About Me

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Knoxville, TN, United States
Interim Pastor of Evergreen Presbyterian Church (USA), Dothan, AL.

Sunday, February 11, 2024

Shut Up and Dance


The Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit has been described as a dance.

Usually, we dance with our feet.

But your heart can also dance. You can dance with your spirit, dance with your soul.

Today, the Apostle Peter learns an important lesson.

When God is with you, when you don't know what to say,

Sometimes, you just have to shut up and dance.


9:2 Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them,

9:3 and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them.

9:4 And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus.

9:5 Then Peter said to Jesus, "Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah."

9:6 He did not know what to say, for they were terrified.

9:7 Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, "This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!"

9:8 Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.

9:9 As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.

I can still remember the words of the old, classic song:

Players gonna play.

Haters gonna hate.

Fakers gonna fake.

And, as T-Swift and Trav know all too well, PEOPLE gonna talk. 

People are sure talking a lot about THEM these days.

PEOPLE gonna talk. 

That's what people DO

CHURCH people talk. 

Church people talk a LOT. 

We talk about each OTHER. 

We talk about people in those OTHER churches. 

We talk about UNCHURCHED people and how to get 'em in here before there's nobody left. 

Churches talk about GOD.

We talk about JESUS. 

Sometimes, we talk TO them.



You know, in case they need a hand.

Church folks are HELPFUL like that.

In the scripture today, St. PETER talks.

PETER wants to be helpful.

He wants to help GOD out.

It's true, as it says, "He did not know what to say."

But he's not about to let THAT get in the way.

On that day of most MIRACULOUS sights and sounds, with the Mount Rushmore of heroes of faith before him, Peter chose to offer God suggestions on how it might be IMPROVED.

Too scared to run away,

he decided to run his mouth instead.

People gonna talk, talk, talk.

Especially in those times when we ought to just shut up and DANCE.

Let's think for a moment about what was so terrifying to Peter.

It says:

And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus.

We Christians are pretty familiar with Moses. Ten Commandments, burning bush, leading the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. Moses we know.

Here's Caucasian Moses, from his movie. 

Whether or not we actually FOLLOW his Commandments, we know Moses.

ELIJAH, probably not so much. 

In the Hebrew Bible, the Jewish faith, Elijah is the GREATEST prophet of them all.

In fact, Elijah was SO great God wouldn't let him die. 

God sent the sweet chariot to swing low and carry Elijah home. 

Second Kings, chapter 2.

Here's an artist's rendering. By Giuseppe Angeli (1712 - 1798). 

Every year at PASSOVER, in Jewish households, at the Seder meal, a place is set and a glass of wine is poured for Elijah.

A CHAIR'S left empty for him, and the DOOR is left open – and the CHILDREN are told to watch for him. 

He might come back. 

To THEIR house.

Here's one artist's idea of how it might look if Elijah came to YOUR house, children. 

Not scary at all.

On the high mountain set apart, with Peter, James, and John as witnesses, Elijah AND Moses come back and have a CONVERSATION with Jesus. 

JESUS thus takes his place alongside the two greatest figures of his faith.

This is Raphael's vision of how it might have looked.

It's a little scary, too.

Jesus starts to GLOW. 

His CLOTHES become dazzling white. 

Dark CLOUDS gather and God's voice THUNDERS. 

This is like an INAUGURATION, plus a CORONATION, times infinity.

This is GOD. 

God is confirming EVERYTHING about God's ONLY Son, the Savior, the Messiah, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Down at the bottom of the painting are the DISCIPLES. Shading their eyes, covering their faces. TERRIFIED.


St. Peter Bless-His-Heart. 

Peter just can't HELP himself. 

Peter's a PREACHER, and preachers gonna preach, preach, preach, preach, preach. 

We're gonna say SOMETHING because we feel like it's our JOB to say something, even if we don't know WHAT to say. 

Preacher Peter does NOT disappoint. 

Then Peter said to Jesus, "Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah."

What does that even mean? 


It means NOTHING. 

It's NOISE. 

A tower of BABBLING. 

And God says, "Peter, HUSH your mouth."

This is a TRUE story. 

It happened a long time ago.

My friend was PASTOR at the University of Tennessee Presbyterian Center.

One day, driving on campus, he got in a fender-bender CAUSED by – this is true – a young PEYTON MANNING. 

