"And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white." - Luke 9: 28-36
Jesus went up the mountain, taking three of the disciples along with him. There light burst the seams of his robe. He shone -- brilliantly, brightly, dazzlingly.
Have you heard the sermon on this story? It goes like this: "We must not tarry on the mountaintops of spiritual ecstasy and encounter. We must return to the valleys of human need and suffering, there to serve." I've heard it. I've preached it.
It's a good sermon. But I've heard this sermon so often that I began to wonder why we were in such an all-fired hurry to get down the mountain. I began to wonder if a different question were the right question just now. "Have we been to the mountaintop?"
It's not of course an either/ or, not either mountaintop or valley. Not either encounter with God or service to others. It's a both/ and. But perhaps just now, we need to ask, "Have we been to the mountain?" Have we been in the presence of God, which as preacher Fred Craddock used to say, is where everyone wants to be and where everyone doesn't want to be.
Holy ground is not safe. It is full of mystery and magic and power. We aren't in control here on the mountain. But should you find yourself there, don't just do something, stand there. Don't speak. Listen. As the cloud swirls and the fog lifts, "This is my Son, listen to him." Let God be God.
Because having been to the mountain, when you return -- as you must -- everything will be different, brighter, charged, transfigured -- even you.
It is your presence that we long for and flee, O God. Grant us courage to risk the mountaintop. Amen.
Tony Robinson, a United Church of Christ minister, is a speaker, teacher, and writer. His newest book is Called to Lead: Paul’s Letters to Timothy for a New Day. You can read Tony's "Weekly Meditation" and "What's Tony Thinking?" at his website, www.anthonybrobinson.com.