What Goes Up Must Come Down, Really?

Broad Brook Congregational Church

March 2, 2014

Transfiguration Sunday

Matthew 17:1-9

 

What Goes Up Must Come Down, Really?

 

up-down2What goes up must come down, really?

That just doesn’t seem right.

Those mountain top experiences;

those over the top experiences;

they are awesome.

It is hard to find words to describe

how they make us feel.

Those encounters with the mysterious;

the miraculous;

the divine presence of the Holy Spirit.

They are moments you want to experience forever.

Your afraid you won’t remember every detail.

You want to stay on that mountain top

 

What are some of your mountain top encounters?

Did they make you want to stay on the mountain?

Mine do.

 

My most recent mountaintop experience was my ordination.

But I have had many others that had nothing to do with the church

yet everything to do with the Holy Spirit’s presence.

Some were everyday happenings in which God could be sensed.

I just wanted to stay on the top of the mountain.

to stay with that feeling. That is

 

That is what Peter is trying to do.

The lectionary is a funny thing.

Sometimes it starts in a place that is

in the middle of the bigger picture.

Such is the case today.

We need a little more background

to help us understand the disciples’ feelings and actions.

 

In the previous chapter, we hear the tension rising in Jesus.

His patience is being tried on many fronts:

the Pharisees, Sadducees, and his own Disciples.

Chapter 16:1 tells us that the religious authorities ask Jesus

for a “sign from heaven” in order to trick him.

Jesus, of course turns them down.

His own disciples,

are still clueless as to Jesus true identity.

They have traveled with him—seen his miracles.

Jesus, seemingly frustrated,

reminds his disciples

once again

what they have seen with their own eyes.

Peter finally gets it.

He says Jesus is

the Anointed One—the Messiah.

Chapter 16 ends with Jesus telling his disciples what will happen to him

and the cost of discipleship.

 

Then we hear of the Transfiguration on the mountaintop.

It is no wonder that Peter wants to stay awhile.

Perhaps he thinks that

if they remain theretransfig

the dreadful things of which Jesus spoke

will not come to pass.

After all,

the divine voice

once again claims Jesus as God’s son

just as God did at Jesus’ baptism.

Only this time

there is a command

“Listen to him.”

Seeing Jesus as a brilliant light;

speaking to Moses and Elijah;

Jesus’ true identity revealed;

None of this appears to frighten Peter, James, and John.

In fact that’s when Peter decides

it would be great

to build shelters for the three heroes of their faith.

Like us, Peter wants to prolong the time at the top.

 

What does frighten the Disciples

is the voice of God

It knocks the Disciples off their feet.

They fall flat on their faces.

It is Jesus touch that calms them;

The simple human hand touching them

Conveying God’s love.

His voice saying: “Do not be afraid” does the same.

 

In C.S. Lewis’ The Silver Chair, from the Chronicles of Narnia,narnia

Aslan is speaking to the child, Jill, on a mountaintop.

Aslan says: “ Here on the mountain

I have spoken to you clearly:

I will not often do so

down in Narnia.

Here on the mountain

the air is clear and your mind is clear;

as you drop down into Narnia,

the air will thicken.

Take care that it does not confuse your mind.

And the signs which you have learned here

will not look at all

as you expect them to look,

when you meet them there.

That is why it is so important

to know them by heart and

pay no attention to appearances.

Nothing else matters.

 

For Peter, James, and John,

God had spoken clearly.

The air was clear.

Their minds were focused

only on the event at hand.

Things were clear to them on the mountain.

It was easy to hear God’s voice.

in the clear air.

With no distractions their minds were clear.

 

Aslan had warned Jill

that as she descended from the mountain

the air would thicken.

Things would not be as clear

and she might become confused.

What she had learned on the mountain

she must know by heart.

Nothing else mattered

So too for Peter, James, and John.

Things will not be the same

after they have left the mountain.

The busyness of life;

the questions from the Sadducees and Pharisees;

the resulting tensions;

all of this will serve as distractions for the disciples.

Unless they know Jesus’ commands by heart

they will become confused.

The air will begin to thicken.

Hearing God’s voice will become problematic.

 

We are at a crossroadscrossroad

Both in terms of our church year

and in our Gospel.

We have come to the end of Epiphany—the season of light.

On Wednesday we will enter the season of darkness—Lent.

It seems, then, that we must follow the disciples and Jesus

down off the mountain

and onto the plain.

 

Peter, James, and John are in a difficult position.

They have witnessed the true identity of Jesus;

but, they have been sworn to secrecy

until Jesus has been resurrected.

They must travel the road to Jerusalem

with Jesus and the other disciples

Yet they can’t let their fellow disciples know

what happened and what will happen.

There is still work to be done in the trenches.

People to heal, the word to proclaim,

and lessons to learn.

Looming ever closer is the cross.

 

So, yes,, what goes up must come down.

We, like the Disciples, must not stay on the mountaintop.

We have to come down to the plains

even into the valleys.

We, too, must listen for God’s voice.

We hear again the admonition of God in Psalm 46: 10-11.

“Be still and know that I am God”

“the Lord of hosts is with us;

the God of Jacob is our refuge.”

God is present on the mountain,

on the plain,

even in the valley.

 

The disciples entered into

daily life with all its distractions and tensions.

It is the same for us.

Every day life is filled with distractions and tensions.

We have to know by heart what we learned on the mountain.

Because in the cacaphony that thickens our air

it is difficult to hear God’s voice

unless

we make it a habit.

As we learn to carve out time

to just BE

it will become a habit

to listen for that still small voice

and know that the Holy Spirit is speaking to us.

 

Very soon we will be walking with the disciples

as they begin the journey into Jerusalem with Jesus.

It is without a doubt the gloomiest season of our faith.

That journey must have been so very difficult for the disciples.

It goes without saying that it was tortuous for Jesus.

We have the advantage of knowing in advance

what will take place.

But in the valleys of our lives

we are very much in the same predicament

as the disciples.

We don’t know what lies ahead.

We find ourselves wondering: Why? Where are you God?

 

For me, the deepest and darkest valley,

I have had to travelvalley

was the sudden and unexpected death of my husband by suicide.

During that walk all I could do was listen to God.

I listened for the voice of God

speaking through family,

friends, and ministers

both lay and ordained.

In our darkest moments,

we are given the gift

of God’s voice, God’s touch through human conduits

conveying God’s love.

In much the same way as Jesus’ touch

and voice did for the Disciples..

 

The unexpected phone call

the unexpected letter

the unexpected visit

when most needed

those are moments of God’s voice;

visits from everyday Angels.

I see God in the faces of those I meet face to face in those moments.

I hear the glory of God

in their voices,

their written words,

and their touch.

 

Jesus’ transfiguration brings us hope and healing.

The good news of our story this morning

is telling us

that God is present with us

through all the valleys,

plains,

and mountaintop experiences

of our daily lives—

the struggles

stresses

as well as rejoicing with us on the mountaintop.

Really, what goes up must come down.

 

We cannot remain on the mountaintop

because the mountaintop experiences

transfigure us.

On the mountain we learn to listen to God;

learn that God’s love can come to us

through human touch and words.

Our transfiguration gives us

the courage,

strength,

hope

and faith

to walk confidently with God

through life’s twists and turns.

What goes up must come down, really!

That is the good news I found in the Scripture for this morning.

I offer it to you, in the greatest of hope!