Mountain Climbers: A sermon by Pastor Bob

“I invite you on such a journey, but know that it is not an easy one. You may find your life changed, even turned upside down. You may have to leave some fishing nets or broken tablets behind. You may wonder if you have anything to say at all about God. But nonetheless, I invite you to come. For you are in good company. May we climb down this mountain together.”

Mountain Climbers

A sermon by Pastor Bob

February 19, 2012

Text: Mark 9:2-9

Mark 9:2-9

After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus.

Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.)

Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”

Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus.

As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.

 

–The man walked steadily up the path of the mountain.

–The snaking trail twisted back and forth as it quickly gained elevation. As he drew near to the top of the mountain, the man was literally walking into the cold dew of low-hanging clouds.

–This did not make him very comfortable–not just because the cold wetness penetrated his robes, but because he knew he was close to reaching the place where God dwelt.

–Some would later call this Mt. Horeb or Mt. Sinai.

–But for this man, it was simply the mountain of God.

–As he broke over the top, he was expecting, or perhaps hoping, for the eerie light of a burning bush.

–Something to warm him from the chill, and at the same time give him hope.

–He needed that most of all, especially for his people far below at the base of the great mountain. Hundreds of people, thousands of people were waiting for him there.

–What was he doing up here?

–He had done what God had asked.

–He had brought God’s people out of their slavery in Egypt.

–Out of the bondage that had held them for generations.

–And now they were captive to this God of fire and wind, life and death.

–What would this terrible/wonderful God want from them in exchange for their freedom?

–Would they have what it takes to follow this mighty God?

–Were they righteous enough?

–Forty days and forty nights—really a Biblical eternity—Moses would spend on the top of that mountain.

–Finally leaving only after God had written his commandments literally into stone.

–Commandments that would dictate the life of each Hebrew person.

–Laws that would shape them all into God’s people.

–Words written in stone but meant for the heart.

–Words that in a moment of frustration and anger, would only be seen by him…

–After many generations, and after many page turns of the Torah, and into the writings of the Kings and the Prophets, we gaze upon another mountain climber would follow that same twisting path up God’s mountain.

–This climber was also filled with apprehension, for he was on the run, not from an enraged Egyptian army or demanding God, but, even more terrifying, an angry queen named Jezebel.

–”Jezebel.” The name stuck in his craw as he trudged up the mountain.

–She dearly wanted to find this man and quickly remove his life for he had seen to the death of her priests, priests of her god named Baal.

–He was so tired of running.

–For forty-days and nights he had made his way to this mountain, and now as he neared its top he wondered if God would be there at all.

–Like Moses before him, he was so angry at his own people, now called the Israelites, for they seemed to have turned away from a fire-breathing God and embraced an idol that could not even produce a spark.

–A golden calf, a fertility idol named Baal—had nothing changed?

–Had God’s word, after so many generations, had no effect?

–Was he the only Israelite faithful to the true God?

–So the forlorn prophet hid himself in a cave.

–And in another burning-bush-like epiphany, God would manifest himself not in a terrible wind, great earthquake, or even a roaring fire—but rather in a still small voice.

–”What are you doing here, Elijah?”

–Again, many generations pass.

–Great powers rise and fall around the people of God.

–Some enslave the people of Israel and then Judah, carrying them off as captives to far away lands.

–But once again, a remnant returns, and builds a kingdom only to be occupied by the greatest power of all, Rome.

–It is in this rocky land that God’s people yearn for a Messiah, a savior who will free them from their bondage.

–A savior who climbs mountains.

–The disciple named Peter followed his mountain climbing master.

–He walked behind him, literally in his master’s footsteps, as he had done in those many months since he had been called from his fishing nets.

–It was this itinerate preacher from Nazareth who had changed his life.

–A preacher, a prophet who, dripping wet from his baptism, would spend forty days and forty nights in the wilderness before calling his disciples, before calling him.

–And now, far from the comfort of the sea, Peter found himself up in the clouds of a mountain whose name was not Mt. Horeb or Mt. Sinai—but, as events would unfold, would certainly be the mountain of God.

–Yes, it was a fitting image, Peter walking in his master’s footsteps as they made their way up the mountain, for Peter usually found himself a step-behind this one who he had come to understand as the Christ.

–And, as much as he would try to catch up, he perhaps knew that he never would.

–Just the other day, Peter had thought he had it all figured out when he professed Jesus as the Messiah. It was a glorious moment, but soon after Jesus was sharing unbelievable words involving his death and resurrection.

–Peter had tried to set Jesus straight, but Jesus rebuked him with words that still stung Peter as he walked along the trail.

