Tents are curious things. They are certainly not for those who like a comfortable life. They barely keep out the wind and rain and are not centrally heated like most of our homes. They are created usually for people on the move.
And that is exactly what they were for the Israelites who were a nomadic people before they found the promised land. They were a people on the move, living not in cities and towns, not sleeping in beds or homes but dwelling in tents, journeying to a land which they would eventually settle. Later on in their history they would look back to this as a golden time as Abraham had set out and become a nomad living from a tent and Israel doing the same, leaving Egypt and doing the same, these were golden times where they completely depended on God for everything and travelled with little, living not in houses and joiurneying by day and night. From their settled life in towns and cities they looked back on this as a golden time in their history.
The tent appears in the reading of the Gospel. Peter asks Jesus does he want him to make a tent one for Jesus and one for Moses and one for Elijah. The tent also had another purpose for the Israelites: while travelling through the desert they put their most holy things in a special tent, it was the place they put the ark of the covenant which contained 10 commandments. The Jewish word for tent is tabernacle and of course we still use this word to be the place where our most holy thing , the Eucharist is kept and reserved. Peter’s request is strange to us but it is a request to put the most holy prophets and the holy one, Jesus, in a special place of reservation that they might be honoured.
In the transfiguration Peter, James and John are invited into this tent of blessing. They are invited into this special place that covers them to see the glory of God. They are invited to climb the mountain and be in this place.
The Christian message is an announcement of this, there is the one merciful God who invites us into his one tent. No one is left out, all are invited to come in and shelter from the noon day sun, all are invited to rest in this place, all can settle under this awning.
Its principally a message of welcome, no one is to be left out of the tent in which his glorious presence is revealed.
So often in the past we have done that. People who don’t hold our beliefs. People who don’t fit in with our rules. People who don’t look like us. They are excluded and kept out. People who are not like us.
There is only one tent which is big enough for all. There is only one tent to gather us all in. No one should be shunted out, no one should have to fight for their place. God is rich in mercy, there are many rooms in his house, there is enough rich pasture and living waters for all. All can come and dwell in his tent and see his glory.