Summary: The mountain top experience was a sanctuary, and a challenge.
BRICKS IN THE VALLEY
Text: Matthew 17:1 - 9
We all know from the laws of gravity that what goes up must also come down. That thought even reminds me of a song that was once sung by a group that was known as Blood, Sweat and Tears entitled “Spinning Wheel”. The problem with our human nature is that once we reach the top of the mountain or mountains that we have been climbing, we are reluctant to come back down. When it comes to mountains even Jesus said that “What goes up must come down”. Jesus took Peter, James and John up the mountain where He was .transfigured. Peter did not want that mountain top experience to end. Peter wanted to freeze that moment in time. The mountain top experience was a sanctuary, and a challenge.
So what does all that have to do with the sermon title? Right now, it looks like it has nothing at all to do with it at this point. But, it will soon make sense when we get to that part of the sermon. The two things that we will talks about this morning are sanctuary and challenge.
One of the things that we associate with the term sanctuary is refuge.
1) Shelter and the sheltered: A refuge is a place of shelter. Refugees are what we call the recipients of shelter from otherwise threatening environments. On the mountain top, the three disciples have become momentary refugees. The time will come when they will be considered as potential fugitives. 2) Immunity: On the mountain top, there is the sense that they are above the dangers that exist in the valleys. They do not have to worry about being scrutinized by their opponents on the mountain top.
We also associate the term sanctuary with a holy place. 1) Monuments versus mission: Peter wanted to make three dwellings—one for Moses, another one for Elijah and the last one for Jesus. “We cannot build God a monument, and we cannot keep God safe. We also cannot escape the light He will shed on our path”. (David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor. eds. Feasting On The Word. Year A, Volume 4. Edith M. Humphrey. “Pastoral Perspective”. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010, p. 456). 2) Mission blocker?: We have all heard of Sun block with differing levels of Ultra-violet ray protection. Is Peter suggesting a Son block? Is it truly Peter’s desire to block the mission of the Son of man---Jesus, a.k.a. the Son of God? We cannot put God in a box. Is that what Peter wanted to do? Did he want to put Jesus in a box? Jesus did not come to seek sanctuary! Jesus came to seek and save the lost and He could not do that from the mountain top away from the lost that He came to seek and save.
One of the challenges of the mountain top experience is to see the rhythm of mission. 1) Submission: We cannot truly be in mission if we cannot submit to God’s will. We cannot accept the challenge of doing mission work if we are seeking to march to the beat of our own drums can we? 2) Rhythm: When it comes to being involved in mission, there is no set pattern or rhythm. Another thing that we have to say about mission work is that it is something that happens down in the valley. Mountain top experiences help us to reflect and experience transformation and growth. 3) Recall: It would not be until after the resurrection that these three disciples—James, Peter and John would recall this experience and what it meant.
A second challenge is the reality check of crises in the valleys. 1) Comfort zones?: When we serve as disciples, we have to pick up our crosses and follow Jesus. Jesus left the glory of heaven and came to us for our salvation. As Jesus served us He did not have a comfort zone. Jesus said, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head” (Matthew 8:20). There can be no question that Jesus was talking about the necessity of leaving our comfort zones to follow Him. Is there a litmus test for our comfort zones? What does our comfort litmus test say about us? 2) Reality Check: One of the stories that is floating around on the internet is a good example of a litmus test!
The story is told of a young executive who was enjoying his new Jaguar. He was traveling cautiously but fast as watched for kids. He thought that everything was fine until a brick hit his car. He stopped the car and backed up to the place where the brick hit his car. The angry driver grabbed the kid who was like responsible as he asked him “What are doing and why? That is a new car and that damage is going to cost lots of money. The kid was apologizing as he explained why he threw the brick. His brother had fallen out of his wheel chair and he needed help to get him back in the wheelchair, because he could not lift his brother. He said he threw the brick because no one would stop. He sobbed as he asked the executive to help him lift his brother, who was hurt, back in his wheelchair.