Have you found your mountaintop?
Maybe the place or space, that allows you pray and interact with the divine in a way, that is hard to do other places or spaces.
If you feel comfortable, close your eyes, and envision that space.
Maybe it is truly a mountain at your favorite ski resort, or hiking trail, or maybe it’s the beach, watching the waters of God baptismal font brush against the sand, or maybe there is a room, or church building, that has created a thin space between you and God.
Have you found your mountain top?
Have you had a “mountain top moment”?
Now, this phrase is one that is used frequently—
As a Cleveland-er, we tend to look at the mountain top moments as those that are the unbelievable—or monumental:
Such as when the Cleveland Browns win a game
Or, When an Ohio team makes it to the superbowl.
Or, sometimes the mountain top moments, those mountain top experiences are when you finally get to meet your favorite celebrity!
Or, its that moment when you reach the top of the graduation stage and receive your diploma, retire from a career, or celebrate an anniversary or birthday.
Have you had a mountain top moment?
It was the fall of 2018; I was in need of a mountain top moment.
I was in the beginning of my second year of seminary, still uncertain if God was calling me to be a priest, still unsure, that the Episcopal Church, really wanted me as a priest, and a time in my life, that I was questioning, whether the Episcopal Church really wanted me.
I was in need of a mountain top moment.
It was a time in my life that I was experiencing some of the deepest pain, as I mourned the loss of my father.
I wanted that moment—I wanted that experience that Moses had, I wanted that experience that Jesus had as he would step away from the world and pray, step away and cry out to God, and clearly hear God respond.
I wanted that moment that we hear about today, that Peter and James got to experience, a moment where the skies would open, the voices would be heard clearly, and the divine would be in my midst, shining with a light that would brighten my spirit, and dry my tears.
I wanted a mountain top moment—so, I went searching….I got on a plane and my way out west to Washington State. I spent time with a faith community, who brought me laughter, joy, and raised questions that energized me to continue on a journey of wonder and curiosity. And on the last day, I climbed a mountain in the Methow Valley, sat at the peak for hours, looking out to all of God’s creation, and cried out for God to be present.
I left the mountain—without seeing anything.
When I returned back to Washington, D.C, I went to what I called my local thinking spot. A ledge in-between the pillars that surrounded Abraham Lincoln. I remember crying out to God again, God, I need answers, make your presence known. I met a lot of lovely people that night, but, Moses, Elijah and Jesus did not appear with a glowing light.
In 2020, as we journeyed through the pandemic, as we journeyed through what felt like the health crisis of racism, discrimination and hatred, I stood on a hill that overlooked Lake Erie and the Cleveland skyline and cried out, God, where are you? Give me a sign! Let the cloud open, and share with me a voice, that will give wisdom, that will give hope. I rode my bike back home that day, not hearing anything beyond the sound of the waves.
This month, I found myself crumbling, still in need of a mountain top experience, still in need of a moment where God is made known, and lets me know that it all will be okay. Guides me on how to order my steps. I needed the mountain top experience, I needed the clouds to open, as I was feeling the weight of polarization that still continues to strengthen in our society, the divisions, the anger, the frustrations, that travel through the voices of community members, through our devices. I could feel the impact of the stresses of our day to day work, the violence, the wars that are brewing around the world, and the cries for justice, the cries to be seen, to be heard by in another black history month, where its significance is still debated.
I was hungering to see how this week’s scripture, is still being lived out in world today.
So on Thursday, as I was continuing to wrestle with what to say about the Transfiguration, the experience, that Peter and James got to have on that mountain top, I decided to wake up early in the morning, and to make a trip to the gym. As I traveled the fairly empty streets of Westfield, ascending my way up the hills around the Watchung Reservation, I pulled into a parking lot where one car was parked, and a man was standing outside of it.
As I got out of my car, he began to yell: “AGHHHHHH”. I, immediately began to think that this was not the place to park, and I should get into my car.
But, at 4am in the morning, I followed my somewhat sleepy response and asked “Are you, Okay sir”.
“Yes, I’m fine he said”. Im surprised to see anyone else out here getting ready to workout he responded. I sometimes just get up early, and look out at the world, to clear my head.
I understand that, I responded—I am honestly trying to do the same.
