Clevedon Presbyterian Church
Kawakawa Bay
Clevedon Kidz

A view from the mountain

February 14, 2021
Martin Baker

14 February   2021                     A View from the Mountain                       Martin Baker                  

The Transfiguration

28 Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus  took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. 29 And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. 30 Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. 31 They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. 32 Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. 33 Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah”—not knowing what he said. 34 While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. 35 Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen;  listen to him!” 36 When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.

Talking around,  I think everyone has their theories on the quickest way to and from Clevedon .

I am not sure which road you like the most.  But I think my favourite, is still coming over West Road in the morning. And you get this vista up and down the Clevedon or the Wairoa Valley. And then I travel on to the Bay sometimes, and you come around that corner at the top of the hill and you look across to Ponui Island, the Coromandel,  and the view is always a little different but always quite stunning.

Some of those moments I think stay with you forever.  I remember years ago, tramping on the Kepler Track near Te Anau. Afer the first hour or two you come out of the dark beech forest and around you, you see the glory of the mountains .  It is a vision I have never forgotten. – Maybe you have memories like this as well?

Seeing a vision that changes our lives, changes the way we see things.

I don’t think it is too difficult to understand something about the story on top of the mountain today. You are not only, in some ancient sense, closer to heaven, but being high up is almost always associated with gaining a different view,  a different perspective. Once you come down from the mountain you will see things in a different way.  

So that question that is asked in so many different ways through our scriptures - how are we looking at things, what voices are we listening to?

One of my children sent me a quote in relationship to the kind of discussions we have been having with him.  From Mark Twain.

“I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them have never happened. “

Have you ever caught yourself speaking from a view point of fear or anxiety or insecurity? And especially the fear and anxiety around things that have never happened? What do we think we are going to achieve when we speak from that outlook – that vision?    

Today Jesus takes us up on a mountain and gives us a different view .  

We find that following Jesus up the mountain is also about listening to what Jesus says about how we look and speak and the voices we listen to.

How important it is to hear a voice.

Next Sunday night  Ian Guy is coming to talk about child sex trafficking and the church ministry in Nepal.

And you can’t help but begin to connect the dots between  what is happening  there, child labour and abuse,  and why for instance,  some of our clothes are incredible cheap to buy,  the money being made in child pornography, questions about your responsibility and welcome  to refugees,  asking the tough questions about  organisations that are getting rich from the suffering of the poor and most vulnerable.  

The documentary he will show uses the voices not of the rich or powerful  or people of high status, but the voices  of those victims of child trafficking. Hearing a different voice.

Sometimes we need the help of people like Ian,  or these voices to talk to us, to get us to change the way we see things. The decisions we make.

Just before our reading today, Jesus has told his followers some of the most difficult words I think we find in scripture. In verse 23 to 25 we listen to his voice

Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. 25 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self

So today we have these startling contrasts. In the valley  talk about the cross and then on the mountain this change in perspective, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. 35 Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him.

It seems to me that we are at a critical time when we think about the voices that we are listening to.

We can’t avoid the power of twitter and facebook and Instagram.

The information and misinformation.

We are called to follow Jesus , the way the truth and the life, and yet we know the power of misinformation and conspiracy theories that weigh so much on people’s fear and superstition.

So as we discern, as we pray for wisdom, there is this  one voice we are called to listen to  - it is  this one  - This is my son. My chosen listen to him.

You go along and along the same road and then you come to a moment where the outlook, the vision the landscape changes.  That’s  what happens today.

A transformation in how Jesus’s followers saw Jesus. God’s Son.  But also a second transformation. In how those disciples saw their purpose, their understanding, what it means to follow Jesus.

How we see Jesus, and what it means to follow him.

You stand at a high place and you can look in all this different directions. Back to the city out to the ocean maybe.

Our story this morning has these dimensions

Looking Back

As Peter, James, and John are there on the mountain with Jesus, we read that, “a cloud came and overshadowed them.”

Remember back in December  what the angel says to Mary. She is told that she is going to give birth to the Saviour.  In answering Mary’s question about how it is possible that she will bear the Messiah, as she is a virgin, the angel says, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you”  

So looking back, the  overshadowing, the angel goes on to say, “ … therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God.”

And then, when he is baptised the voice comes again, “This is my Son, the Beloved,” the echoed in our reading “This is my Son, my Chosen, listen to him.”

So on our mountain if we look back we have this sense that the Gospel story is building to this point.  Things are not what was expected.  

Then we read

30 Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. 31 They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem

And so we are led now by this confusing story of Elijah and Moses,  the law and the prophets - to look forward. To the moment of fulfilment.

As we  look forward.

Two more mountains are in Jesus’ future: the Mount of Olives and Golgotha.

On the Mount of Olives, Jesus is again accompanied by his disciples, and again he goes up the mountain to pray.

And finally at Golgotha.   At the mount of the crucifixion, Jesus is, again, not alone. He has two men with him; not Moses and Elijah, but two criminals.

His true glory looks an awful lot like glory’s opposite.

His true glory is not to be found in a changed face or clothes of dazzling white, but outstretched arms and bloodied hands and feet.

Think how extraordinary this story is. The writers of the Gospel looked back from their discovery of the risen Jesus.  

They recalled his teachings, his stories, his friendship and welcome to the tax collectors prostitutes, the sick, and this unbelievable discovery that following Jesus was the source, not of death but of life. Not of failure, but of victory.  That his way of forgiveness and grace was the way of their salvation.

We can join with them and choose to follow Jesus today.

A calling to being part of God’s mission, our purpose our calling.

To come to a faith where these things of following Jesus are the real source of light and transformation.

Three things.

First.

The vision today that has stayed with followers of Jesus. This encounter with Jesus changes things. The lens through which we view ourselves, the past, the future is changed.  There is a new sense of confidence and certainty and courage which became such a quality among those first Christians as they reflected on the meaning of this encounter.  

The disciple Peter would later write, “We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty.

Secondly.

That drive and push to what scripture calls ‘gaining the whole world’ and whatever that means for each of us - wealth, status security the desire for certainty.  Is changed to another purpose. To hear Jesus voice, speaking from a totally different understanding of glory,  to take up our cross to follow him.  

And finally, that call for wisdom and discernment.

In a world where there are so many voices there is for us, just one voice which we need to hear today. This is my Son – listen to him.

To find our purpose in the midst of the tough and difficult, to see God’s glory made real in the midst of the ordinary . The transformation –  in the people we serve, the love we show the hope we bring.  

AMEN