Theme: Consequences of the mountaintop
Let us pray.
Most holy, Lord God, today we celebrate the transfiguration of your son: may that event be a signpost for us, seeing your son for who he truly is, reaffirming for us the one whom we follow, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
This Sunday we celebrate the Feast of the Transfiguration, because this is our patronal feast. Churches with names like Our Saviour or Christ Church may use the Feast of the Transfiguration as their patronal festival. Whereas, churches with saint names like, St. Stephen’s, would celebrate their patronal festivals on St. Stephen’s day.
Maybe the Feast of the Incarnation would be more appropriate, but Christmas is already loaded with a lot of stuff, figuratively and literally. Easter wouldn’t be all that appropriate. But the Transfiguration is where Jesus is seen by three of his friends for who he truly is. You might say, during the Transfiguration they see the true Jesus.
But then Jesus gets down off the mountain top and life goes on as before. The secret of the Transfiguration is saved until after Jesus is resurrected. Then it all kind of makes sense. The resurrected Jesus is like the Jesus of the Transfiguration. Jesus transcends what we know about how the earth and the universe work. As the Church lady would say, “Isn’t that special.” And it is indeed special.
Peter, James, and John came down from the mountaintop and kept their silence about what they had seen. It must have reinforced their views of Jesus. But just how they applied what they experienced is not fully known. So, we don’t have much of an example to follow with these three apostles, concerning what we do with our lives after a mountaintop experience, except they seem to be as dense as they were before the Transfiguration.
So, I offer an excerpt of Tri Robinson’s story found in his book, Rooted in Good Soil. The following is in Tri’s voice.
“When I got home from [a] mountaintop weekend [that had changed my life, drawing me closer to Christ], I was excited to share with Nancy what had happened. This was the very thing that for many years she had desperately wanted and prayed for. In the years since she had invited Christ into her life on the side of the canyon, she had been praying for me every day.
“Proverbs 13:12 says, ‘Hope deferred makes the heart grow sick,’ and I believe that must have been what happened. I think Nancy was recovering form a sick heart after all those years of not having her prayers answered concerning me. For so long she had wanted me to become the spiritual leader of our home, and when it was about to happen, I think it was kind of a letdown for her. At first, she was elated, but her happiness soon turned to anger. She got mad and over the next couple of weeks, her anger became visible.
“I couldn't understand what was happening, and I remember wondering if receiving the Lord was such a good idea. I started to question everything about faith and this stimulated real and honest prayer—for the first time in my life.
“It was during this time one Sunday after church that everything came to a head. Our younger daughter, Katie, had gone to the home of some friends. The rest of us headed home for lunch, and our three-year-old son, Brook, went down for a nap. We had just met a new older couple at church that morning and had invited them to drop by later that day. Everything seemed fine until something snapped, and a fight between Nancy and me began.
“I don’t know what started it or even what it was about, but I do remember it escalating rapidly. All at once everything came out—all of Nancy’s anger and all of my frustration erupted, causing Nancy to pick up a pottery mug and hurl it at me across the room. I was able to duck quickly, and the mug missed me and smashed through the window of the front door.
“As only fate would have it, the couple we invited from church arrived and were walking up the front steps at that very moment. They ducked and evaded the flying mug but decided it was not the best time to visit the Robinsons. They turned on their heels and headed for their car.
“I was embarrassed and humiliated, and I lost it like I have never lost it before or since. I started yelling and hitting walls and cupboards. Framed pictures and dishes fell to the floor. I went from room to room turning over furniture and shouting in complete frustration. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t make Nancy satisfied with our life, and I didn’t know what I could do about it. In the wake of this realization, I fell apart.
“All my life I had prided myself on being composed and put together; I always felt that showing emotion was a sign of weakness. That day God tore down everything I leaned on for strength. (God) was showing me that without (God) I would never be the person (God) created me to be. I needed (God) to be more than my Savior—I needed (God) to be the Lord of my life. That day I learned in my confession of weakness that (God) would make me strong.
“As I surveyed the aftermath of my rage, I saw my three-year-old son staring at me with huge, frightened eyes. I will never forget how he looked as he stood there in shock and disbelief. That’s when it happened—that’s when I finally broke. My deep frustration turned to tears, and the floodgates opened. I started to weep in a way I never had before. Tears welled up from the depths of my being, and my entire body started to convulse. I cried and cried and couldn't stop the tears.
“I cried for a whole life of pain and frustration, most of which Nancy had nothing to do with. I was broken in a way I can’t fully express, but it was a brokenness that forever changed me. I held my son and Nancy held me, and together we cried and prayed. We repented for the way we had treated each other and together asked God to take control of our lives.
“It was a divine moment in our marriage and a divine moment in our life with God. I believe it was the moment the seed of God’s love and truth penetrated my life. It was a turning point, more powerful than any other I have ever experienced. My journey with God entered into the depths of good soil—to a place where my spiritual roots penetrated (God’s) provision for healing and wholeness. Not only did my relationship with God heal, my relationship with my wife changed as well. I could now love because I had come into the assurance that I was first loved.”
It’s hard to break patterns of behavior that have become a part of who we are, even after coming down from a mountaintop experience. But the story of the transfiguration gives a signpost to encourage us to turn to Jesus. By turning to Jesus, we recall his teachings and look for ways to apply those teachings in our lives.
And as Jesus himself said, everything can be summed up very simply and easy to remember, love God and love others as you are loved by God. Simple, but it is hard to apply.
It is not enough to feel the high of mountaintop experiences and savor the experience. The question is how do we apply that experience. Now I know that not everyone here can claim having a mountaintop experience. But even if we haven’t had that kind of experience, I think we are here because we are drawn to Jesus and what Jesus can mean in our lives.
There are mountaintop experiences available to us. A Cursillo weekend is one. And as a shameless plug, next May you can join me on the very mountaintop Jesus, Peter, James, and John were on for the Transfiguration. Information about Mt. Tabor is on your bulletin insert. Brochures are downstairs in the Parish Hall.
We are gathered here in a place named for the savior of the world. Any church is special, but we are named for Jesus. We are reminded by our name that we belong to Jesus. This gives us no more a special status in the wider church, but we should be reminded that we belong to Jesus and how we act should reflect Jesus’ love. When we do that, others will know that we are people of Our Saviour.
We now pray: Gracious God and giver of all good gifts, we give you thanks for the gift of the Transfiguration: may your son’s light always shine in our hearts and may we always reflect that light to everyone around us, through the light of the world, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Text: Luke 9:28–36 (NRSV)
28 Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. 29 And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. 30 Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. 31 They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. 32 Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. 33 Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah”—not knowing what he said. 34 While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. 35 Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” 36 When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.