Leaving the mountaintop

by Pam Tinsley

In churches that follow the Revised Common Lectionary, the Gospel we read on the last Sunday after the Epiphany – also, the Sunday before Lent – is about Jesus’ transfiguration (Mt. 17:1-9). Jesus leads his disciples Peter, James, and John up Mt. Tabor. On the mountaintop, as Jesus’ closest disciples behold his radiant face and clothing, they, too, are transformed: first by the change in Jesus’ appearance and then when they hear God speak: “This is my Son, the beloved.… Listen to him.” Although the disciples long to remain on the mountaintop to bask in this holy and awe-filled experience, Jesus reminds them that they live in the world. So they return down the mountain, but bearing this precious gift: a deeper understanding of who Jesus is.

Many of us have had a “mountaintop” experience, where we’ve wanted to linger, perhaps to savor it longer. Baptisms are like that for me. Not only do I witness the transformation of the newly baptized child or adult, I feel a change within myself, a deeper connection to Jesus and to his new disciple. And, with each baptism, the body of Christ – the Church itself – is transfigured.

Yet, as beautiful and awe-inspiring as baptisms are, our baptismal liturgy reminds us, like Peter, James, and John, that the light Christ brings into the world is not simply a wonder to cherish. Instead, we are called to action. We then take Christ’s light into the world to share with others. Certainly, we can’t confidently share the light of Christ in the world without a deeper understanding of Jesus. Through worship, Christian formation, and fellowship the church equips and transforms – yes, even transfigures – us.

Like Mt. Tabor, the church isn’t our destination; instead, it’s the spiritual training ground for our pilgrimage in daily life.

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