Reflections on Luke 9:28b-33 by Rev. Ruth Santana-Grace

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“… Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed,
and his clothes became dazzling white.
Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him.
They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure,
which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.
Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep;
but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory
and the two men who stood with him.
Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus,
“Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings,
one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah” —not knowing what he said. “
(Luke 9:28b-33)

“Mountaintop Moments – Their Joy and Temptations”

Next week we celebrate Transfiguration Sunday – it’s that moment when something unimaginable, unexpected, and transformational is experienced by those walking with Jesus. Have you ever wondered about Peter at this moment in his journey with Jesus? What he might have been thinking as he experiences this life-changing moment of the transfiguration? I’ve often wondered about my own personal response. I think I would have been very tempted to stay there to see if “it” – the moment of transfiguration – would happen again. I think I would have wanted to stay there to assure myself of what I had experienced, heard and seen. Perhaps that’s why Peter wanted to make that sacred space a dwelling place. It would ensure that he could return to that exact place and receive all the encouragement he would need to face the challenges of his life. Perhaps he thought he could replicate all the sights (light, Elijah, Moses) and sounds (God’s voice) that came with that mountain top moment.

The truth is, we all long for and need “mountain top moments.” We all yearn for those experiences where our senses are challenged beyond the expected; those moments when our hearts soar to new heights. We all need those moments when our faith stands strong with the inspiration of the experience – whether it be a worship moment, a music moment, a scriptural moment, a prayer moment, or any other faith-affirming experience. These moments become etched in our hearts as marks of encouragement and assurance. Never has this been more true than in our image-driven culture. As believers in this time in human history, many of us thrive on having someone or something else move our hearts and minds with their words. We hunger to have someone say ‘something’ that will heal our brokenness. We thirst for someone or something else to satisfy our longings for God. We can even become dependent upon and tempted to move from one mountain top experience to the next

But the truth is- we can’t. Life isn’t made up of one mountain top moment followed by another. As someone who has spent the past 20 years equipping others in the faith, I have often been concerned about the kind of discipleship that ‘mountain top experiences’ encourage. Consider what can happen when the lights dim, the images are no longer there, and the music stops? I’ve observed the struggle of many disciples becoming discouraged – disappointed that the emotional and spiritual ‘high’ was no longer with them. This is especially true when faced with the inevitable challenges of this life – illness, employment, death, broken relationships, injustice, etc.. I am convinced that those seeking the mountain top experience for the sake of the mountain top experience may have little they could call upon internally and spiritually to sustain them through the ‘stuff’ of life.

Now don’t get me wrong – I love mountain top experiences. I love the way they make me feel about my God, my faith and the possibilities before me. I love the way they inform and shape the way I can view the hope of the Gospel in my life and the life of others. But I’ve come to understand that they cannot – and probably should not – last! In order to face and lean into the challenges of this life with hope and grace, I need to deepen my spiritual well with the gifts of our faith. I need to equip myself with Scripture – understanding God’s word in new and relevant ways. I need to find time for prayer – the kind of prayer that allows God to pierce my soul while allowing me to speak with God. I need to make time to be with others of the faith – the fellowship of believers – so that my Christ-like values, which often counter the mainstream cultural values, might be affirmed.

This has become even more invaluable as I serve in this ministry as your EP. It is easy to get lost in the ‘stuff” of administration and problems. I cannot face, let alone work and partner with others to face our challenges, unless I am grounded and inspired by God’s Holy Spirit. That doesn’t always feel like a mountain top moment, but it does feel like I am walking on a consistent and unshakeable ground. May this moment of the transfiguration be etched upon our hearts, serving as encouragement as we walk together into God’s future – through the valleys and meandering roads upon which we journey.