You’re watching an old movie and the scene is a fancy dance. The ladies are sumptuously gowned and Our Heroine is sitting decorously at the side of the room. Our Hero comes around a corner, sees her, walks up and holds out his hand. Because this is a movie, the music begins, she takes his hand, rises to her feet, and they begin to dance.
It’s a story we know from the movies and there’s a certain level of awwww and, for those who have experienced it, a rememberance of the fluttery just-a-little-bit-nervous, I-hope-I-don’t-screw-up fear that makes those moments so special.
So what does this have to do with the Mount of Transfiguration? Just this, when Jesus tells Pete and the gang “get up and do not be afraid,” he’s holding out his hand to a dance partner.
In the Greek what he says is “be raised up and do not fear.” The word for “raised up” is the same one used by the angels several chapters later when they tell the women “He has been raised from the dead.” It can be well translated as “arise,” “rise up,” and even “be resurrected.”
The connection with our movie dance scene is that Part of what Our Hero does in reaching out his hand to Our Heroine is to help her rise up. Part of his invitation to her is for her to be brave, to not fear, and to begin something new and moving and passionate together. The invitation is for a living, moving, being kind of life and not just an intellectual understanding of the whichness of whatnot. It is a physical, embodied, living thing to which she is invited.
The invitation to dance is an invitation to trust because in this dance she has to trust his lead and follow it. When he begins the steps for a turn she needs to be ready to step through the figure. She cannot dance with her mind alone, she dances with her whole self. And the beginning of the dance is that moment when she puts her hand in the hand of her partner, rises up, and is not afraid.
Peter and the disciples had just such an invitation on the holy mountain. More to the point, you and I have this invitation today. Jesus comes to us with his hand out hoping for us to put our hand in his, rise up, and dance. This is not an easy invitation to receive and respond to because it feels scary. Do we trust this guy? Will he lead us right? Will we be able to follow through? Can we do it right?
We tense up, we want to dart away, we’re nervous, and excited, and a whole lot of other emotions we cannot even understand. But, and here’s the kicker: this is the one invitation we can never screw up. The answer that comes from our deepest and truest self will be exactly right. We will be able to follow the lead, follow through, and dance the great dance.
This is the invitation we recieve from the one person in all the cosmos who is willing to offer his hand again and again in the face of our rejection. The one who will delight in our halting steps and determination to lead in the dance, and neither let us go nor leave us on the sidelines.
Rise up and do not fear.
The music swells.