A Worthy Booth
The Rev. Jon Roberts
Good Shepherd Episcopal Church
28 Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And as he was praying, the appearance of his countenance was altered, and his raiment became dazzling white. And behold, two men talked with him, Moses and Eli′jah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep, and when they wakened they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. And as the men were parting from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is well that we are here; let us make three booths, one for you and one for Moses and one for Eli′jah”—not knowing what he said. As he said this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silence and told no one in those days anything of what they had seen.
Saint Valentine of Terni oversees the construction of his basilica at Terni, from a 14th century French manuscript (BN, Mss fr. 185)
A worthy booth
is a work of art;
What makes it worthy,
is that it resides
within the canvas of your heart.
A booth is a place reserved for those we love. It is eternal, It is sweet. It is fragrant. It is meet, so, it is only right to look upon the canvas of our heart on a day that embodies passion. This is a day we recall those elementary years. When we swap valentines with our school mates. When we give or receive our first rose. February the fourteenth is Valentine’s Day. Have you reserved a place in your heart for those you love?
Four symbols come to mind and they blend together like paints on a work of art. First, there is the ring. It has become a tradition for many to be wed with this symbol. The band of marriage is made complete with vows and the symbol of the ring. The ring is circular; a symbol of eternity, and it is placed on the finger which some claim is, the only one, connected to the vein that leads directly to the heart. There is no beginning and no end, and that is why the husband and wife vow to love each other in sickness and health until parted this earthly life by death.
The second thing one might recall on Valentine's Day is chocolate for it is sweet. It stirs our senses and invokes amore, desire and passion. It also stirs our desire for surprises. Some have claimed that life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you might find inside.
Third, is a rose. Beautiful to the sight, fragrant to our smell. When given to the one we love, it says, "You are beautiful," and therefore deserving to be loved.
Finally, a piece of peppermint. It is so good, so right and meet for any occasion. We put it in our mouth and we savor it. We taste it until there is nothing left and if it leaves us wanting more, all we have to do is revisit the candy jar.
Along with these symbols of love, there is also a desire to protect them and keep them safe. A ring should never be lost. We keep it on our finger or we put it where we know we can find it. Chocolate, as delicious as it is, will not last if we do not show restraint. A rose is of course stemmed by thorns. Its crest residing safely above. Candy has a wrapper twisted tight, keeping all hands off until due time.
This is where we bring in the image of the booth. It's a box, basically. It was a tradition that carried over into our day, as those who are put in the ground at death are put in a coffin, a bier, or a booth. It's a place where you put all your symbols of love, along with the remains of the one you love. But love is a verb, not a noun. Love, says St. Paul is the greatest of all, but even Paul would say you can't build a booth around it. It's not a concession stand either. You can't build a box and say it is for sell. If we do the value of our faith and hope is based on our will, not God's.
St. Valentine, as we know him, was never the patron of lovers, as many would think. This is a structure we have built around this day, but he was passionate in regards to his love for the church. He was never actually one person but rather several Christians who went by the same name. He's the one in the 3rd century who was martyred, beaten because of his desire to convert a pagan emperor. His love cost him his life. He's the one in the 15th century who was made bishop of Terne, in Italy and desired to build a basilica for those to come and worship God. Love comes from faith, and faith is always lived out in our actions. Many times we don't know how else to love and serve the Lord unless we take the time to build him up.
This was what was going on with Peter, James and John in our Gospel today. They had the privilege to witness the transformation of Christ. When they saw him pray, they could tell something that had been held close was loosened; something that was restrained was freed, something out of reach was touched, something wrapped tight was opened. Everything that the Law and the prophets spoke about was now in front of them and they wanted to honor God. So what's the problem with honoring God by building a booth? It wasn't for Jesus because he entered up into the cloud. He was being prepared for his resurrection. The booth was merely a means to visit his last whereabouts. The problem is that we think Jesus is somewhere up in the clouds, when he is right here in your heart. There, within a beautiful work of art.
Next week, we are going to enter into a time of Lent. A time of great prayer. Forty days and forty nights full. In the wilderness of your soul you will find the love of God. Know that it is eternal, it is sweet, it is fragrant and it is meet. Build a booth that is worthy for God to live within. The canvas of your heart is ready for Him to paint. Let the color and beauty of His son Jesus, reside in you on this Valentine's Day.
 The Rev. Jon Roberts
 Luke 9:28-36