Transfiguration of Our Lord - 2-27-2022: "Mountaintop Moments"

Transfiguration of Our Lord - 2-27-2022: "Mountaintop Moments"

February 27, 2022 | Ryan Arnold

Passage: Luke 9:28-36

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    Sometimes, when you need fresh perspective, new insights, the chance to dream of what may one day be, it might make sense to head to the mountains.

    The benefits of spending time higher up are many.

    Mountains provide a broader view of the world around. The furthest sightline in the world is between the Spanish Pyrenees and the French Alps. From the Pic de Finestrelles you can see a whopping 275 miles away. That is almost 100 times further than what is visible driving in the prairies staring at the horizon.

    Mountains also make for healthy living. With lower oxygen levels in higher altitudes your body has to work harder to do everyday things. People visiting Denver, aka the mile high city, tire 20 percent faster than when living life at sea level. This extra effort leads to more exercise, better fitness levels, higher quality sleep. When our family vacationed in the Rocky Mountains this past summer I don’t think I’ve ever slept better.

    Mountains even make for higher quality air to breathe. Getting higher up creates distance between you and the pollution and toxic gases that often dwell in lower elevations. Better air improves lung health and helps prevent asthma and a host of other respiratory diseases too.

    And sometimes mountain experiences make for mountaintop moments that make a mark in ways that can last a lifetime.

    I asked Facebook friends to share their mountaintop moments and what they learned from them. Here are a few of their tales.

    Friend Kelly lived in central Mexico for a spell. While there she loved hiking in the mountains. Her favorite trek was to see where Monarch butterflies hibernate for the winter. The hike was a challenging one. And a humbling one; Kelly was 30 at the time and remembers little old Mexican ladies hiking right past her. But then she arrived at her destination, seeing millions of Monarchs as far as the eye could see. It was a beautiful, memorable sight. While scientists don’t understand why the butterflies migrate there, the locals know. They are convinced God brings them there, each and every year.

    Friend Lise Marie shared a story from when she was 25. She was living, in her words, a predictable life; had dropped out of college, gotten married, was working full-time, making just enough to get by. She then had the opportunity to co-lead a 4H group to Costa Rica.

    The 4H kids had raised money to buy rainforest acreage to help preserve the mountains. Their stay was powered by a lone generator with enough electricity to keep one refrigerator cold. Besides them there we no other people, no homes, no phones.

    As the group departed down the mountain one day, Lise remembers looking up and seeing only green nature, blue sky. The view could have been pulled from the pages of a National Geographic.

    It occurred to Lise, in that moment, that experiences like this could be for anyone. How much more of the world could she see? How much more in the world could she do? She began to dream.

    After returning stateside Lise went back to college to receive her Bachelors degree, then a Masters, then a PhD. All of which led to a career she is passionate about that provides opportunities for her to explore and better the world around. Arguably none of that would have been possible without that mountaintop moment so far from home.

    And then there’s our church organist Mary Nelson. Once she went up a mountain in Vail Colorado to ski with friends. While there a cute boy smiled at her. She came down that mountain in love. Mary and Jerry have been married 51 years now and counting!

    Today’s text also features a mountaintop moment that left quite an impression. At this point in Luke’s gospel the disciples had been called, sermons had been preached, thousands miraculously fed.

    Peter even had an initial epiphany: that Jesus was the Messiah.

    But then some troubling news. Jesus shared with the twelve that he would suffer, be killed, and on the third day rise once more. And that they too would need to pick up their cross. Following him, Jesus explained, at times could be a difficult road.

    The disciples couldn’t help but be concerned. Is this really what they’d signed up for? How could they know this person they followed was the one?

    Knowing of their fear, uncertainty and doubt, Jesus took Peter and John and James aside. Let us go up the mountain, he said, to pray.

    Up the mountain they hiked.

    Up the mountain.

    Where they could –
    see more clearly,
    breathe more freely,
    away from the troubles below.

    Up the mountain.

    Where they could –
    consider, more deeply,
    the nature of this path they were on.

    While Jesus prayed, amid all the disciples fear and uncertainty and doubt Christ’s appearance changed. His clothes became dazzlingly white. Two others joined him, Moses and Elijah.

    Moses, the lawgiver.
    Elijah, the preeminent prophet.

    They marked Jesus as the one to whom both the law and the prophets point.

    Tired from the hike – perhaps it was those low oxygen levels – the disciples sleepily watched. They wondered at the spectacle of it all.

    As Moses and Elijah departed Peter had an idea. Let us make three dwellings, he suggested.

    One for you, Jesus.
    One for Moses.
    One for Elijah too.

    For Peter wanted to make this new location home.

    A new home, up on the mountain.

    Where they could –
    see more clearly,
    breathe more freely,
    away from the troubles below.

    This mountaintop moment was not to be forever. For a cloud then overshadowed them, terrifying the disciples. A voice then came from that cloud, offering clarity.

    “This is my Son, my Chosen, listen to him!”

    The disciples knew,
    in this mountaintop moment,
    they were following the One.

    Filled with hope the next day they went down the mountain, and rejoined the world around them. They gathered, once again, among the people. It was there that –

    Parables were shared,
    Miracles were performed,
    The movement grew and grew and grew.

    When we are ill at ease with what is happening around us, sometimes getting away from our normal day-to-day can help. A novel environment offers fresh perspective, new insights, the chance to dream of what may one day be. And going up to the mountains, and all the benefits that come with it, is certainly one way to do that.

    But mountaintop moments need not be limited to high elevations. We can get away from it all, and connect with our creator through –

    And so much more.

    And in the process we can reconnect with –
    Our surroundings,
    Our Lord.

    In times of uncertainty, like we have right now with news of war on a global stage, this might be a good time to find small, meaningful ways to reconnect with our Savior. These mini mountaintop moments offer a respite from the challenges that we face. For the road we travel can be a challenging one, Lord knows.

    Yet with rest, renewal, reflection we can –
    Return to our surroundings,
    Reengage with the people God loves, and
    Reignite our call to help heal a broken world.  Amen.