Coming Down from the Mountain: A Letter for Families
I know many of you have been away this week on vacation, and I hope you found good rest and sweet time with loved ones. Some of my favorite vacations have been the simplest ones with lifetime friends when each day is capped by hours of conversation around the dinner table. When you are with friends of your heart, time seems to take on a immutable quality; no matter how tall your children become or how your hair grays, that sacred space of love you share with those who know you best and accept you wholeheartedly expands beyond all of it. After several such days spent together, it is a wrench to return to the fray of your own life. You’d like to stay there forever, and truly the yearning to remain in that sweetest of places seems like a hint of what eternity, or heaven – or whatever you want to call it – must be.
I imagine this is what Jesus’ disciples experienced up on the mountaintop in our Gospel reading for this Sunday. Jesus was bathed in light and Moses (!) and Elijah (!) joined him. Nobody knows how long this experience lasted, and I imagine the quality of this communion, this friendship, was timeless, and what passed was ineffable. Peter, James, and John luxuriated in the presence of these spiritual fathers to their souls. They wanted it to go on forever. The disciples knew the stories of Moses speaking with God on the inaccessible mountaintop, and they knew what happened to mere mortals if they touched anything imbued with the holiness of God – blindness and death. But here they were invited into the magnificence, they took part without being blinded or blown away, and they didn’t want to leave. Let’s stay, Peter said, It is good to be here. I’ll build homes for you. Peter’s longing feels palpable. I know that longing, don’t you, the longing to dwell forever where I am fully known, wrapped up by the strong love of deeply good people, where my spirit feels perfectly at home.
But then a Voice speaks – the Voice of God, we gather – and the disciples can’t stand it anymore. They are only human. They hide their eyes; they fall to the ground.
What happens next is important and it fills me with confidence and joy. Everything is silent; the mountaintop is once again just a rocky outcropping studded with stunted trees. Maybe a bird calls, maybe the sun feels hot on the back of Peter’s neck. Was it real? Did it really happen? The disciples feel a familiar hand on their shoulder. “Don’t be afraid.” It’s the voice of Jesus, their friend, who just a few minutes ago was so Divine that they couldn’t even look at him. Now he is touching them with very human hands, helping them to their feet. The mountaintop experience is over. Down the mountain they scramble, together, back into the fray. And the fray will be harder than they can even imagine. But they are not alone. The friend of their souls – God – is still with them – sharing their very messy lives with love and courage.
As you enter with your families back into the reality of your lives, though you may have wanted to stay in what I hope was a sweet space of togetherness forever, take courage. You do not walk alone. As we say to the children as we light the candle every Sunday, We light this candle to remember that even though we can’t see God, God is with us. God was with us last week, God is with us here, God will be with us forever. Amen.
On Sunday, we gratefully welcome Greg Abel to join our young friends in Basecamp with Liisa, and Deborah Schenk to join our older children in Wayfarers with Kim.
Theophanes the Greek, The Transfiguration, 15th century
Tags: Notes for the Journey