Mountains We Have Climbed
The Transfiguration in 4 Movements
- Jesus is tranfigured, that is, transformed and changed on the mountain. His face literally glows and shines a dazzling white!
- And the disciples almost miss it! They are falling asleep!
- There is a sense of mystery in the story. And mystery is alluring; it draws us into the story.
- Story begs us to ask: What is going on here?
- We know what will happen to Jesus and so in hindsight this transformation isn’t even as profound as resurrection. But try to put that out of your mind for a moment. Try to imagine you have never seen something like this before. This is some mystical, cosmic, divine experience. It’s like God speaking to Job out of the whirlwind. It’s like god delivering the commandments to Moses on my Sinai. It’s like God passing by Elijah on the mountainside… this is the epitome of a mountain top experience!
- The Mountain is the place to encounter God, to see God, to witness to the glory of Jesus. Whatever mountain you are on, God awaits you on the mountain…not at the base of the mountain, but on the way up the mountain and most especially at the top! Mountains are not just struggles and challenges and goals and barriers to be overcome. Mountains are opportunities to see the face of God!
- Now Jesus climbs the mountain and notice he does just what we have talked about the past few weeks. He sets out, one foot in front of the other. He takes his supplies and support.
- Jesus doesn’t go alone up mountain. Moses Elijah and the disciples.
- These are representative people. Moses – the law; Elijah – the prophets; Jesus – the Christ; Disciples – the Church. All are present. All are pulled together into a unity on the mountain. Jesus has come to fulfill the law and prophets. Jesus has come for continuity of law, prophets, and church.
- Past, Present, Future are represented – Fulfillment of law and prophets (past) in Christ (present) through church (future) as a way forward.
- Peter finally wakes up completely, he misses what Jesus and Moses and Elijah were talking about (namely that Jesus was about to embark upon his final journey) and Peter immediately wants to build booth. Peter wants to celebrate this event, to memorialize it, to even hold onto it for awhile. But look at what happens…!
- God swoops down in the form of a cloud and slaps Peter upside the head and says: “C’mon man, you’re missing the point.” Well, that’ not exactly what happens, but it’s pretty close. god says, “This is my Son, I chose him; so listen to him” (v. 35). He’s gotta go down the mountain and get moving because the resurrection is coming. This isn’t the time to celebrate on the mountain. We can’t get comfortable and complacent at the mountain top. Sure it’s nice. But the mountain top is about motivation to change the world!
- However, the disciples never get Jesus own words about his impending death, so, of course, they are just as confused by God’s words from the cloud at the top of the mountain.
- Moses and Elijah Disappear. The disciples head down the mountain…and…NOTHING…SIL
- Jesus has transfigured, transformed, changed on the mountain. But the disciples….nothing…notta…same old disciples. Scripture says they kept silent and told no one any of the things they had seen. Jesus had been transformed. But the disciples not so much. If they had been transformed by this experience, then they would be spreading this gospel message to everyone! They would come down from the mountain praising and proclaiming the good news. But they seem to be paralyzed, unchanged. Still wishing they could linger on the mountain in the booths, I suppose. Nothing. silence.
- They walk down the mountain silent and unchanged and find a father and a child gasping for life. And those disciples can’t (or don’t) do anything. Because haven’t been transformed. But Jesus has, and Jesus can and Jesus does. He heals the boy, and gives him back to his father. And so the father and son are quite literally transformed. And so it is with us.
- If we are not changed by the gospel, by Christ’s glory, then we will be like the disciples – unable to do much of anything! But if we are transformed (as Christ was on the mountain), then we will be able to do miracles!
Seeing Jesus, experiencing Jesus, knowing Jesus means coming down from the mountain boldly proclaiming some good news and acting on it. As Heidi Neumark has ssaid, “living high up in the rarefied air isn’t the point of transfiguration…. [the mountain was] never meant as a private experience of spirituality removed from the public square [from people, from our community].” The mountain offers us a vision to carry us down transformed, changed, and sharing that with the everyone we come across back at the foot of the mountain. The mountain offers us a glimpse of possibility of what the world could look like and feel like if the pray “on earth as it is in heaven” were fulfilled. And we should leave the mountain ready to help God usher in that divine possibility.
But some of us don’t want to be transformed. Some of us want to sit back. Some of us want to stay on the mountain. Some of us want to, as Dr. MLK jr would say, remain silent behind the anesthetizing security of stained-glass windows. We don’t really want to share the good news. We want things to stay the same. We don’t want to change. We don’t act as if we want others to change.
Some of us just want to keep doing the same thing, over and over again. Some of us have built a booth right here in this church. A comfortable tabernacle to feel good about ourselves.
Some of us are content with where we are in our faith journey. We don’t want to be transformed. Some of us don’t think we can grow anymore. Some of us don’t think we need to grow anymore. We’ve grown all we need. We’ve done our part. It’s time for others.
And the truth is there are people like that father and son gasping for breath. And we are literally watching them die…physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
If we want to follow Jesus, then we have to climb the mountain, see the glory at the top and then come down transformed – changed and ready to change more! And that transformation, that change will empower us, like Jesus, to heal all those gasping for breath at the foot of the mountain.
You cannot be an agent of transformation until you yourself have been changed by the gospel.
Ask yourself: In what real, measurable ways am I transformed? In what real, measurable ways am I transforming my community?
If you’ve been to the mountain top, then it’s time to come down. Embrace transformation. Embrace change. And become an agent of transformation at the base of the mountain. Cause somebody around here needs you. Yes you! Somebody need you and their life is depending on you!
Turn to your neighbor and say, “Somebody needs you!” Turn to you other neighbor and say, “Somebody needs you!” Don’t be embarrassed. If you’ve been transformed on the mountain the least you can do is encourage your neighbor, turn and say it to your brother or sister! (And if you are reading this online, look in a mirror and say it: “Somebody needs you!”)
Someone needs you to speak some good news into their life. Someone needs you to make this world a better place that they might be able to catch their breath and survive and thrive! Someone needs you!
Climb the mountain. Be transformed. Come back down the mountain and change the world!