Mountaintop experiences

Sermon by the Rev. Lisa Smith Fry
Sunday, February 11, 2018

Mark 9:2-9

Yes, we have the Transfiguration story again this week.  Nope—It’s not your imagination—this is the second time I’ve preached on it since I’ve been here.  It comes up in the Lectionary at least twice a year. Sometimes more…. We have heard the Transfiguration story so much that many are kind of blazé about it. “Oh yes, Jesus was up on the mountain and became an amazing illuminated thing and it changed the disciples who saw it.(Yawn.)

When people have an experience that changes their life, their view, their whole being—it’s called a “mountaintop experience.” The term “mountaintop experience” was named for this event.

A good way to get blazé about an amazing story is to hear it over and over again. Familiarity is the kiss of death to any experience.

I read a bumper sticker on the way to work the other day.  It said: “Imagine a world without suffering.”

I tried to. Really I did. I sat there in my car and gave that vision my best shot. I couldn’t picture it.

Some people really think it would be wonderful if we never went through any difficult experiences.

But would it?

If we never had any difficult experiences how could we appreciate the wonderful, unexpected miracles that happen?

Life is a ride of ups and downs.  There is abject suffering and there is great joy. Without them both in our lives, the would be no variation, no challenge—nothing to strive for, or overcome.

Without the bad, how do we recognize the good?

Imagine a tapestry that is made up entirely of lovely, bright, gold threads.  It is spectacular to see– it fairly dazzles the eyes– it’s just stunning. Our jaws would just drop open with astonishment to see it.

But then—think about what would happen if we saw it every day, all day. For a while it would be a novelty, but after a few days we wouldn’t notice its splendor as much.

Then—we’d notice it only occasionally.

Then — worst of all—it would become boring.

It’s like the transfiguration story– if we hear it too much, we don’t really hear it anymore.

The secret of a good tapestry, like the secret of a good life, is to weave all the colors and textures together– not in a chaotic jumble–but in a constantly changing, intricate and complex pattern, one that uses many different types, kinds and colors of threads woven together.

Life is like a glorious tapestry of experiences, rich and diverse.  There are the deep red strands of blood, and the silver of new discoveries, there is the brown of dryness and the blue of water and spirit. The green of growth. You get the idea.

Jesus knew this.

A boxed up amazing experience—like Peter suggested– even a glorious golden tapestry-like one – becomes strangely flat after constant exposure.

The Transfiguration speaks to the moment when the disciples were allowed to see, for one moment—how Jesus literally shone with the being he already was—if we just had eyes to see.

And the transfiguration prefigures our lives as human beings. It’s about how WE are more than what is usually apparent to us and to each other. God can see beyond our outward form, and see US for who we are. We can’t hide who we really are from God.

Mountaintop experiences are a wakeup call—a reminder that the light is there, in all of us—and these experiences remind us to weave that light into our lives.

It’s the moment when the light of Reality shines like a beacon through a tear in our life’s Tapestries, to remind us of where we come from, and where we are going.

But Jesus reminds us not don’t get struck in these mountaintop experiences.

Remember it, but don’t try and make it happen again and again. Don’t try and make it happen—because you’ll be disappointed if you do. Just allow them to spontaneously happen—and let them encourage us as we move forward– to love the outcast and to heal the shattered- to let our light of Christ–shine out in the darkness.