Based on Mark 9:2-9
Close your eyes for a moment. See if you can recall a moment when you felt particularly close to God. A moment when you felt like just maybe you were being transformed; that you had a clearer vision of how you fit into the world and who God was for you.
Perhaps it wasn’t a time you related to God, but just a moment where everything just seemed to come together. Was it in the wilderness? A moment by yourself? Perhaps you were active in some form of service; or perhaps it came while reading a book that spoke to you deeply; or listening to a piece of music.
I have mentioned a few of my mountaintop moments in the past. They tend to be quite personal. And it is entirely possible if there were others with you at the moment, they didn’t quite see them in the same way.
But all the same, we can find ourselves attempting to recreate that moment.
To hold on to it, to preserve what made it so special. It only makes sense; this was a defining moment.
When we read about Peter, James and John witnessing Jesus, Moses and Elijah gathering on the mountain top and their clothes shining with this bright white quality; they are struck with amazement and quite possibly terror. This is something quite out of the ordinary of course.
Something has shifted; their perception of Jesus, their teacher and who he is, is altered.
Peter, not sure what else to do, suggests preserving this moment. To build tents or tabernacles for the three men or prophets. The implication being they should reside on this mountain top.
But of course, Jesus leads the disciples back down the mountain and carries on with their mission. Moses and Elijah are just gone.
Peter knows this is important. This is something to be held on to. That perhaps they should be able to return to this mountain and experience it again.
But inevitably these moments cannot be reenacted. Rarely can something so profound be replicated. We can attempt to put all the pieces back together, but it isn’t quite the same.
This does not take away from how significant; how life altering such a moment is. But all we can do is cherish the moment. To let it take us where it must.
Sadly, it is not uncommon to miss the point of the mountain top experience when it happens. It is only in retrospect that we appreciate what actually happened.
I confess I have had a few mountaintop moments, but only on reflection and prayer have seen them for what they were.
God has a funny way of surprising us. Of letting us know that we matter, and we are meant to do things we didn’t think we were capable of. We can look at the story of the transfiguration and see it merely as a way of illustrating the divine nature of Jesus. But that leaves out the presence of the disciples who witness this moment and struggle to sort out what it means to them and their lives.
This encounter on a mountain results in changes, but are they to Jesus or is it that how the disciples perceive Jesus is changed and as a result the trajectory of their lives shifts course.
Our mountaintop moments are rarely as dramatic as what we read in scripture. The changes in our lives are rarely so monumental as what we read of. But all the same, we do receive messages that tell us occasionally that just maybe everything thing we had been doing and experiencing up to that time; all this stuff that we may have taken for granted was preparing us for something special.
Our lives matter. Perhaps you know that. Perhaps that seems obvious to you. I hope so. But, sadly, it has been my experience that many people need to hear that message, over and over and loudly. That for a variety of reasons this world has led them to see themselves as insignificant. That what they do; and who they are makes little difference to the world. It is heartbreaking.
Let me share another story from my time in ministry.
A year or so into my time in ministry in Sioux Lookout, I was serving communion. A man came forward with his toddler daughter. In my preamble as usual, I had made it known that all were welcome to take part.
Well, he was carrying his daughter and after he took a piece of bread, his daughter with her little hands reached out for a piece of bread herself. The man who was serving with me, a man who is nonverbal, without hesitation and without looking at me held out the plate with the bread for her to take a piece. I then held out my cup for her and as she followed the example of her father, I said the words, Jesus Christ, the cup of the new covenant.
I cannot prove it, but my experience in that moment was experiencing the periphery of my vision becoming cloudy, but this little girl being crystal clear, as she ate her small piece of bread dipped in grape juice.
It was a moment that highlighted for me the significance of communion. That this was a moment that brought people closer together with one another and with God. That this was not a time to play gatekeeper, or to make assumptions about how God is at work in that moment. I have no idea how significant that moment of communion was for that child or her father, but it was profound for me and as I learned later, for many in the congregation. God is going to work in the way God sees fit and works through whomever God chooses to use.
As the story of Elijah and Elisha notes, our experiences can often seem improbable or impossible to others. They can seem fanciful. I appreciate that.
But, as we hear of them or reflect on our own experiences all we can do is ask, what is there to learn in this moment? What can I take away from this story that says something about my relationship to God and my relationship to this world?
We do a disservice to God when we see anyone, let alone ourselves, as being insignificant. We do a disservice when we limit the places and events, we may experience God. We do a disservice to God when we assume we have God figured out.
As I have said before, I am a person who needs to learn certain lessons over and over and be reminded repeatedly of some things that I should have memorized by now. One of those is that we cannot be complacent about our faith. If we are not careful, we will find ourselves on a mountain of some sort having our eyes opened to new realities.
We will be opened to new lessons from surprising teachers. It is my experience that the smallest people, the quietest people I have encountered have profoundly altered how I see my calling. It is through getting to know them and serving them I have learned some of my greatest lessons. It is both humbling and enriching.
May you be open to wondrous experiences with the world around you. May you witness God at work in and around and through you. And may you find wisdom and peace in those mountaintop moments.
The Rev. Warner Bloomfield
Music provided with permission through licensing with CCLI License number
2701258 and One Licence # A-731789