One thing we can count on in our spiritual lives is that we will be changed. Those changes may come in large, memorable moments or in such small increments that it’s like rock being reshaped by wind and water. But, no matter what, in time, we will be changed. Next Sunday is Transfiguration Sunday in the life of the church. It’s the last Sunday before the beginning of Lent and we travel with Jesus, Peter, James and John to a mountaintop. There they have an experience of witnessing Jesus being changed in an instant. It’s an experience that has the potential to change them, to shape them for the rest of their lives.
This section of scripture is a turning point in the Gospel of Mark. When Jesus and the disciples come down from this mountaintop, they turn toward Jerusalem. The remainder of the Gospel moves us, with them, closer to the cross. The season of Lent begins this next Wednesday on Ash Wednesday. It is a season that invites us to moves us toward Holy Week and Easter. It invites us to spend some time in the shadows, contemplating the messy and more difficult aspects of our lives and faith and ultimately leads us to hope, peace, restoration, resurrection.
In partnership with La Jolla United Methodist Church, we will be offering an online Ash Wednesday Service on February 17th at noon. If you are unable to attend at noon, the service will remain available on our website. We invite you to pre-register in order to receive an Ash Wednesday Planting Kit. You have the option to have the kit delivered to you or you may pick it up at church on Sunday, February 14th between 2 and 3:30. Visit the event page here.
I hope you’ll join us for online worship at 9:00 as we offer our praise and thanks to God, as we connect with God’s love, community and call and as we explore our faith together. Please know that all are welcome to join the Wednesday Bible Study that reviews the scripture and sermon topic from the previous Sunday and reflects on the questions that are listed below. If you’re interested in joining us from 11:30 to 12:30 on Wednesdays, please notify the church office or Pastor Lori and we’ll send you the Zoom link. Drop-ins are welcome! Looking forward to being together on Sunday!
Mark 9:2-9 (NRSV)
Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.
As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.
Questions to consider:
- Have you had a mountaintop experience in your spiritual life?
- What difference does that experience make to you in good time? In difficult times?
- What would you say to someone who struggles with not having a “mountaintop experience” in their spiritual life?
I have not had a mountaintop experience like Jesus had. St. Teresa of Avila calls them “favors.” Towards the end of “Interior Castles” St. Teresa shows how she is not puffed up by having these experiences. I often think of Elijah and Elisha, especially when I am in a chair at a commemoration with an empty chair for Elijah. I often ponder how Elijah could transmit energy and authority to Elisha at a moment of being taken up.
When I was in the Holy Land in 2006, one of my main guides was a Jewish lesbian whom I had supervised. She had become the top Israeli expert on the treatment of autism. She was with her wife in a kibbutz where I stayed for a week, and the two of them were taking lessons in Arabic, and were witnessing and reporting each week the way that Arab Muslims were treated at crossings by IDF soldiers. When the three of us went to Nazareth, the Muslim and Bedouin people there treated them as beloved daughters.
My former supervisee had more Biblical knowledge of the NT than I did, and I found out why. The sons of her wife were being tested that week on the Book of Matthew. All Israeli children are instructed and tested in the NT and al Qu’ran. We went to Mt. Tabor where I prayed and felt the events that the NT alleges to have occurred there.