Sermon: “Joy in the Journey”
Rev. Glenn G. Grant
Kirkridge Presbyterian Church
Transcription from February 27, 2022
Sermon transcription is automatically generated. Please forgive any grammatical errors.
Transfiguration story is one of those things that comes up every year, the Sunday before Ash Wednesday. You know what Ash Wednesday is? That's the day after everybody goes out and gets their paczki. And if anybody can explain to me how you get paczki out of that spelling…
But transfiguration day is the day we talk about what the disciples experienced with Jesus on the mountain top. And it's kind of the culmination of Jesus' time with them. Because from here on out the text all turned towards his final days in Jerusalem. Now one of the things about the text is it talks about what happens on top the mountain. And it talks about the fact that they went up the mountain with him for a time to pray. In other words, he was taking them away from the crowds after an extended time period of teaching and healing and going up on the mountain to pray. So, they could have some downtime. Now in our day and age, we talk about people having mountaintop experiences, and I've often wondered how somebody that has grown up in the planes and has never been more than a hundred miles from home. How they think about a mountain, top experience. You know, is it when it gets to the top of that, you know, 10-foot rise? But for others, of course, if you've had a chance to be in the mountains, hiking in the mountains or whatever, and you've gotten to the top and seeing the tremendous vistas, you have some idea of a mountain top experience, but a mountain top experience isn't the being on top of.
I can tell you that being out in Cimarron, New Mexico and Philmont scout, ranch and hiking up and over Mount Baldy, which is a rock top mountain, because the top of its is well above the tree line, the last five or 600 feet of elevation, you're hiking above the tree line. Yeah. The views sometimes are wonderful from up there. When we did it, there were two crews that were on the same route and the other crew got up early in the morning, hiked up to the top of old Baldy and we met them on the way down and they said, it's not worth it all. It's just in the clouds you don't see anything. Well, we didn't know whether, what we were going to get that or not, but we're hiking up. And we're noticing the differences and the flora and fauna as you go from, what's basically a semi-desert floor up and over Mount Baldy, to the top of Mount Baldy and checking things out along the way. And then we get up top, the clouds were gone, the fog burned off. We were laying in the sun eating lunch. Now, that's not the mountain top experience.
On the way back down. This is the first full week in July, and we started on the trail, July 5th, we start down and we're butt sledding on the snow. And almost everybody in our group thought that was a far better experience to be doing in July than looking out from the top of the mountain.
Now there's a point here, and it's the joy in the journey. Peter and James and John's experience on that mountain top with Jesus would have had absolutely no meaning for them if that was their only experience with Jesus. But they had to be journeying with Jesus from the time that he called them to put down their nets and to follow him and to witness his teaching his healing his reaching out to the downcast. They had to have all of that experience for what happened on top of the mountain to make any sense at all. And then they had to continue that journey. And this is where we don't think about this is what happened after they were on that mountain top. And this passage kind of cuts off right there. It doesn't tell us, but what it does do is give us an indication that they wanted to stay on top of the mountain. Peter said it's good for us to be here, Lord, let us build a shelter. One for you, one for Moses, one for Elijah. Now a shelter is permanence. He wanted to keep Moses and Elijah and Jesus on top of that mountain. And he wanted them to stay there with them. And basically, the response he got was, no this is not where it happens. This is not where it happens. This was a point in time, but you have to go back and into the world with what you have heard and what you have seen.
And that's an important thing for us to remember, that we all have these wonderful experiences. And by the way, sometimes mountain, top experiences, aren't wonderful. Mountaintop experiences are things that change you. You change the way you look at life. Sometimes they're catastrophes for you at the moment. But the passage or the message from the gospel is we don't stay in those moments. We have to go back and live our lives in the world. So that, what has happened there and has changed us, makes a difference going forward.
Peter, James, John saw what happened on the mountain top. And the gospel writer says that they didn't talk about it afterwards, but my guess is they did, or we wouldn't have been reading the story. You know, how many times do we read stories about something that happened that nobody talked about?
So, they did talk about it. Maybe not immediately. You know, we don't always talk about things immediately. Sometimes we have to process things in our own minds until they make sense to us. And my guess is that it didn't make sense to Peter and James and John until after Easter, after all it does say that Jesus and Moses and Elijah were talking about Jesus, leaving this world. And that wouldn't have made sense until after the fact.
So, we have all of these experiences in our life that make a difference in the way we view what's going on around us. But that difference only matters going forward. We can't go back and undo it. We can't go back and relive something before that, this isn't Groundhog's day. So, we have to take what has changed in our perception and move forward.
We can look at what's going on in the world today and say, how do we move forward? How do we move forward? The tendency is to not move forward because we are afraid to put one foot in front of the other for fear that we'll take a wrong step. Or maybe it's just because we're a little comfortable with where we are and we're afraid to change that comfort level.
But Peter, James, and John had to get past that comfort level. They could not stay there and build shelters and make something permanent. It was a singular experience. They had to move forward from that point and go back down the mountain and rejoin the rest of Jesus' followers and go on with their life. And they had to continue with Jesus into Jerusalem, and beyond.
So, when we have a tendency to want to hold onto something, it's holding us back. When we want to keep things the way they are, they're holding us back. Oh, the church never wants to keep things the way they are. The frozen chosen. Isn't that what people refer to the Presbyterians. Yeah. Hmm.
And you could probably come up with a similar phrase for almost any other denomination out there because face it churches don't like to change. And yet we can't stay in that moment. We can't stay in this moment. We can't continue to do things the way we did before COVID we can't continue to do things the way we did in 1950. We can't continue to do things the way we are doing today, three years from now, because we have to keep going and moving forward and going back into the world. And taking what we have learned from our experiences with us, so that we can then like James and John and Peter go out and witness to who Christ really is and what that means for us. That's reality.
I shared before the experience that Debbie and I had when we were taking a youth group backpacking and we did a day trip up and over old rag mountain. You probably know where old rag is off the Appalachian trail by about 10 miles. We started on the Appalachian trail. Down through the valley and up over old Rag and through the saddle and back down through the valley and back up the skyline drive, the only problem is, is it that is 10 miles and we didn't start until almost 10:00 AM.
Now, anybody anybody's hiked in the mountains knows that it's a lot slower than walking on flat ground. We had lunch with us, that was all. Most of the hikers had one or two water bottles with them and it was July.
You start to understand the problem. We finished that hike in darkness, total darkness. At least four of the youth that went on that trip, used it for their college entrance essays because of what happened on that day's hike. And it didn't have to do with the views from the top of old rag. It had to do with what they learned about their personal limits that they learned on the journey from the top of Old Rag back to the Appalachian trail after dark with no flashlights.
You see, it's what we learn as we continue going forward in life that strengthens our faith and it gives us the basis for the next step. Let us keep taking the next step, Amen.