this story is beyond belief.
Peter, the only disciple inspired to say something, is like, “uhhhh…should we build some shelters for these guys?” Peter seems to think one of two things: either he is spectacularly practical and he believes that perhaps weather will come upon them and they will need shelter, or perhaps Jesus will stay there forever with Moses and Elijah and perhaps people will want to come see them…sort of like a sight seeing exhibit…only with lightning.
Its at this point that a cloud shows up, a voice speaks about Jesus being God’s son, and then its over.
The hilarious moment in this story is the disciples reaction. At first it sounds like an act of humility: “The disciples kept this to themselves and did not tell anyone at that time what they had seen,” however, I would argue that they kept it to themselves because people would ask them what kind of drugs they were on…probably assuming they were good ones.
Its interesting that the story describes Jesus’ appearance as “lightning.”
Lightning is fast.
Lightning moves at the speed of light.
Between 1907 and 1915 Einstein developed the theory of relativity. Up to this point people thought that speed could be measured, the universe functioned according to very linear systems. Einstein starts saying stuff like space is curved and starts to offer brand new ideas about the paradoxes of the universe.
Unlike a car, or a person walking, you cannot “measure” the speed of light in a conventional way, because light always moves at the speed of light. No matter how fast you move or whatever, light will always be coming at you at the same speed: the speed of light. Whether it’s the lamp in a room, or the light emitted by dead stars a few galaxies over, light moves at a constant speed, and it is relentless.
Perhaps I fail to understand the nuances of light, but light and the way it functions blows a huge hole in the way one understands the universe. It is nearly impossible to understand in terms of conventional language.
As crazy as light is, maybe it tells us more about the universe than Einstein intended it to: the difference between chronos and kairos.
Every bit of life is divided into sequences of time: chronos. It’s seconds, minutes, hours, days…millennia etc. Chronos may be intangible, but we can feel it. The pressure of a deadline, or when someone you love only has a few moments left. So much stress and anxiety is directly the result of the intangible yet ever present chronos. And yet, this measure of time is inadequate.
There is another greek term for time: kairos. Kairos is not about quantity, it is about a quality of time. Kairos happens when you lose track of time. It happens when you get lost in a conversation with a dear friend, or with someone you love, kairos sneaks up on you when you get lost in nature, or in your passion for life or art, or family.
Kairos is God’s time.
It is a kind of time that transcends time. It not a time that measure how long you have been a live, it measures whether or not you have really lived.
It would be absurd to ask questions like, “what speed is that painting?” because art does not exist in the realm of chronos, it is in the reality of kairos.
How long were your child’s first steps?
How deep is a sunset?
What speed does love or grace move at?
The answer is kairos.
On the mountain with Jesus, the disciples do not know what they saw. Maybe it happened in a flash and it was over, or maybe it lasted for a while, but what they saw appeared as lightning, or was it the speed of light…or was it that for a brief moment they stepped out of chronos and into kairos and into the realm of God.
Perhaps it is no wonder they didn’t tell anyone, and perhaps it wasn’t fear, or ignorance, but awareness that whatever they just saw it was to be treasured.
It is interesting to me that one of the ways the Bible talks about sin is business. There are a lot of verbs about sin. Maybe a way to understand this is that sin is moving so fast that we fail to slow down long enough to touch, taste, hear, or feel the kairos that is around us all the time. Maybe sin is not engaging in some activity we shouldn’t, but rather, missing out on the miracles that are perpetually happening right under our nose.
Is it possible that the life God has for us is not busy but present?
Is it possible that instead of measuring, quantifying, and planning the life God has for us is one of wonder?
I wonder, if I can learn to see the world in this way, a world filled with kairos, if I will be forced to stand in awe and see the lightning and declare, “that just happened…wow!”