When thinking about the Gospel reading for the Transfiguration from Matthew 17, I began to think about mountain experiences. Things happen on mountains. When I was younger growing up in Aotearoa (New Zealand) I spent a lot of time in the mountains and hills with family or friends. Sometimes we would be out for up to a week. When you go into the hills and mountains in Aotearoa you need to be careful and prepared for all types of weather and condition. You also have to trust, build fellowship and care about those with you. Sometimes I went with just one person and sometimes with a good number.
One trip we were hiking from Glenorchy at the top of Lake Wakatipu. We set out from Glenorchy and walked into the start of the Routeburn Track. The next day albeit overcast we walked to the Harris Saddle expecting to camp out somewhere near there. As we got there though and rested for a crashing storm tracked its way across the mountains until it arrived at the Saddle where we were with brilliant lightning, booming thunder, slashing rain and then snow. Initially we huddled in fear and awe at the power and for me of our God made manifest in this display of creation.
That was a singular weather event in all my years on the mountains We then quickly made our way despite a minor injury to my walking partner to the next shelter/hut at Lake McKenzie. Boy was I glad of the companionship and support of my friend despite his injury. We pushed hard through the rain that had set in and arrived at Lake McKenzie before dusk. There were a couple of people already in the hut. We were delighted to find others there as we were concerned about getting support if things with my friend got worse. We expressed our gratitude at arriving at a nice warm hut, a cuppa and then we all prepared a nice warm meal.
Before eating, in the quiet of our surroundings I expressed my thanks and gratitude to myself for the experience together we had and our safety despite the conditions. While in those mountains I was reminded of the story of transfiguration — of the notions of being changed from the inside out and prayers that this glow, this obvious work of the Spirit, this being kept safe despite the experience would transfer back to where we had come from. I was reminded that coming out of the normal often allows for these “mountaintop experiences.”
The transfiguration of Jesus is seen as a divine light that emanated from his body that revealed to the disciple’s truths, they had not understood through Jesus’s words alone. Jesus knew they would not be able to comprehend the resurrection, so they were provided with the unforgettable visual teaching method. The hardest lessons that we learn in life stay with us because we witness them with our eyes. As humans, we believe what we see and not what others see for us. Jesus knew that the coming events of his suffering, death, and resurrection would become the “good news” throughout eternity if told through the eyes and memory of the disciples.
So, the question I reflect on these days is, “How does this sense of belonging, this bond of acceptance, this trusting of each other, this trusting of God, this unconditional love and non-judgment become the norm in our lives every single day, no matter where we are?” Our prayer always was, “How do we become the bearers of goodness, mercy, and love that transfigures each and every space we enter?” This is a critical message for our bodies of Christ gathering to hear a rallying cry in our houses of worship. Transfigured through mountaintop experiences, we go to shine in a world of dimness.
Exodus 24 the Hebrew Scripture set for the Transfiguration Feast talks of how rules affect our lives. In a world of ambiguity and vague language, how do we translate rules written in stone for our daily lives? Ethical decision-making with a lens that sees and considers the broader impact of what we say and do is much needed in our world. Can our churches be places that not only encourage this but teach and demonstrate it? In what ways are the Ten Commandments a guide or a hindrance to decision-making in this day and age?