Taking the Mountain Top Experience into the Valley by Rev. Ruth Faith Santana-Grace

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.
Mark 9:2-4

We all love our momentous mountain top experiences – those moments when we experience the power, love and grace of God in a way difficult to capture with words. Perhaps it was at a wedding, a graduation, the birth of a child, or the accomplishment of what appeared to be an impossible task.

For me, one of these moments occurred when I competed to be a National Urban Fellow. I remember going to Washington, D.C. as a finalist to compete for one of 24 positions out of 400 applicants. I can still see vividly the dome of the Capitol building when I came up the escalator at Union Station in D.C.. My mind raced as I dared imagine myself living in that city. The next 18 months were among the most significant in my life, as I completed my Masters in Public Administration and spent the next five years working at the National League of Cities. I remember thinking, “My God, thank you. I, who came from modest means and a Puerto Rican heritage, this is more than I could imagine; more than I could dream.” I was truly taken to a place that I never dared imagine. It was a place bigger than my mind could grasp at that moment. This is precisely what mountain top moments do – they take us to a place far bigger than our human minds could imagine. Since then, I have had many mountain top experiences – some personal and others professional. Each has left me with two emotions: an awareness of grace and gratitude and the belief and conviction that I could do something significant and good.

What I’ve learned over time is that these mountain top moments are essential to our moving forward. These mountain top experiences help us face the future. They give us courage to address the challenges of life. They fill our hearts and minds with both emotions and images that serve to prompt us forward. Can you imagine what Peter, James, and John were thinking when they found themselves before Jesus, Elijah, and Moses? I suspect they also did not really want that moment to end.

I have also come to understand the importance of taking the experience of that mountain-top moment back down into the valley where we are called to serve. I have come to understand that the inspiration, faith, grace, and hope we experience at those God-given moments is what will sustain our witness in the midst of injustice, brokenness, and pain. In many ways, the victory of the Eagles has been a city-wide mountain top experience – providing us with a glimpse of what can bind us. The energy, the joy, the hope of Philadelphia has been palpable. The inspiration gained from what has been the story of determination and courage has been epic. But what next? What will we – the residents of this city – do with this incredible energy? What good will we birth from this experience? For the truth is, the challenges in our city are real. I am hopeful that this glimpse of unity will remind us of a greater call.

I believe this is part of our discipleship challenge for the contemporary Church of Jesus Christ. We must find ways to prepare ourselves for coming down from the mountain into the valley. If you read on in this Markan story, you will recall that Jesus goes into the valley and is immediately confronted by disease and evil. As followers of Jesus, we too will be confronted by the challenges of this life: disappointments, diseases, fear, financial worries, illnesses and more; places where our society is broken. As followers of Jesus, we must be ready to follow him down that mountain into the valley of brokenness to the foot of the cross. We must be prepared to respond with love and grace in those moments where we are called to minister. For it is precisely in these valley moments that we are shaped to be the hands and feet of Christ in ministry. It is in these moments that others can truly see and experience the grace and love of Jesus Christ through us. Without these moments, the mountain top experiences, however grand, will lose their relevance and power in our daily lives.

May we take the life-giving power and hope received during our mountain top experiences into the valleys of our lives and the brokenness of the world around us.