Here are my thoughts for this coming Sunday, Transfiguration Sunday, 22 February 2009. The Scriptures were 2 Kings 2:1 – 12, 2 Corinthians 4:3 – 6, and Mark 9: 2 – 9.
There is something about the view from the top of a mountain that is always awe inspiring and breath-taking. We stand on the summit of even the shortest of mountains and marvel how clear the air is and how far we can see. And as anyone who has ever traveled in the South knows, you can see six states from the top of Lookout Mountain, though you have to imagine that the signs are there on the horizon telling you which state you are looking at.
And our journey to the mountaintop is also interesting. Sometimes, it is a clear day and you can see things as you move up the side of the mountain; other times, it is a cloudy day and you drive through a fog. But when you break through the clouds and into the sunlight, the clarity and brightness overcome you.
Perhaps it was that sort of brightness and clarity that overcame Peter, James, and John when they stood on the mountaintop and watched the Transfiguration of Jesus. And too many times, it is that vision that we see on the top of the mountain that we want to keep in our minds, clear and unobstructed, unfettered by the noise, grime, and pollution that inhabits the world far below us.
Each step that we take up the mountain takes us further away from where everything is taking place. And when we get to the mountaintop and look back at where we came from, we can barely see the people and the problems that are so much a part of our world.
Too often we are like Peter at that moment of the transfiguration who wanted to build a monument to the moment in order to remember it forever. Building a monument to the moment makes it easier to forget what you left behind and what you must sooner or later return to.
Unfortunately, too many times in our society, the mountaintop is where we want it to be. We don’t want to be reminded about the problems of the world; we don’t want to be reminded about what is happening outside the walls of our safe enclave that we call the church. We have put the church up on the mountaintop where we have a wonderful view of the world and where it is safely out of reach of the people who need the presence of the church in their lives the most.
Maybe that’s what Paul is writing about in the passage from Corinthians for today. There are those outside the church who do not see the message of the Gospel. They see the vision and hear the message but call it superstition and irrational thought. They believe that good and evil are fixtures in this world and it is best if one looks out for themselves. But there are as many within the church also blind and deaf; they do not see the vision, they do not hear the message.
It is not easy to see the vision if you are trapped by the boundaries placed on you by society; it is not easy to hear the message when society drowns it out with a cacophony of other sounds and noises. And that is why there must be a church; there must be a place that offers the peace and quiet often times only found on the mountaintop.
But sooner or later, you have to leave the mountaintop and return down the mountainside. Keep in mind that Elisha had to go to the mountaintop in order to see Elijah be taken away; in return, he was granted a double share of Elijah’s inheritance.
But he could only use that inheritance if he were to leave the mountaintop and return to doing the work that Elijah was doing. The same is true for each one of us; we can visit the mountaintop and we can find peace and solitude there. But we need to use that time not to escape from the world but to come back into contact with Christ. When we return to the real world, we will have regained that which the world seeks to take away from us and we will have the strength and courage to move on.
We live at a time when the old visions don’t work; the old messages have grown old and stale. And until we go to the mountaintop and have that same experience as Peter, James, and John did, we will never gain a new vision of the world around us.
Go to the mountaintop and look around but bring that new vision down and put it to work in the world so that everyone can have the new vision.