MYSTIC ENCOUNTERS by Nelson Weippert
MARK 9: 2-9
Mark 9:2-9New International Version (NIV)
The Transfiguration2 After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. 3 His clothes became dazzling white,whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. 4 And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus.
5 Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 6 (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.)
7 Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”
8 Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus.
9 As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.
THE SNAKE LINE: I wonder how many of you have heard of the SNAKE LINE.
Naturalists tell of an invisible line—real. Definite and fixed at a given altitude above sea level—known as the “snake line.”
Certain mountainous areas in New England one of the first questions of a perspective purchaser of the farm is likely to be: is this farm above the snake line?
Below that line an unsuspected child or an unwary adult they fall victim to one of these deadly reptiles: above the line, they may move about in untroubled security.
So it seems that security is purely a matter of altitude: pitch camp below the snake line and invite possible disaster; pitched camp above the snake line and be safe!
What struck me about this scripture lesson is that everyone wants to stay above the SNAKE LINE. You’ll get my drift as we more along in the story.
THE TRANSFIGURATION: It has been eight days since Jesus announced that he must suffer and die --totally confusing and unsettling reality for the disciples.
So Jesus invites three of his disciples to go with him to the mountaintop-- up away from the daily distractions--up a way to the mountaintop-- always a place in the history of human yearning where God can be found…………….I place far above the Snake Line.
On the mountaintop Jesus prays, but the disciples , as usual begin to fall asleep. Then, something happens:
Jesus begins to glow –an intense light bathes his body-- his face – and his clothing.
And whose there with him Moses and Elijah, two historical giants talking with Jesus affirming that Jesus is also God’s person.
Maybe they were talking about Jesus continuing and completing the tasks of the great prophet Elijah, and behind him, the greatest prophet of old, Moses himself.
Maybe, it’s a good idea to take a few minutes to recall Moses’ and Elijah’s mountain top experiences, It gives more meaning to Mark’s drawing them into the “Transfiguration.” Story.
WE READ IN EXODUS, “Then Moses went up on the mountain and the cloud covered the mountain. --Moses entered the cloud and stayed for 40 days 40 nights.
--The people got alarmed when Moses stayed so long.
--It seems that Moses enjoyed his communion with God
-- finally we read, the Lord said to Moses “Go down at once to your people.”
--Moses brought the Ten Commandments down to the people.
-- the skin on his face glowed because he had been speaking with God.
--All the Israelites saw his radiant face and were afraid to get close to him. ---he placed a veil over his face. We discover that Moses didn`t want to go down to his people who had started worshipping a golden calf when he left them. He wanted to stay safe and secure above the Snake Line.
The Hebrew scriptures tell us:
Whose God could send fire –baal or God of Elijah.
-- Elijah’s God of Israel won.
--Now Elijah was fleeing for his life.
-- he climbs Mount Horeb, to meet with God.
The Lord said to him, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” There Elijah witnessed a great wind-- an earthquake-- a great fire--but no words from the Lord. After that sheer SILENCE
-- out of silence the voice of God said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
--Elijah not wanting to leave the mountain,
-- explained to God, that the Israelites had forsaken God’s covenant--thrown over your altars--killed your prophets and now they are going to kill me!
-- God said to Elijah, “Go, return to the wilderness of Damascus and be with my people.”
Elijah just like Moses wanted to stay safe with God on the mountain—above the Snake Line.
All of this mysterious activity, Moses and Elijah talking and Jesus glowing, finally startled the disciples out of their sleep.
*Indeed we must wonder if God didn't and doesn't do such spectacular things just to make us wake up.
*And what did the disciples do? What do we do when something mysterious happens ? We immediately try to make sense of the experience-- to categorize it-- to nail that down-- to make it fit--to make it permanent.
Witnessing this Mystic Encounter, Peter suggests that they built three houses to captured the moment. ……….. But God will have none of it!
God speaks, “ you blockheads you're missing the point”.
I’ve let you see this spectacular display, to show that Jesus is my beloved son and you are to listen to him.
Is it just like us- to respond like Peter -- stay on the mountain -- we don't need to go down to that society bent on greed-- exploitation and deception. All we want is to stay above the “Snake Line”.
Mark is telling us we must go down from the mountain to our homes and our communities, it`s in our daily lives where we will have Mystic encounters with God
Listen to what Martin Luther King Jr. wrote of his mountaintop experience:
“I must confess that I have enjoyed being on this mountaintop and I am tempted to want to stay here and retreat to a more quiet and serene life. But something within reminds me that the valley calls me in spite of all its agonies, dangers and frustrating moments I must return to the valley.``
YOU MIGHT ASK HOW WILL YOU AND I RECOGNIZE A SPECIAL TRANSFORMING MOMENT?
Will we see bright lights? Will I hear a blast of trumpets? Or will I feel peace and tranquility. I sure many of you here this morning have experienced a “transforming moment.”
We can meet Jesus in a million different places and as a result be changed; because such encounters shaped and change us.
When we see with eyes of faith, the ordinary can be the source of transforming experience.
SUSAN ANDREWS Here is an example of what I mean. Susan Andrews, a Presbyterian minister, writes of her summer of clinical pastoral education.
*a surgical medical ward- not only mentally ill-- recovering from major surgery-- or life threatening illnesses.
*most of these patients were poor--black--and victims of addictive behavior and I found myself in a wilderness that terrified me.
*One day, there was a new patient-- a man in isolation-- all alone in a room, hanging between life and death-- both legs amputated-- but with gangrene still creeping through his body.
* smell the stench of his decay even before you entered the room and he moaned and sweated in a miserable delirium-- nauseated by his disease
*What could I a naïve, 25-year-old white woman -possibly do or say to ease this man's suffering?
*For that matter what could God do? And where was God in the midst of all this misery?
* I walked into the room, took his hand and found myself repeating the words of the Lord's prayer. And that's when it happened.
* That's when the holy he broke into the human
*--- when God took over and grace flowed through me- stop moaning-- his eyes stopped rolling--his body stopped shaking.
* He turned to look at me and then started repeating the words of the Lord's prayer with me. time just stood still.
*There was, in the room a peace that passes all understanding.
* A few minutes later, the man's suffering ended. He died, finding his own peace at last
She continues I can't explain that moment to you anymore than I can explain the Transfiguration, any more than I can explain to you why Moses’ his face shone every time he talked to God.
But it was for me and for that nameless, miserable man, A HOLY MOMENT --A TRANSFORMING MOMENT, and I have rarely doubted of the existence of God or the power of prayer since.
To be TRANSFORMED! Isn’t that the goal of discipleship?
-Isn’t it the vision toward which God is calling us, each of us:
you, me, and those in our community who we serve and minister?It is our hope that we will come to shine so brightly with the glory of God that we cannot disguise it or cover it or hide it? AMEN
God, the light of your love is shining! We thank you that in all our experiences of life, in the valleys of difficulties and despair, as well as mountaintop moments of joy and delight, you are with us. We thank you for the promise of Scripture, shown in the life of Christ, that we too, will be transformed as we grow into the likeness of Christ. We claim the privilege that is ours to continue his ministry, powered by the Holy Spirit, called to make positive changes in the world around us. May the light of Christ shine in us and through us, wherever we are and whatever we are doing. Amen
All come into mountaintop experience he proclaimed your glory in Jesus and because of that and now proclaim presence of Christ in the world. With our words and actions, by our living and our giving, we want to share your love that transforms our own lives and the world around us. Guide these gifts to be used to show your glory in ministries of caring and compassion. We ask this in Jesus name. Amen