We’ve all been there ... the mountaintop where, for the briefest of moments, all seems right with the world. We have “arrived,” and we want to rest. We want to set up camp and stay there forever. So, we can certainly sympathise with Peter when, having arrived at this critical moment with Jesus (found in Mark 9:2-9), he wants to put some stakes in the ground. He asks to build three dwellings—one for Jesus, one for Moses, one for Elijah—so that they can all stay there, happily ensconced on that mountain, forever. “Nope,” says Jesus. “We still go on.”
As is typical in Mark’s Gospel, there is always some next thing to be getting on with. What Peter has been able to glimpse here is some fullness of time; some thin and holy scenario where these three critical moments in the Hebraic narrative are drawn into a single place in time. Perhaps he also glimpsed there the way that Jesus would soon join the company of these other two prophets, gone on to God and present only in memory. The power of that must have been as heartbreaking as it was dazzling.
Of course, he wanted to stay there forever and keep Jesus in the safety of some mountaintop haven. But, of course, they couldn’t stay. No perfect moment can stay. Maybe to help us get to grips with this reading we can all explore a few of our own mountaintop moments. Maybe, the last night of a church camp, the answered prayer, the return from some long wilderness, the healing of some broken connection ... In those places we are able to glimpse some holy fulfillment of all God’s promises, all of our hopes, and all the mystery of creation. It is natural to want to put up a flag and stay there forever.
But since we can’t—what truth can we take from the mountaintop that will sustain us for the journey ahead? From our Hebrew Scriptures Text this week, 2 Kings 2:1-12, “Elisha went over.” So much narrative potential in those three little words. In addition to setting the stage as a prequel to the transfiguration story, this episode could stand all on its own. The mountain top talks to us about transitions, or maybe it could be about leadership and legacy.
If the transfiguration leads us to examine what we take with us from the mountaintop, then perhaps this reading about Elisha from 2 Kings might engage us in questions about what we leave for those who come after? In what ways do we equip the next generation of leaders to “carry the mantle” of our faith story? How do we help people in their ever day life to understand the good news of Jesus? I would like to turn to things Harry Potter even though I have only watched parts of the movies and not read the books. The readings for this Sunday make it a great time to talk about Dumbledore.
All those times when he gave Harry some small glimpse of truth—without giving away the punchline—that would sustain him for the journey ahead. In other words, Dumbledore did not get to destroy all the Horcruxes in his lifetime; but he made sure Harry had the tools, and all the pieces of the story, to accomplish the thing on his own. Are we giving our children the right tools? And the right pieces of the story? It challenges me not only as a Christian but as a person as to what I am doing about passing on the right tools and the pieces of the story of my life that may support others on their life’s journey.