Summary: My friend Nigel (who is not a Christian) once said that that when Christians speak about God, he can feel like a primitive tribesman who suddenly encounters New York City - he just can’t get his head around it. If we want to begin to get our head around God, what one thing should we do more of?

Moses climbs up Mount Sinai - up THAT mountain- and disappears into the cloud at the top, the cloud that somehow represents the presence of God. There he stays for forty days in that haze, time apart in the presence of God receiving from God the ten commandments and other laws and teachings for the children of Israel.

{said slowly}

Then… he climbs… back… down … the mountain

{at normal pace}

But when he gets there people won’t look at his face. They glance away, they avert their eyes. Something has happened to Moses while he was up the mountain and his face is glowing bright and people are scared.


Four hundred years later

Elijah climbs up the Mountain - some say That mountain - no cloud but thunder and earthquake that somehow represent the presence of God. He covers his face with his mantle lest it too should glow bright like Moses’s did. He comes to the mouth of the cave. And then the Voice.


Nine hundred years later - Jesus climbs up a mountain. An unknown mountain, though some say the same mountain. With him he takes three special friends - Peter, James and John. The four of them spend time apart in the presence of God praying. And Peter James and John are having the trouble that many of us will have when we are praying. Perhaps you are praying on the tube and your mind begins to wander, perhaps you are praying you are praying at home in a comfy sofa and you begin to nod off. John, Peter and James are nodding off…

{exited tone of voice}

Then suddenly something happens. Something happens to Jesus’s clothes- they are no longer the dull gray tunic and trousers of someone who of necessity has bought the cheapest cloth. They are no longer dirty with the dust and debris of days on the road. They have become white - pure pure white - like a fresh coat of paint only whiter. And something happens to Jesus’s face - perhaps like what happened to Moses’s face - perhaps more so.

And two figures appear - Can it be? Yes, it is! Moses and Elijah! The great law giver, the great prophet. The two figures whom in days of old God met on the mountain. And here they are, Moses and Elijah. And Jesus is talking with them. The disciples are afraid. Peter tries to say something. He doesn’t know what he is saying. He stutters out something about building shelters.

Then the Cloud - just like that cloud from Mount Sinai that Mount Sinai. Then the Voice.

And then it is all over, and the disciples don’t know what to make of it, and they don’t know what to say.


Two thousand years later, and here we are in the Uk -where over half the population claim to have had a religious experience. Quite a startling statistic when you consider that a huge proportion of people say they don’t believe in God and only 8% of the population go to church. Yet according to surveys that have been done, the majority of this country claim to have had a Spiritual experience.

The accounts about Moses and Elijah and about the disciples on the mountain aren’t explicitly about how we should deal with spiritual experiences, but the letter from Paul is exactly about that. He is deliberately taking lessons from Moses’s rather unusual experience on Mount Sinai and applying them to our experience.

Now its quite clear that St Paul isn’t expecting us to have had quite the same experience as Moses. Some of you may have had quite potent experiences of the presence of God. I don’t know what because each one of them is unique. For most people it will have been something less dramatic than Moses. Perhaps a sense of awe as you go up to receive the sacrament, perhaps a sense of overwhelming peace as you are praying or being prayed for. Perhaps for some of you it might include that peaceful state known as resting in the spirit and for other it may have included when your mouth bubbles up in that unknown praise that we call tongues. But however dramatic your experiences of God may have been, I bet if I asked “how many of you have suddenly had your faces physically glow like something out of the X Files?” I bet I would not get many hands up.

So like St Paul - we need to take the unique experiences of God - Of Moses, of Elijah and of the Transfiguration - and apply them to our more everyday experiences of God.

And the first lesson I’d like to take is that these experiences should have an effect on us. For St Paul it was one of great boldness -

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