High On The Mountain Of Love
"Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable to you, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer."
"High On The Mountain Of Love
There's an old black and white movie, starring Alec Guiness entitled, "The Man In The White Suit," where he plays an eccentric old man who works for a large fabric mill. Hired as a janitor; he thinks of himself as a chemist. Through a case of mistaken identity, he winds up in charge of research and development.
This would be chemist invents a bright white fabric which repels dirt. It won't wear out, wrinkle or get dirty. Management and labor proclaim him a hero. He becomes an overnight celebrity. Everyone sings his and the fabric's praises until one day they realize that production will go down to zero when everyone owns one of these suits. That means they'll all be out of a job.
Labor and management join forces to get rid of the fabric and the chemist. The only thing that saves him is that, while just on the verge of being caught, the white suit suddenly begins to unravel and disintegrates before everyone's eyes. Management and labor both stop, happy that the masses of people need clothing and they still have a job. And "The Man In The White Suit," goes back to being the crack brained inventor he always was.
This morning we meet another man in a dazzling white suit. Only this is no cracked brained chemist standing before us, this is none other than the Son of God, standing in full glory.
I. WHAT HAPPENED:
A. While discussing this passage with some youth one time, one of the young men summed up what theologians and Church leaders have thought for years when he said, "Whoa, this is too weird!" It is sort of weird isn't it? This whole scene of Jesus up on the mountain, getting all shiny; talking with long gone Moses and Elijah; hearing God's voice from the cloud. It all sounds strange and it is. And yet it is a very Holy moment, a moment when the true nature of Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God is revealed to his three closest companions: Peter, James and John. It is a moment when Biblical past, present and future converge in a revelation of Christ' glory.
In this Holy moment, with human witnesses, Jesus is revealed in his full divinity. Moses and Elijah, the symbols of the Law and the Prophets, stand beside the one who is to fulfill their words and purpose with his very life.
They affirm and confirm the mission Jesus is about to undertake. They stand as powerful witnesses and as supporters as Jesus "set his face upon Jerusalem." In other words, Jesus made up his mind, he resolved to go to Jerusalem, to bear the cross, and to carry out God's mission of Salvation.
From this moment on, his work changed, his message was the same, but his manner changed. There wouldn't be as many miracles, there wouldn't be as many discourses with the crowds. Instead, Jesus would spend more time teaching the disciples. Jesus set his face upon Jerusalem, even though he knew what awaited him there.
B. The disciples didn't know the importance of this event. All they saw was Jesus revealed in all of his glory and two of the great spiritual leaders of Israel.
Their reaction to all of this was like the scene out the movie Jurasic park. There was a wonderful scene when, the owner, John Hammond first shows the paleontologist, Dr. Allen Grant, the live dinosaurs. When Grant realized they were real it was almost too much to comprehend, he went weak in the knees and felt faint. It was too good to be true. But it was.
That's the way the disciples reacted. It was too much to comprehend. So Peter did what he thought was best, he offered hospitality by offering to build three booths, three shaded areas for Moses, Elijah and Jesus to rest in. Peter didn't want this holy moment to end. As soon as the words came out of his mouth, Peter knew they were wrong. Before he could fumble for an apology, a cloud settled on the Mountain and God spoke to the disciples saying, "This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to Him."
They were awe struck and terrified. Just as quickly as it had happened, it was over. The disciples were still reeling from the event when Jesus tells them to keep it to themselves and they head back down the mountain and right back into the thick of it. First rattle out of the bag and they're confronted with a healing which the other nine disciples couldn't perform. Jesus chides the disciples and the crowds for their lack of faith and then heals the boy.
II. WHAT IT MEANS FOR US:
A. Now I know you're probably sitting there thinking, "So what? What's it all mean?" I think it tells us a couple of things.
First, it tells us that God's love will prevail. I'm not talking about the syrupy, mushy kind of love of Valentine's Day. I'm talking about the merciful, forgiving, sacrificial love of God. From this point on, Jesus' ministry and focus change. Up until this point the symbol for his ministry might have been the loaves and fishes but from this point on it the predominant symbol will be the cross. Everything that Jesus says and does will be to prepare the disciples, his followers and himself for Calvary. And there on that hill overlooking Jerusalem, God's love will prevail over sin and death.
B. The second thing this passage tells us is that we can't stay on the Mountain Top. Peter wanted to build booths not just as a gesture of hospitality but as a way to commemorate the event. And as a way to continue to live in the glory of the event. He didn't want to leave. His reaction is not that unusual. When we have one those mountain top experiences we don't want it to end. We want to prolong it and stay immersed in it forever. We need mountain top experiences but the truth is that we can't stay on the mountain top.
Mountain top experiences are given to strengthen and encourage us for the work of living in the ordinary. They are given to help us in the living out of our faith by giving us an anchor and an inspiration.
I'll never forget the day or the place where I surrendered to the call to preach. Whenever we go back to the farm to visit Mary's folks I make a point of going to that spot. It's a holy place for me. But I couldn't have carried out God's call if I had chosen to stay there. We can't live on the mountain top, we have to come down form the mountain and back into the marketplace.
C. And that leads right into the third thing the transfiguration teaches us. It reminds us that no matter what, Christ is still greater than any situation or anything that comes our way. When Jesus and the disciples came down from the mountain, the first thing they were hit with was the boy whose life was tortured by the unclean spirit. If you noticed, Jesus seems a little upset that the nine disciples who had stayed behind couldn't heal the boy.
But Jesus does, proving that what had taken place in front of Peter, James and John on the mountain wasn't a hallucination. The power of God rested upon Jesus. Nothing and no one, not even an unclean spirit, could stand up against the Son of God.
For us, that means that no problem, no situation, no concern, no sin, nothing can get between us and Christ. Jesus is greater than any event or any occurrence in our life. God's love, mercy and grace, as experienced through a relationship with Christ is greater than anything life can throw at us. That gives us continued strength for the daily walk of faith.
D. Finally, out of the cloud that rested upon the mountain and engulfed the disciples, came words which we need to hear; words which we need to follow. God spoke and said, "This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to Him."
There are lots of voices clamoring for our attention. There are lots of voices trying to tell us what to believe, what to do, what's right and what's wrong and what to think about whatever. But here in God's own words are the instructions we need for daily living. They are simple and straight forward. God says there is only one voice that we need to listen to and that is the voice of Christ. We hear the voice of Christ through prayer, worship, Christian fellowship and especially through Bible Study. There are a lot of things God could have said but God simply said, "listen to Him."
Everybody who likes basketball is familiar with the name Larry Bird, former basketball great of the Boston Celtics. During a retirement party for Larry Bird in Boston Garden, K.C. Jones, the former Celtics Coach told of diagramming a play on the sidelines, only to have Bird dismiss it, saying: "Get the ball to me and get everyone out of my way."
Jones responded: "I'm the coach, and I will call the plays." Then Jones turned to the other players and said: "Get the ball to Larry, and get out of his way." (1)
High on the mountain of love, because of the man in the white suit, we find out that's basically our message for today. When those times come, when the world seems to be crashing in around: draw strength from the mountain top experiences; remember that God is greater than anything that can come your way; listen to Jesus. And finally, simply give the ball to Jesus and get out of the way.
This is the Word of the Lord for this day.
1. LEXINGTON HERALD-LEADER, March 10, 1993, p. C2.