“Brian, he said as he extended his hand”
“Chris, I responded back”
Brian began to share with me all that he was struggling with—a lot of shared experiences, while some were very different.
“Do you think this world will change he asks?”
“I believe it can, but, honestly, I am not sure whats next….I responded back.” There was a pause.
“I kind of just wish, I could stay up here all day” he responded back.
To pray, to meditate, to yell (you caught me in that moment), and to just feel more connected to down there, than I do when I am actually down there.
Me too. I responded.
We continued in conversation, sharing our ups and down from the week, and Brian even invited me to join him in his yelling…I am not sure, I said, go ahead, try it, you’re running out of time, people will be waking up soon.
And at 4:30 in the morning, two voices, from a mountain top yelling: AHHHHHHH…filled the sky, warmed the soul, and gave strength for the body.
Well, I guess we should actually work out now…Hang in there, Chris, it was nice to meet you he said.
And Brian faded away in the street lights, as he began a jog and we both descended the mountain.
Today in Luke’s Gospel, we are given imagery, that is hard to believe.
Jesus takes Peter, John and James up the mountain with him, and as they are awaking from their sleep, they see Jesus, standing with Elijah, and Moses.
They think they must be dreaming. And as they are rubbing their eyes, and are witnessing all that is happening, the peace, the hope that is being born right infront of them, they immediately want to stay, they feel liberated, they feel transformed. And the skies open and name before them, that this is God’s son. This is the one they have been waiting for.
And in the midst of this feeling, this joy, this hopefulness, it begins to disappear. And Jesus tells them it’s time to descend the mountain.
God, made Godself known to them, and all of a sudden, they grow quiet, as they descend, the mountain becomes far off, something that was a onetime experience.
The lectionary gives the option to continue onward in the story, and while we didn’t hear it this morning, we need to hear what is next.
BECAUSE they descend this mountain, and they immediately are brought right back into their reality, the crowds are gathered, they are crying out for Jesus to heal them, they are crying out for Justice to pour down and free them from the evil, the pain, the suffering, that surrounds them, that is within them, and the remaining disciples, reunited with James, Peter and John, look to Jesus, and say, what should we do.
St. Paul’s Jesus,
Says, we bring them God.
We bring them hope.
We bring them love.
We bring them Justice.
We bring them the Good News that is experienced on the mountain top.
Jesus looks to the disciples, and says “what you have experienced on the mountain top is also right here”
Jesus says, I am here, God is here, with you, Disciples go out, and share that news and make these streets the mountain top. Make this place, make this life, your mountain top moment, GO! Heal them! Show them that God IS here.
St. Paul’s, we receive this message in a time in our world, where people are yearning to be reminded, they are yearning to see, and experience, that God, that LOVE is here.
Let us here today’s Gospel, and see that the mountain top should be right here in Westfield,
Disciples are needed to say, Love your neighbor! Respect one another!
Right here, right now!
Disciples are needed to say, that the anti semitics acts, the racist remarks, the homophobic actions, the classism has no place here, the Kingdom of God is here at our doorsteps, the cloud is open,
St. Paul’s let your voice cry out the Good News that Justice is a live!
That hope is here!
That peace and LOVE does win!
Jesus ascends, and descends the mountain as he prepares to make his way towards Jerusalem,
Jesus ascends and descends the mountain to proclaim in his word and action that the Gospel is being fulfilled.
That work wasn’t easy: we know that he steps into a world to proclaim such and will ultimately face suffering, pain, and rejection and death.
St. Paul’s, as we prepare to enter into the season of Lent.
May we begin reflecting on our experiences had on the mountain top.
May we open our eyes—wake up, and see that God is here.
May we begin to descend the mountain, and make our way to the cross, proclaiming such Good News: That God, will overcome the pain that this world in 2022 brings about.
May we make our way down broad street, through the halls of St. Paul’s Day school, to this table, to the tables in our very own homes, and wherever you might find yourself, reflecting the beauty of what God’s liberating, lifegiving, and transformative Love.
open your ears, O faithful people, open your ears and hear God’s word. Open your hearts, O royal priesthood, God has come.. God has spoken to the people; God has spoken words of wisdom. Hallelujah! Amen.