The Church vs. The Message
Which is the most important?
Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, "Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah" - not knowing what he said. Luke 9: 32-34
It must have been an awe-inspiring sight: Moses, Jesus, and Elijah. Luke tells us that the three men "appeared in glory" and were discussing Christ's departure. Certainly, it must have been a dream.
The Transfiguration of Christ is a difficult event to understand. Whenever we read this passage of scripture, we, too, are filled with awe, and we sometimes do not understand why. Like Peter, we realize that the event is miraculous and special. We know that the event has special meaning; and, like Peter, we know that something must be done to preserve its importance. We just do not know what that something is.
The Transfiguration of Christ is simply a personification of Christ's mission on earth: to fulfill the law and the prophets. Moses is present to represent the law. Elijah is present to represent the prophets. Jesus is present because he is the Alpha and the Omega. Once Christ is crucified, buried, and resurrected, the promises made in both the law and the prophets will have been established. The world is now under the New Covenant that we have through Jesus Christ.
In his zeal to preserve the moment, Peter suggests that three dwellings or perhaps temples be constructed to mark the site. Soon after this statement is made, God speaks. His message is simple, "This is my Son. Listen to him!"
Peter was interested in the preservation of the site. In his mind, Peter was thinking of a way to establish another religious ritual. As humans, we love rituals and traditions. Religious traditions have value in that these activities keep us connected with the roots of our faith. However, rituals and traditions can quickly become superficial, and we lose our perspective.
Have your faith become superficial? Has the Church become more important than the message? In the book of Revelation, Christ tells the Church at Laodicea that they are "lukewarm." The church is neither hot nor cold. A church becomes "lukewarm" when the members forget the importance of the message. These churches spend time looking for ways to beautify the building and arguing over what kind of flowers to plant. As a result, these churches cease to become salt and light to a hurting world. They refrain from acting as the hands and feet of Christ. The message for these congregations is no longer important.
Churches may also lose focus of the message. These congregations become too legalistic and spend time enforcing laws. It is as if Christ's mission on earth never occurred. Instead of listening to Christ and the message of the New Testament, legalistic congregations try to find salvation through the law of Moses and forget that this law was fulfilled in Christ. It is now time to listen to Jesus.
Therefore, the church and the message are both important as long as we are there to listen to Christ. What is Jesus saying in your church?