"Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter, James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them . . ." - Mark 9: 2
Before Lent begins and the shadows deepen, there's a flash of light: Transfiguration on the mountaintop.
Jesus charged with a light so bright it hurts your eyes to look. Moses and Elijah advance through the mists of time. And Peter — who never happened on a moment of silence that he didn't try to fill with words — blurted out, "Good thing we're here — let us build shelters for you three."
If some situations in life require that we "Don't just stand there, do something!" this is not one. This is a "Don't just do something, stand there!" kind of situation.
I've heard a dozen sermons on this passage, probably preached a few of them. Every single one urged, "Let us not tarry on the mountaintop; we must return to the valley of human need!"
After hearing that sermon yet again, I became suspicious — why were we in such an all-fired hurry to get off that mountaintop and down to the "valley of human need"?
Back in the "valley of human need" we were on familiar turf. Needy people. Needing us.
We were back in charge. At least sort of.
Up on the mountaintop, it is strange, uncomfortable and not safe. We aren't in charge. God is. Dazzling light, cloudy veil, figures past and voices present, ours to be —with Peter, James and John — not in charge. Ours to fall in kneeled-down, goose-fleshed witness. Ours to be still and listen. To let God be God.
It is where everyone wants to be and where everyone doesn't want to be — in the presence of God.
Have you been to the mountaintop?
Grant us such grace that we might neither fill nor flee thy holy presence, but only tarry there. Amen.
Tony Robinson, a United Church of Christ minister, is a speaker, teacher, and writer. He is the author of many books, including What’s Theology Got to Do With It: Convictions, Vitality and the Church. You can read Tony's "Weekly Meditation" and "What's Tony Thinking?" at his website, www.anthonybrobinson.com.