The audio was recorded at our Praise and Worship Service on February 15, 2015
Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, 3and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. 4And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. 5Then Peter said to Jesus, "Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah." 6He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. 7Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, "This is my Son, the Beloved listen to him!" 8Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.
9As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.
Transfigured Jesus Transforming Relationships
I can remember experiencing this long vision on Guadalupe peak in west Texas. I took a trip to those mountains with my dad and brother some years ago. The Guadalupe mountains rise out of the rugged landscape of west Texas, standing majestically over the surrounding area. It was from Guadalupe peak the I first saw the curve of the earth. Stretching from horizon to horizon as I look out east and into forever, the earth’s curve spread out in front of us. That’s what I think the long vision is. When your on the ground, you can only see a limited ways ahead. If your on the beach, staring out into the ocean, the horizon line is eleven miles out. That’s where it looks like the world ends. But up on the mountain, the horizon unfolded, revealing the great open spaces and vastness of creation.
Mountaintop experiences give us the long vision. The same holds true for the mountaintop experiences in scripture, like the one Mark tells this morning. Jesus’ mountaintop experience gives us a glimpse at the long vision of the story that God has been writing all along. Mark takes us back to two other mountains as part of this story. Two mountains that shaped the people God had created. Two mountains, now connected to the ministry of Jesus that give us the story of who we are as God’s people.
The first mountain is Sinai. After the Exodus, God gathers the people at Sinai and gives them the Law through Moses.
Then Moses went up on the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain. 16 The glory of the Lord settled on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days; on the seventh day he called to Moses out of the cloud. 17 Now the appearance of the glory of the Lord was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel. 18 Moses entered the cloud, and went up on the mountain. Moses was on the mountain for forty days and forty nights.
1 Kings 19:11-13
He said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; 12 and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. 13 When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
In second mountaintop experience God recalls Elijah to his task of building up the people of God who had been scattered by false prophets and idol worship. The mission of Elijah, and the other prophets, can be understood as community restoration. They were called to help in the process of relationship renewal - first, between God and humanity, and second, between the people of God.
This third mountain confirms the mission of Jesus to build the new social reality that is the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is communal in nature, renewing humanity’s relationship with God and each other. The first wave of Jesus’ ministry unfolds amongst his own people, those of the Jewish faith. He travels from community to community, teaching, preaching, healing, and drawing people into new life. This first wave of his ministry culminates in the feeding story in the wilderness where everyone is filled.
Jesus then expands the new social reality called the kingdom of God. He moves to the “other side,” crossing the sea to the gentile territories. He travels from community to community, teaching, preaching, healing, and drawing people into new life. This second wave of his ministry culminates in the feeding story in the wilderness where everyone is filled.
With his ministry to both groups, Jews and gentiles, Jesus demonstrates that the new social reality called the kingdom of God is meant for all people. Jesus, God among us, restores God’s relationship with all people and builds relationships between estranged communities. The long vision of God’s story is now experienced through Jesus. Gathering people. Forming community. Restoring life. Key movements of the ministry of Jesus and the story that God is writing.
The long vision of God’s story is now experienced through Jesus. Gathering people. Forming community. Restoring life.
As part of this relationship building focus of our participation in the life Jesus has called us in to, I would like to invite you into the first project of the CICBA (Congregation Initiated Community Based Advocacy) task force. We are beginning a Listening campaign. We want to build relationships in this community of faith and we’re going to go about this task by listening. One-on-one conversations will be the method. These are 30-45 minute conversations with a member of our leadership team. We want to get to know you better, to build community, to catch a glimpse of our collected passions and gifts, to get the heartbeat of Bethany Lutheran Church.
On behalf of the leadership I would like to invite you to volunteer. We would like to interview 80-90 people. There will be sign up sheets on my office door. A letter will be in Ash Wednesday’s bulletin and in next Sunday’s bulletin. We will collect as many folks as we can. When the team meets again on February 23rd, we will begin to set up the schedule of conversations. I invite you to this holy time of relationship building.
For us, today is about witnessing the long vision of the mountaintop experiences in God’s story. We are to look at the way God develops and desires to maintain relationship with us and how we invited into relationships with each other for wholeness. We witness these stories so that we can follow Jesus back down the mountain where the real work begins.
Because we know there are tears being shed in our community. We know the sting death has left in our midst. We know there is pain and brokenness. We know that there are those who could use someone to sit with them in the darkness of depression. We know that there are babies being born and parents who are rejoicing. We know that life is being restored and relationships mended. We know that God has called us into the holy spaces between each other to share and give support in these moments.
God has called us into relationship, shaped to us to be communal people. May God bless us as we go back down the mountain, where the messiness of humanity unfolds. Where God does God’s work. Right where Jesus has called us to be. In relationship with God and each other.