When you look back over your spiritual life, what moments do you recall when you felt especially close to God? Most of us have those moments of spiritual clarity when we feel at one with all of God and Creation — you know, those moments we call “mountaintop” experiences. And of course, when that happens, we just want to stay there on the mountaintop, reveling in that experience of closeness with God. But we can’t. Life moves on and we have to move with it.
Back when I was in college, I had a friend who suddenly “got religion.” You know what I’m talking about. He wasn’t just on the mountaintop — he was on top of the world. Everything was right with him — and he was very zealous with this newfound faith.
As I remember it, his euphoria lasted about two weeks.
And then he discovered, as we all do, that life goes on. You simply can’t stay at that peak. The challenges and demands of life reappear and they’re just as daunting as they ever were. As my friend discovered, having that mountaintop experience doesn’t mean the valleys are not still there. We come down from that mountain and there they are.
Life for my friend resumed with the same temptations, challenges, pressures, and worries. I remember his disappointment in that. The challenge he faced then, as we all do, was, “OK . . . does that mean none of that euphoria was real? Does that mean it was kind of all in my head and I was just overreacting?”
I remember how he had to work through that. Eventually he did. In fact, he later became a pastor. What made this whole thing so difficult for him was he wanted that mountaintop experience to last. He thought that having that intense religious experience meant his life would be that way from then on. And in a sense, I think that part’s true, at least to some degree. We are changed by those experiences and there is something from those experiences that we can carry back into the valleys to help sustain us through the challenges and perils of our lives.
This Sunday is Transfiguration Sunday, and this contrast between peaks and valleys is exactly what you see in the transfiguration story we find in the Gospel of Luke. So as we wrap up our Back to Basics: Luke’s Portrait of Jesus Epiphany worship series, we’ll consider together how our mountaintop experiences can energize, nourish, and help us in the living of our life in between the peaks.
I look forward to delving into this idea further with you this Sunday in the Sanctuary.
Grace and Peace,