Sermon March 3 2019.
Mountain of meaning and meadow of mist.
“Let’s go up the mountain. Let’s go up to the place where the land meets the sky, where the earth touches the heavens, to the place of meeting, to the place of mists, to the place of voices and conversations, to the place of listening. “
With this prayer we began our worship today. With a call to go up the mountain, to that place where the beautiful blue skies almost touch the green earth, to that place of solitude, conversation, meaning and divinity.
Moses had his mountain experience. He went up to Mount Sinai, and he did come down not just with one tablet but with two tablets. And he did come down changed…. He was somehow glowing, shining, - but his face was not shining because he saw God, but because God saw him and let his face shine on him. And the world was changed forever because of that mountain experience of Moses: he brought the tablets of the 10 commandments with him. Down to the earth, down to his people, - and these commandments are still our core commandments of ethics and moral.
Jesus had his mountain experiences too. According to Luke, He went up the mountain with his beloved disciples and as he transfigured in front of their eyes, they were changed too, and their faces were glowing and shining as they finally climbed down. Because God had seen them and they had seen God – and he let his face shine on them. And when they came down the mountain they were changed, charged and enlightened and brought a strength and a faith into their new lives. These experiences shaped their outlook and perspective.
“Let’s go up the mountain. Let’s go up to the place where the land meets the sky… to the place of meeting, to the place of listening….”
Please look at the beuatiful painting displayed by Danish Painter Hanne Stovring. Let it speak to you and let the colors speak to you and your imagination.
Many of us have had them – these special moments, these mountaintop experiences. Those times when we felt like we were on top of the world, really happy and really blessed. Completely confident that we knew all the answers, that we could solve any problem that came our way. Or we felt that we were really close to God, really in tune with God's plan for us.
In those moments we were excited and alive, and everything seemed new.
The moment might have happened at some exciting event in our life: the birth of our child or our grandchild, our wedding, our first kiss, our first love, our graduation, our first day on our first job, or even watching a movie or listening to music.
It might have been something really religious or spiritual, like a church service, a memorial, baptism, a confirmation, or a summer camp or a time of fellowship`. Or it might have been something of a smaller, quieter nature, like a very intimate conversation with your father or mother when you felt that they honestly understood what you were saying and why you felt the way you did.
It could even be a real mountain experience when you climbed a real mountain which we are so blessed to have quite a few of here in CA, enjoyed the beautiful view that almost took your breath away, and felt a calm, a meaning and truly felt closer to God.
We call these "mountaintop experiences," and oh how we hate to come down off that mountain! We want to hang on to that moment for as long as we can. "Let's just stay right here and let the rest of the world go by for a while."
But to freeze that one moment in time shuts off the possibility of the next moment in life, doesn’t it?
God never meant us to live on the mountaintop.
Even if the Gospel today tells us about the glorious time of Transfiguration and the request of Peter to stay and build dwellings, - the gospel story continues. And the next story is the key to understand the transfiguration story. The disciples and Jesus came off the mountain, they climbed down again; and so, did Moses. And they came right down to the bottom of the valley.
They came off the mountain and they came down into the valley and they walked right into real life and real problems again: they meet a boy who was having epileptic seizures. The mother and father were enormously upset and worried about the desperately sick boy. In other words, the disciples came down off that mountaintop right into the problems of real life. Home from a mountaintop vacation and into the real world at home. Down from the mountain of meaning to the meadow of mist, misery, problems, reality and human relations. The disciples discovered that God is also down in the valley or in the misty meadows and is not only or even primarily on the mountaintop.
I like the quotation by Henry Drummond, the Scottish theologian when he said, "God does not make the mountains in order to be inhabited. God does not make the mountaintops for us to live on the mountaintops. It is not God's desire that we live on the mountaintops. We only ascend to the heights to catch a broader vision of the earthly surroundings below. But we don't live there. We don't tarry there. The streams begin in the uplands, but these streams descend quickly to gladden the valleys below."
Moses couldn’t stay on the mountain. Jesus couldn’t and wouldn’t. And Peter, John and James would have liked to, but couldn’t.
We have these moments too. And we cant freeze the moment or stay there…. After Mountains there will be meadows, after Sundays there will always be Mondays.
Look at this beautiful painting.
We are so blessed to host a new exhibit of beautiful paintings by Hanne Stovring. We have one of her paintings permanently in the entry, but for the next couple of months we will host many. This one will be on display in the hall way. And it is breathtakingly beautiful. The pallet of red warm colors, the shapes, the light and the relations. It is called “The Beauty of the Earth.”
But it could also be a Transfiguration Painting.
The big red figure of divinity and light, sending rays of warm light and opens up the eyes to watch the beauty of the earth and to kneel down to pick the blooming flowers, the fruit of the earth.
The big figure almost mounts like a massive red warm mountain behind the kneeling humans. Like a big red passionate God.
All of Hannes paintings a vibrant of color, passion and relations. And of that mystical experience of joy, happiness and hope when life is at its fullest, when we connect, and relate. When we truly see the beauty around us, when we embrace life as it is.
As Hanne writes: “Many of my art titles focus on human life, solidarity and emotions. Stories of dreams, hopes, compassion and miracles praise our connections and togetherness.”
It is indeed a beautiful painting and it is indeed a beautiful Gospel.
But either the painting nor the gospel does preach that we should wear rose-colored glasses to avoid the work and hardship that it truly is to live and act and relate in a truly broken world. The painting nor the gospel does not preach that we will get to glow like Jesus or even Moses or will float on a cloud of glory if we believe firmly, seek solitary and meditative mountains moments away from others.
But the poetic brushstrokes and titles of the paintings and the divine transformative words of the Gospel, do tell s that there always is a potential in the most ordinary gray places of our lives and our world to experience transfiguration and transformation. It means that grace does not only come to us in these divine moments on top of the world, but they can be found and can lift our lives here in the meadows of mist.
The true gift of the Gospel and the Paintings is that we are invited to stop, look and listen. We are encouraged to pay attention to the bigger perspective and the smaller too – and to let these moments and relations change us and charge us to live.
So lets go up that mountain
“Let’s go up the mountain. Let’s go up to the place where the land meets the sky, where the earth touches the heavens, to the place of meeting, to the place of mists, to the place of voices and conversations, to the place of listening. - And let’s go down that mountain again to embrace the life of the meadows to become a place of meeting, of mists, of voices, conversations and listening and faith.”