Summary: God uses mountain top experiences in our lives and the lives of others to prepare us for living in the real world down in the valley.
Title: What Happens On the Mountain… Shouldn't Stay On the Mountain
Text: Matthew 17:1-9
Thesis: God uses mountain top experiences to prepare us for living in the valley.
Transfiguration Sunday is a day we reflect on perhaps the ultimate of mountain top experiences
in which we are privileged to experience a bit of what Peter, James and John experienced... and we too hear the voice of God speaking to them and making known to them the fact that Jesus is indeed the Son of God. It is also an occasion for us to examine the story to see what we may take from that experience that might be helpful us.
The ad people who work tirelessly to promote tourism in Las Vegas have happened upon a powerful catch phrase in “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.” “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” is boldly splashed across the header of the visit Las Vegas website suggesting that you can come to Vegas and be assured that no matter how debauched you get… no one will ever know.
The Urban Dictionary takes a stab at explaining the catch phrase, “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” explaining that if it happened in Vegas it only happened once and only in Vegas. And if it happened in Vegas, hopefully it happened far enough away that it does not have a negative effect on here and now. The implication is that anyone who wasn’t there does not need to know what happened in Vegas and it’s just best to move on and forget about it.
However there are a couple of caveats to the hope that “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.”
1. One is this, “If it happens in Vegas and I see it, I’m telling everyone!
2. Another thing about “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” is the fact that it may happen in Vegas but it sticks with you for life!
3. And third, I read recently that human resource teams regularly frequent the social media uses of potential hires to see if they can find personal information about them. If it’s posted somewhere and if there are pictures posted somewhere… it doesn’t stay in Vegas.
In our story today Jesus took three of his disciples with him on a little jaunt to a mountain. It was a get-away of sorts but not with the intent of living it up and cutting a wide swath in a distant city. And even though, while on their way home from having been on the mountain, Jesus essentially told his disciples, “What happened on the mountain stays on the mountain,” it did not stay on the mountain.
Today we get to see something of a movie trailer or a synopsis of what happened on that night. And perhaps one way to unpack the text is to explore some lessons we can pick up from what happened on the mountain.
The first lesson from Jesus’ mountain experience is about how he prayed. The lesson from the mountain is about praying in an attempt to discern God’s will and guidance for his life and death.
I. Seeking Direction
About eight days later Jesus took Peter, James and John to a mountain to pray. Luke 9:28
There are things to be learned from Jesus trip up the mountain and the first is that if Jesus did anything at all, Jesus regularly spent time praying and seeking God’s direction in his life.
People who go to Vegas are not likely to be inclined to seeing God’s direction in their lives. The intent of some if not many who go to Vegas is to escape not only their own constraints but God’s as well. That’s why some refer to Las Vegas as “Sin City.” Sin cities are defined as places that cater to various vices… both legal and illegal. Jesus did not go up the mountain so he could act out on his inner vices. Jesus went up the mountain to pray.
Our text simply says that Jesus took Peter, James and John and led them up a high mountain. However in the parallel passage found in Luke 9 it states specifically that Jesus went to a mountain to pray. And as he was praying his followers observed that his appearance changes and his face and his clothing became dazzling white.
I have from time to time reflected on my own faith and on conversations I have had with others about their faith. I have found that people who are committed Christians are not immune from occasional doubts about their beliefs and faith. Some of us have wondered, “What if it isn’t true?” “What if what I believe is wrong?”
Interestingly enough, I used to think that it was only Christians who entertained doubts about what they believe. But I have come to see that avowed atheists are not immune to such doubts… only they wonder, “What if there is a God? What if the Bible is true? What if there is a heaven and a hell? What if there is an afterlife? What if what I believe is not true? What if I am wrong?”