Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus. As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. Mark 9:2-9
We are familiar with mountaintops. We have longingly starred upon their majestic beauty from afar. We have stridden in confidence and trepidation towards their sturdy feet, looking up at the insurmountable task. We have endured, step-by-step up the mountaintop until, exhausted, we stood upon it and surveyed the lands below. We are intimately familiar with both figurative and literal mountaintops.
Mountaintops are not just physical earthly forms that divide continents and riddle her landscape with water. Mountaintops are the moments where you dream dreams of liberty and justice for all. Mountaintops are the times when you dare to hunger for equality. Mountaintops are shelters in which you discover your true self away from the violence and hatred of the here and now. Mountaintops are the not yet realized in the fallen world apart from the luscious garden of yore.
Mountaintops are beautiful and alluring. Mountaintops are awe-inspiring and attractive. Mountaintops are exhilarating and intoxicating. Mountaintops are treacherous and risky.
Mountaintops are places where mysterious things happen and what you see is not always what you get. Mountaintops reach in to the heavens beckoning us to look up in to the thin veiled sky and testify to the glories above. Mountaintops are reminders of the finitude and impermanence that plague the human condition.
The problem is that mountaintops do not sustain life. They are semi-barren with little to support you. Mountaintops have the power to transform but they do not have the power to sustain.
It is difficult to visit the history of Black America without engaging mountaintops. This nations history is filled with the ebb and flow of black mountaintops yearning for freedom and equality. Demanding the fullness of God’s fearfully and wonderfully made decree.
Mountaintops shake the foundations of our institutions as they proclaim the injustice of privileged citizenship and point to the hypocrisy of declared liberty. Mountaintops challenge the status quo. Mountaintops are risky. They are risky because they challenge, provoke, and demand. Mountaintops are risky because they magnify silence and invite us into the presence of a whispering God.
The same God that whispered Creation into existence rests upon that mountaintop and guides those that visit that mountaintop towards justice, peace, and liberation from the bonds of this world. Standing in the presence of this power, this whispering God in this mortal coil is risky. We are not prepared to deliver this mortal coil to the presence of Our Creator, Our God.
Mountaintops provide respite from the brokenness of this world and renew our spirit for the journey to life’s valleys. Life cannot be all mountaintops. We are called to walk up and down the mountaintops, through the valleys, and across the rivers of life. This is not a sprint or a race to the top. This is an endurance race of step-by-step, moment-by-moment, relationship-by-relationship of God working, wonderment. We are called to community.
Jesus did not transform alone. He had community surrounding him. He had an inner circle, Disciples, followers, family, and advisories. And upon his last mountaintop Jesus engaged in community and moved from the top to the valley to be near us. Jesus continued to model community for us.
If you stay on the mountaintop there is nothing or nobody present long enough to be in community with. I am reminded of the powerful charge of Howard Thurman when he said, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” Alive, Is this not what God has commanded of us? Alive, is this not what we have been born into this world to be? ALIVE! One cannot be truly alive up on that mountaintop. Alive is a state we are in as we depart the mountaintop and traverse the lands below, the valleys between those divine, glory-filled breaths of mountaintop glee. Alive, we are called to be alive.
What makes you come alive?
I invite you to close your eyes. Let us walk the valley floor towards the mountaintop. What does it look like? Is it cold? Is it warm? Are there trees as we make our way up that mountain? Feel the earth beneath your feet. What does it feel like? Feel the air fill your lungs. What does it feel like to take breath? What emotions are being evoked? Who is with you? What do you hear as we make our way up the mountain? We near the mountaintop…pause and look from where you have come. Look out over the valley below. What do you see from the mountaintop? What are you feeling as you look out? What emotions are present with you? Let us rest. Take a deep breath in through your mouth, pause, and exhale through your nose. Again, take a breath through your mouth, pause, and exhale through your nose. As you continue to breath, what is God speaking to you up on this mountaintop?
What makes you come alive? As you breath “what” becomes I feel alive…I am alive.
Transformation is here. Purpose is here. We have been to the mountaintop. We are alive. What are we going to do? We dream dreams that we might share our life with this world. It’s good to visit the mountaintop; we are just not supposed to stay there. You can’t stay alive on the mountaintop. You are alive. Go and share this with the world.