" MOUNTAIN CLIMBERS" TRANSFIGURATION SUNDAY SERMON - II CORINTHIANS 4:3-6 AND MARK 9:2-9 - FR. JOSEPH ALSAY, ST. AUGUSTINE OF CANTERBURY EPISCOPAL CHURCH
Excerpts of a Sermon Delivered
the Reverend Joseph C. Alsay
The Last Sunday after the Epiphany
February 14, 2021
II Corinthians 4:3-6 & Mark 9:2-9 “Mountain Climbers”
This morning, I would like for you to think about the last time you were courageous enough to climb to the top a rocky crag? Just muse about that moment when you scaled the mountain and after much hardship and many tenuous steps made it to the summit.
But, you may be saying to yourself, “But Father, you don’t understand I’ve never so much as donned a backpack, shod mountain climber boots, or even come within ear shout of an actual mountain. How can I think about the last time I climbed to the top of a mountain?”
A mountaintop experience is one which is special, unique, one in which time virtually stands still. It is one before which all other experiences pale.
Your mountaintop experience was a university graduation, not necessarily for the graduate, but for the parents who have struggled to help ensure that the day would come to pass.
For some, a marriage is a mountaintop experience, a day on which the bride and groom are convinced that there is no love in the world greater than the love they have for each other.
So, it is in the scriptures events of great proportion are seen on the mountain; that place of divine revelation. Theologians call them Theophanies. On Mount Horeb Moses encounters the burning bush. On Mount Sinai this same Moses goes up receives the Ten Commandments and his countenance was changed. What about Elijah? He hears the still small whispering voice of God on the mountain. And yes, it is here on the Mount Tabor that Jesus takes his “executive committee,” Peter, James and John with him.
They go up the mountain and see something most extraordinary happening. Jesus’ face is altered, and he seems to be enveloped in light so that his clothes are dazzling white.
But that’s not all. He is not alone but, seen flanked on his left and right two other famous “Mountain Climbers,” Moses and Elijah. Moses and Elijah, who represented the Law and the Prophets, are there in glory, and they are all engaged in a conversation about what was to happen to Jesus --- namely his passion, death, and resurrection.
In this brief moment, there is a cameo, a picture of the whole story of salvation, as Jesus comes face to face with Law he came to fulfill and the Prophets who foretold him coming.
We appreciate mountaintop experiences because they are special, and because they give us strength and inspiration to return to everyday existence, empowered to take them on.
The mountaintop experience of graduation day doesn’t last. The graduate will have to enter the real and rough tumble work force and earn a living.
The mountaintop experience of the wedding day certainly doesn’t last. There will be sickness as well as health, poorer as well as richer, and a good deal of worst instead of better.
But, it was at that moment the “terrific trio” heard a voice from heaven thunder the words. ‘This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” Familiar words, the same words heard at the baptism of Jesus with the addition of “listen to him.” Up to this point they had not truly listened to him and in fact will not listen and understand until the bloody events that happen on that mountain of pain and death called Golgotha have past.
Yes, only then will they know that Jesus who was Son of God, powerful agent of healing and subject of dazzling glory is also the Son of Man, who will soon be crucified and flanked again on the right and left not by Moses and Elijah, but two criminals. This One who was transfigured in their midst, ultimately transfigures and then transforms their lives through his death and resurrection.
The disciples had to come down from of the mountain, follow Jesus, and return to the normalcy of life. And that is the challenge that we face. We must come down from the mammoth and momentous mountaintop experiences of our existence and go back to valleys of despair, veiled with tears. We too, must come from the highest summits of our captivating crags and return to the humble hamlets of human suffering and loss.
Because it is to such places and to such people that the Sovereign God sends us; his Beloved with a message of hope and healing to those who have broken hearts and destroyed dreams.
Yes, you will have to come off of the mountain and return to the broken communities of injustice with its painful pictures of poverty.
But return to them and transform them because you have experienced the moment of transfiguration and are thus transformed to ultimately transport the love and light of God into the world knowing that we are God’s Beloved and that his glory will be with us.
~Fr. Joseph C. Alsay, St. Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal Church