Mountains are often described in Scripture as places where God is revealed. There is something mystical, almost magical about those moments. It’s those moments when we experience a sense of unity, a sense of peace that surrounds us.
We call them “mountain top experiences.”
It might happen when we witness the birth of a child or the death of a friend. It might happen when we have an intimate conversation or a family meal. It might happen in a quiet room during prayer or meditation. But whenever and however it happens we say to ourselves: “This is it … everything fits … all I ever hoped for is here.” This is the experience that Peter, James, and John had when they saw Jesus’ face change and his clothing become sparkling white. They wanted that moment to last forever. This is the experience of the fullness of time. These moments are given to us so that we can remember them when God seems far away, and everything appears empty and useless. These experiences are true moments of grace.
And for a lot of people, worship is, and can be the same type of experience. We’re here. Apart, away from the world. And like those first disciples; we often would be quite comfortable to simply camp out here. Away from problems. Away from challenges. Away from all the things that weigh us down. And yet camping on the mountain isn’t an option. Not for Peter, James and John. Not for us. Our baptisms are God’s constant invitation to be refreshed, renewed, invigorated in worship moments; in Christian community. And then to go and live in a world that truly needs us. Hear the words of call from the cross. Hear the words of power from the empty tomb. Hear the words of forgiveness in Word and Sacrament and know that being stuck on the mountain isn’t an option.
Today marks the end of the Epiphany season and our transition to the Lenten season. It’s the time of the church year when we celebrate God’s embrace of Jesus – marking the shift from his ministry in Galilee to Jerusalem. Our Old Testament passage – with Moses’ encounter with God on Mount Sinai – is a good balance to our Gospel reading in Luke. The two go hand in hand, helping us see what it means to be close to God. In Exodus, God establishes a special relationship with Moses, and also with the people of Israel. It’s about a faithful covenant between God, and the sense of call to ministry of God’s people. In our Gospel this morning, Jesus doesn’t go off to be alone as we so often hear about in Scripture. This time he takes Peter, James and John with him to the top of the mountain. And they’re there to see Jesus in all of his heavenly glory. They see him speaking with Moses and Elijah about his departure in Jerusalem. And then when the clouds descend, God tells them plainly, “This is my son…Listen to him.” Not only is Jesus transfigured into the Divine, but his disciples are also transformed.
This Family of Faith has so many rich blessings. We have the gift of God’s love for us. We have the gift of Christ and the new life that comes with Easter. We have the gift of this very special community, where we worship, where we serve, where we’re reminded of our promise to be the servant Body of Christ.
Our Mission Statement is a constant reminder of who we are and whose we are. We are blessed with resources that enable us to do things in Christ’s name – in ministry and mission here and around the world. And we are truly blessed with leadership that is constantly looking for ways to share the gift of the Gospel.
Wednesday we begin Lent, with Ash Wednesday. Traditionally Lent is a time to reflect on our lives and renew our commitment to Christ. A time to study and grow. A time to be intentional about God’s gifts. A time for each of us to claim our hope, so that we might act with great boldness. And yet facing the world can often be hard. And that’s why the promise of God is so important to us. As we move toward Lent, the vision of the cross becomes clearer. This time enables us to see the hurt and the pain that surround us, reminding us of the grace and the love that is ours through the gift and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
Let Christ shine in your hearts – shine in the darkness. Share the gift and be Christ’s light in the world. Amen.