Here we are, one week after an underdog team won and the celebrations followed. Now, it’s back to work, running on the afterglow of a memorable victory, and looking ahead to next year. But, for us, there’s more; there is the excitement that comes today; not from watching a game, but from doing what Boy Scouts do, climb a mountain, not just any mountain, but the one described on this Sunday with its strange title: Transfiguration Sunday,
First, it is a hike that is chance to get away – leave the overly scheduled calendar, the pressures, and the monotony – the ho-hum routine of just another day, day after day; get away like Boy Scouts – with the most exciting get away being the trip to Philmont. Today’s hike has us falling in behind Peter, James, and John who are letting Jesus lead the way up a high mountain.
Second, today’s hike is a chance to experience what Boy Scouts discover when going where cell phone won’t work, where there is no texting, on tweet on Twitter, no checking in on our Facebook ratings, no web-page news on what player has just been traded, what big sale is going on, who is going to the mall with whom, what you missing out on doing with your friends. Literally, we are out of reach, cut off from all that we think we need to text or need to know to keep in the loop.
Third, today’s hike is a chance to be in touch with those around us, actually, talking to them, being in their company, getting to know them. What happens on a Scouting hike when it’s time to set up tent, and sit around a campfire, and fill the downtime with talking. For Peter, James, and John it becomes a time to remember people whose lives should be influencing them: Moses and Elijah, who take them back to their own mountain op experiences. Moses, who came down from his retreat in the full light that washed the top of the mountain, wearing the glow and carrying two tablets of stone – Ten laws reduced from the 282 of the Babylonians’ Hammurabi Code carved 300-400 years earlier on a vertical stone shaped like a raised index finger. (Wikipedia) Both that stone and Moses’ tablets give evidence to society’s need for laws for living in community, to survive and thrive as a civilization – and so, posted in courtrooms and municipal buildings. Ten laws which carry over to Scouting, plus the merit badges which influence those who work to earn them. And there’s Elijah, the prophet who boldly stood up to a wicked king and fearlessly called the nation back to God, but also knew the depths of doubt and depression, from which he emerged, perhaps as he remembered the meaning of his name: “my God is the Lord.” Elijah, so fragile a human and yet, so willing to be used in mighty ways for God, that he stood tall, a hero, a star, admired by the younger, who pick up on Elisha’s plea to Elijah, “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit.” What Scout leader is today’s Elijah who is making an impression on a young Scout, hat will influence that person for the rest of his life?
Fourth, today’s hike is a chance to see Jesus shining with a brilliance that draws in Moses and Elijah, and pulls them into Himself, so that suddenly, Jesus is the only figure they see. It is as the Apostle Paul said, For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. Suddenly, the Law is seen being lived out perfectly by Jesus, and Elijah’s faith is seen without any of Elijah’s faults. Suddenly Peter, James, and John are gazing on a portrait of God, taking on the form and colors of Jesus; they are seeing as much of God as a human is able to see. What can happen when reciting, “A Scout is reverent” and a camp out becomes a God moment. Pastor Cuttino Alexander says it’s like visiting Disney World where you step into “a small town with absolutely no dirt or grime or trash; no "problems" here to worry about; not a single frown among the townspeople. Everyone is so friendly and nice and helpful. And it's been like that since the day the park opened – an American town turned into something better, something more beautiful. A town that has been is “transfigured” – knowing the word means “to take something and elevate it, make it more beautiful, make it shine.” (Adapted from Day1, for Feb. 11, 2018, The Rev. Cuttino Alexander is pastor of Christus Victor Lutheran Church in Ocean Springs, MS.) The word for today, except this is not a staged scene like an artificial Disney World town’; this is real, a real God shining through a real Jesus, a breathtaking moment that overcomes us with reverence as Jesus’ radiance clings to us to transfigure us from fear and fatigue, from doubt and depression, to faith and trust and hope… even as we follow Him down the mountain and on to His Cross, and then walk away from His tomb, to break into every human heart, with His transfiguring presence to love us, forgive us, accept us, and do something amazing and beautiful before our very eyes, and, in turn, use us as the evidence when asked, “Have you been to the mountain?” A question the law “A Scout is reverent,” opens the way to a God-moment, and a transfigured life, shaped to answer: “Have you been to the mountain? The question for all of us to hear and answer: "Yes, I have been to the mountain where I leave everything behind that gets in the way of being in touch with those around me, where I am caught up in the ordered life of the Law given to Moses and the faith-walk of Elijah, where I am captivated by the portrait of God seen in Jesus; anything more would be beyond human gaze and grasp."
"Yes, I’ve been to that mountain today!" Amen.
Rev. Dr. Martha B. Kriebel is the pastor of Trinity Reformed United Church of Christ in Collegeville, PA