For those of you who don't know, Peyton Manning used to play FOOTBALL at UT, where he was criminally robbed of a Heisman. 

But we don't talk about that. 

Back in college, Peyton turned a corner a little too wide and SIDESWIPED my friend's car. 

Peyton gets out and makes sure my friend's OK, apologizes, and then hands my friend his DAD'S business card.

He writes Archie's PERSONAL cell number on it, and says, 

"Just call my dad. He'll get everything straightened out." 

I know it's true because my friend SHOWED me the card. 

I said, "So, did you CALL?" 

He said, "Are you KIDDING?" 

He says, "What am I going to say… to GOD?"

I don't know. 

Nationwide is on your side? 

See? I can't help myself. Just like Peter. 


We use so many WORDS, sometimes biblically STUPID words, to talk ABOUT God.

And I can't help but think God must want to say, HUSH, y'all.

We say words ABOUT God instead of listening FOR God's Word.

And because we're so BUSY spewing hot air, we MISS the cool breeze of the Holy Spirit.

We LOSE the moment.

When we should just shut up and DANCE.

The EARLIEST Christians tried to talk about God.

They thought of God as ONE, but in three PERSONS: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

God in Three Persons, blessed Trinity.

And we're GRATEFUL for their words.

Except, we start stumbling over the PHYSICS.

How DOES a Trinity work? 

How do you TALK about it?

And what these early Christian Fathers discovered is what we're STILL discovering: 

The more words you SAY about God, the LESS they mean.

We're describing a holy MYSTERY that CAN'T be housed in words alone.

Just like Peter found out – 

God can't be confined to WORDS, or a DWELLING, not even THREE of them.

But those early Christians were SMART.

They looked around and saw people DANCING, like at weddings.

They thought about COINS spinning round and round. 

Where the MANY begins to blur into ONE.

And they began to think of God as spinning, as movement, as a DANCE. 

They even invented a word for it: PERICHORESIS, which is Greek for "dance around." 

They saw God in three persons, but never three wallflowers waiting for to be asked.

They described God as ALWAYS out there, ALWAYS moving, ALWAYS changing, ALWAYS alive. 

And they thought about how 

when people get to dancing, 

we just naturally want to invite OTHERS to join in.

Even today. Even this day, God's inviting us to take part.

God's inviting US to join in creation's dance – with GOD – with Each OTHER.

First John chapter 4 says "God is love."

And being in love makes your heart – makes OUR hearts – DANCE.

Personally, I'm kinda awkward when it comes to dancing.

Maybe I'm just afraid of looking stupid.

I like the dances that come with INSTRUCTIONS.

It HELPS to have a few rules. REDUCES injuries.

Like that song that goes, 

right foot let's stomp

Left foot let's stomp 

Cha Cha real smooth

I can't do that one, either, but HERE'S the thing.

I MIGHT be able to memorize the words.

I MIGHT know what the instructions mean, theoretically.

I MIGHT be able to describe how the dance looks at a wedding reception when everyone gets funky with it.

But UNTIL you get out on the floor, you're not dancing; you're just THINKING about dancing.

You're just TALKING about it.


But not DOING it.

Until you actually get OUT there, surrounded by OTHERS, doing the steps TOGETHER, 

it's just WORDS.

And GOD deserves BETTER than empty words.

I think it's fair to say that when CHURCHES get all caught up, like PETER did, in saying WORDS,

When churches get tongue-tied just REPEATING instructions, we miss the point.

It's just FRIGHTENED babbling.

Faith becomes more about RELIGIOUSLY keeping the rules than LIVING the religious experience. 

Talking ABOUT Jesus instead of listening TO him.

Words, words, words, words, words –

Words instead of actually taking PART in the miraculous, and often very SCARY, dance of life, 

Joining in those blessed moments happening RIGHT now, 

in the DANCE Going on RIGHT in front of our eyes.

Verse 8 says:

Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.

Could it be that the whole, swirling scene blurred into the ONE – the Savior, the Lord?

Could it be that the Holy Spirit IS just naturally BLURRY?

The blessed moments of life are ones when we stop trying to CAPTURE the moment, 

The blessed moments of life are ones when we stop trying to SAY the RIGHT things, 

MIRACULOUS things happen when we stop worrying about looking SILLY.

In our most blessed moments GOD reaches out a hand

And without saying a word,