–Like the voices that would come from the crowds that now surrounded Jesus at every turn, Peter must have wondered about his master.

–If he was the Messiah, where were his armies?

–If he was a prophet, wouldn’t God protect him?

–How could he die and rise again?

–Perhaps the other two disciples with him, James and John were thinking the same thing as they crested the summit of the mountain.

–But if this were the case, such thoughts were stripped away in a vision that could only be described as heavenly.

 –Now many an artist has since tried to capture this image: Jesus in dazzling white robes accompanied by two other mountain climbers, Moses and Elijah.

–Some would portray Moses and Elijah in white robes as well. But I like to think of them as dressed very simply; after all, it is Jesus who is transfigured on that mountain of God.

–Not Moses, the bringer of the law who will never make it across the Jordan River into the Promised Land.

–Not the prophet Elijah, who’s unfinished work will be continued by his colleague Elisha.

–No, this is about a mountain climber named Jesus, the very Son of God.

–And in a moment, Peter, and the two other disciples with him, are caught in this transfiguring truth.

–That they did not have to climb this mountain to be with God: God was with them all along.

–It was God who called them into a journey of faith.

–It was God whose footsteps accompanied them at each turn.

–It was God who called them his beloved.

–And if there were any doubts, they were dispelled on that mountaintop as God’s voice boomed from the clouds, “This is my beloved Son.”

–And adding a new commandment to those written in stone, God declared, “Listen to him!”

–For the past six weeks we too have been climbing the mountain of God, caught in texts of epiphany, of God made manifest in Christ.

–We have witnessed miracles of healing and hope.

–We have watched demons cast out and people restored.

–And this morning we have climbed to the top of God’s mountain to witnesses this transfiguring Christ.

–For a moment, we are assured that this truly is God’s beloved Son, and I tell you that you need to hold on to this fact, this reality as we head down the mountain.

–As we begin our Lenten journey this Wednesday, witnessing with ashes the fragility of our human nature.

–And as we move each week closer to that sacred moment when death and life meet on a cross.

–When our own journey of faith intersects the very life of God.

–I invite you on such a journey, but know that it is not an easy one.

–You may find your life changed, even turned upside down.

–You may have to leave some fishing nets or broken tablets behind.

–You may wonder if you have anything to say at all about God.

–But nonetheless, I invite you to come.

–For you are in good company.

–May we climb down this mountain together.

About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. Don't forget to sign up for his mucho-awesome newsletter.

  • Ardie Herbel

    Wonderful sermon. I love hearing from the Gospels. My own pastor seems to not want to touch on the gospels ever and I feel they are so rich, especially with Christ’s own spoken words. Of course, heading into Lent we have a special emphasis there, but I guess I consider myself kind of a “red-letter” Christian. Anyway, thank you for your wonderful messages.

    • vj

      A pastor who doesn’t touch on the Gospels? I though the whole point of the Church was to preach the Gospels and put into practice the words of Jesus? Explains a lot about the state of Christianity today, I suppose…

    • Valerie

      I have to agree with vj the message in the gospels is forgiveness and love. That should be the focus of every church out there! I pray for your church and for you Ardie.

  • vj

    So inspiring! I never before made the connection between Moses and Elijah seeking God on a mountain, and the transfiguration of Jesus on a mountain, accompanied by Moses and Elijah. So cool, thanks Pastor Bob!

    • vj

      Even more cool: someone commented on another post that Moses represents the Law, and Elijah represents the Prophets – so, when God speaks from the cloud and says “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”, it relates back to Jesus telling us that “Love the Lord your God” and “Love your neighbor as yourself” sum up the totality of the Law and Prophets.

  • http://www.facebook.com/rowenaferg Rowena Ferguson via Facebook

    Thanks for sharing Pastor Bob with us – I find his sermon’s very helpful

  • Peg Cybulski

    Hi Ardie!!

    Thanks for the missive. Yes, sometimes I think that we need more scripture and interpretation of it. I think it must be when I’m in more ‘need of the Word’. That is happening more often. I haven’t been coming as often, not because of that. Some days are good and some not with this arthritis – as you should well know. It makes me tired, even with my meds. Plus, I don’t sleep well at night. However, I continue to manage most of the stuff here at home. So …I continue to keep an eye on Stan and hope things will continue to improve in that area.

    I’ve been thinking about getting some people together for a choir for Easter, but will have to check with Sue for accompiament, and with the Pastor also. However, if I remember my Presbyterian ‘stuff” right, the only thing the Pastor has control over is the scripture and sermon.

    Any ideas???? Let me know and maybe we can ‘canoodle’ up some stuff for variety in the service. I miss you – Peg.


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