Address: Ann Robinson
There is something very special about mountains, isn’t there? In my younger days I walked up quite a few and was always in awe at the view spread out before me at the summit. My most lasting memory of mountains is when we were in the French Alps. One foggy, damp morning in summer we set off to take the cable car up Mont Blanc. In spite of setting off early the cable car was full of people from all over the world and there was a cacophony of voices. We had travelled up the mountain in the mist seeing nothing. Suddenly we broke through the cloud into sunlight and the sight brought a gasp from everyone there. The view was one of the most beautiful I have ever seen with the sun glinting off the snow. Robson Green said that although he wasn’t religious he found being at the top of the mountain a spiritual experience.
Jesus took Peter, James and John possibly up to the snow line of probably Mount Hermon. There is some discussion about which mountain it was but it is not really important. It would not have been an easy journey and the disciples must have wondered what they were doing. Perhaps there was a bit of muttering between them as they scrambled behind Jesus but they followed nevertheless. The week before Peter had answered Jesus’ question “Who do you think I am?” with the reply “You are the Messiah”. It was after that when Jesus spoke about his journey to Jerusalem and his suffering and death so perhaps the disciples wanted to stay with him and protect him.
What happened on that mountain top would stay with the three for ever. As they panted regaining their breath after the arduous climb, there was an amazing sight. Jesus was surrounded by light and changed in appearance. The word that is used to describe the light means the glistening gleam of burnished bronze or gold caught in the sunlight, human words to describe a divine moment. They saw Moses and Elijah with Jesus; Moses represented the Law and Elijah the greatest of the prophets. Peter of course couldn’t keep quiet and wanted to hold this moment. He was afraid and as ever jumped in with both feet. He realised that this was something very special.
Moses and Elijah disappeared and a cloud came down. Cloud was often present when God appeared. There was cloud when Moses met with God and cloud filled the Temple when it was dedicated because it was thought that God’s glory was too bright for people to see. God spoke out of the cloud saying, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him”.
Then everything returned to normal. Or did it? How would the disciples feel on their journey back to real life? Going back down a mountain is not easy. They had been warned about the suffering which Jesus would undergo and his ultimate death but he also told them that he would rise again. They were bewildered and heart-broken but this experience on the mountain top gave them something so vivid to hold to.
Epiphany has now ended and Lent hasn’t quite started. Like the disciples we are now turning towards the Cross and the journey that leads there; the suffering, the betrayal and the denial by these same men. But don’t let us be complacent. Where would we be when Jesus was arrested and tried? I’m sure that Peter, James and John in the dark times ahead would remember the light on the mountain and give them some encouragement.
Sometimes we catch glimpses of God’s glory but there are many times when we are confused and don’t understand. It is then that we step out in faith. Three words stood out for me in this reading. “Listen to him!” How often do we really listen to God or do we spend most of our time bombarding him with words? Do we try to enter the spiritual realm?
Lent begins this week and perhaps we could use the enforced isolation of lockdown to get closer to our Lord. Instead of rushing through prayers just take time to listen, to enter into spirituality and experience God’s presence in a calm, special way. For some to rediscover the glory of God, for others to experience it in a deeper way than before.
. Martin Luther King told a crowd the day before he was killed, “We’ve got difficult days ahead. But it does not matter to me now. Because I have been to the mountain top, I won’t mind. I just want to do God’s will.” If we are to survive dark days we need to hold onto the vision of God’s glory and do his will. Peter wanted to remain on the mountain but that is not the object. There is always something which we are called to do. That involves not only coming down the mountain but also listening and following.
Some words from Stephen Cottrell in his book “Come and See”.
We are made in the image of God and we are very precious to him. That is why he has come to us in Jesus. These words (This is my Beloved Son, listen to him) and this knowledge of God’s unwavering love were the driving energy of Jesus’ life and ministry. “Listen to him!” God says on the mountain. Listen to his words of love for you…whether you have mighty religious experiences or not.”
So, let us listen to him and after the mountain experience, he will help us to do his will. The words of an old hymn which is printed at the end of the service leave us with the message.
Our home, our life, our duties lie below.
While here we kneel upon the mount of prayer,
The plough lies waiting in the furrow there!
Here we sought God that we might know His will;
There we must do it, serve Him, seek Him still. Amen.