Mountain Memories Make Many Minions
Several years ago I was fortunate enough to go to Hawaii and went to the island of Maui. One of the things you just ‘have to see” while on Maui is the sunrise on Haleakala – a dormant volcano on the south side of the island. Haleakala is the Hawaiian word for “House of the Sun”. You have to get up at three in the morning to drive the winding road to the top of the mountain. It was pitch black that particular night. No moon, some clouds. As dawn approached, I and the other visitors scanned the brightening horizon to spot just where the sun would make its appearance. Finally, the sun poked its beams into our vision. How bright – how glorious! The big ball grew in size and intensity as we saw it being exposed more and more. It was absolutely glorious, with clouds in brilliant hues of gold and pink and red, the beams of light coming around those puffs of clouds. Before we knew it, the sun was all the way up and so it was over. It had been a neat and inspiring sight to behold. In many ways it was a “God moment”. One could sense the presence of God in that thing of beauty.
Thinking of spiritual mountaintops, many of us can remember those times when we have felt especially close to God – those thin places where we and God get so close. For some folks it was a light, some folks a voice or an aroma, some folks a healing touch or a comforting hug. Some of those instances were where the Lord spoke through nature – a beautiful sunrise or maybe a sunset, a view from a mountain of a pastoral valley with ridges beyond. Sometimes God used the words of a book, a story, the Bible, a magazine. Sometimes God uses an angel, perhaps an earthly angel, or a heavenly angel that we didn’t recognize as such. Most all of us can remember a time when we were especially close to God.
The three Synoptic Gospels tell us about Jesus taking three disciples up on a mountain with him. It was while they were up on that mountain that they had their experience with God. As they were watching, Jesus is transfigured; Jesus begins to take on an aura, to glow, to change. At this the three are amazed. And as we so often hear when there is a God moment – SUDDENLY – Moses and Elijah are with Jesus. How the three recognized Moses and Elijah is anyone’s guess, but they KNEW who they were. There are times when you just know. Then God, in the Exodus clothing of a cloud, appeared before them and God’s voice was heard, “This is my Beloved Son in Whom I am pleased – Listen to Him” Bam – they were knocked down by the awesomeness of the moment and the presence of God Almighty. Then it was over. It is not known how long this experience lasted. One can only speculate.
There a few things we can learn from this account: Jesus is formally confirmed as the Son of God. God was announcing the Sonship and Lordship of Jesus to the world. God does come to us in unusual and sometimes dramatic ways. This event lasted only a short time and many of our encounters with God last for only an instant and yet we never forget them. Once we have that encounter, we expect it to be the same for everyone. And lastly, and most importantly, God said “Listen to Him”. Jesus told these disciples to “follow me”. When we truly follow Christ, we LISTEN to Him. We hear Jesus when He speaks through scripture, through our meditation and prayer, through teachings in the church, through a person we respect and even sometimes through the least likely people. We need to be open to God’s voice and recognize it, in whatever form it comes. Listen to Him.
You know there is no absolute explanation of this “transfiguration” as seen by the three disciples. Jesus was changed in some way. When we turn to the transfigured Jesus, we are changed. We may not physically glow, and yet some may; but we will all be changed by that experience. Just remember that Jesus and the disciples came down from the mountain and continued their lives. So must we. May we experience the presence of God through Jesus in our lives.
Jim Musgrave is the interim pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Logan and member of the Logan Ministerial Association.