The Mountain Top

February 11, 2018

Mar 9:7 And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” 

8 And suddenly looking around they no longer saw any one with them but Jesus only. 

Today is the last Sunday after Epiphany in our calendar. The Season of Epiphany which we just concluded started on January 6, when we commemorated the revealing of Jesus to the world. The word Epiphany means revelation, or something is revealed.

So on this last day of Epiphany season, or Epiphanytide, as the English would say, we heard about one of the greatest events recorded in the Gospels, the Transfiguration.We call it the Transfiguration, because of the change in the appearance of Jesus, but it was much more than just about the optics.

You may have noticed that I like to refer to the Greek language in my sermons, and that is because the oldest versions of the Holy Scriptures were written in Greek. It was the official language of that realm, much like English is the official language of the USA.

The Greek language is very rich in meaning and sometimes the English translation is not enough to get the full meaning across. Today is no exception!

The word Transfiguration comes from the Greek word Metamorpho, from which we get the English word metamorphosis. This comes from two words, meta and morphe. Meta means: With, as in looking toward the after-effect

Morphe means: taking on the form that properly embodies a particular inner-essence.

Now we get to a definition that means more than just changing one’s appearance.

The Transfiguration of Jesus was not a change into something, or someone, different. Neither was it just about how he looked to the disciples.

He changed into his true self. His temporal nature gave way to his eternal nature. The human nature gave way to the Divine.

The Transfigured Christ is the bridge between the Divine nature of God and our human nature. His mission and ministry was, and is, to unite us with the Father.

This was truly a mountain top experience. Peter, James, and John, who were the most trustworthy of the apostles, got to witness this event.

Have you ever had a mountain top experience? I love to climb mountains, or I should say, I used to love to climb mountains! My climbing days are probably over, since I have trouble with the coming down part!

The highest mountain I ever climbed was the West Spanish Peak in Colorado, at 13,624 feet above sea level. The view was incredible. I felt like I was on top of the world.

There is something about climbing that brings a certain exhilaration for me, and perhaps some of you, too. There was a story I heard recently about a man who was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, and while he was still able, he climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. It is Africa’s highest point at 19,340 feet. He did it also raised funds for the research for a cure for MS.

A little closer to home I witnessed an epic climb, when my grandson Wyatt scaled the little climbing wall on the play house, slide, swingy thing outside of our house. Of course, once wasn’t enough, and he slid down the slide and climbed the wall again several times. Each time the climb was a little different, but it was always exhilarating for him to reach the top, just the same.

The chapel of the Transfiguration at Camp Crucis is on top of a hill, with stone steps leading to the top. It is always a beautiful sight to see that altar when I get to the top. Very few people take the time to go around behind the altar, but when they do, they can see that, written on the back of the roof over the altar, are the words, “And they saw Jesus only” which is verse 8 from the Gospel we heard today.

Back in verse 4, we saw Moses and Elijah talking to Jesus. We don’t know what they were talking about, but imagine their joy getting to meet the long expected Messiah bringing the Kingdom of God into the world. Jesus was the fulfillment of the Law, represented by Moses, and the Prophets, represented by Elijah.

Peter wrote about the experience in the letter we read today.

16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” 18 we heard this voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. 19 And we have the prophetic word made more sure. You will do well to pay attention to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.

Not only was Peter an eyewitnesses to the Transfiguration, and to the appearance of Moses and Elijah, but also to the voice of God the Father.

He was so overwhelmed by the experience that he hardly knew what to do. He wanted the experience to last, so he offered to erect tents for these mighty men of the Faith.

The mountain top experience rarely lasts long, though, and when it is over, sometimes we have to face living in the valley again. Sometimes those valley experiences are not so pleasant.

Sometimes we are in a place where we are continually frustrated by things beyond our control. Sometimes we are attacked by the devil and tempted to sin against God and others.

These are the times to stop and recall the mountain top. Every Sunday we recall the mountain top experience of the Last Supper, our Holy Communion with Jesus. This should lift us up our of our valleys of despair, and plant us firmly on the mountain of God’s mercy. If you let it.

When we cry Holy, Holy, Holy, we are joining our voices with the angels and archangels and all the company of heaven.

Remember what St. Peter said in the letter we heard today: “You will do well to pay attention to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.”

The lamp shining in a dark place is Jesus, the Light of the world, driving out the darkness, and showing us the kingdom of heaven for our eternal life. When we stop focusing on ourselves and our own problems, and begin to focus on Jesus and what he would have us do, we begin to see the Light of the world.

When we let the Light of Life be our guide, we grow closer to the one who gives us eternal life. The Transfigured Christ is our preview of our lives in heaven, when we will be transfigured and will join all the company of heaven. What a glorious day that will be! Amen.