About Me

My photo
Knoxville, TN, United States
Interim Pastor of Evergreen Presbyterian Church (USA), Dothan, AL.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

2010-02-14 Sermon

2010-02-14 Sermon

John Muir, the genius behind our country's National Park system, wrote:

The mountains are fountains of men as well as of rivers, of glaciers, of fertile soil. The great poets, philosophers, prophets, able men whose thoughts and deeds have moved the world, have come down from the mountains - mountain dwellers who have grown strong there with the forest trees in Nature's workshops.”

When Our Lord wanted to get close to God, he went to the mountains. When Jesus wanted to pray, to think, to find solitude and silence, he went to the mountains. In the mountains, he rediscovered who he was. He was re-energized, refreshed, renewed.

"Come to the woods," wrote John Muir, "for here is rest. There is no repose like that of the green deep woods. Here grow the wallflower and the violet. The squirrel will come and sit upon your knee, the [bird] will wake you in the morning. Sleep in forgetfulness of all ill. Of all the upness accessible to mortals, there is no upness comparable to the mountains."

Was it real, or was it a vision? On the mountaintop, Peter, James and John saw their Master wander ahead of them to pray. And while he was praying, they saw his clothes become dazzling white. They saw Moses and Elijah, the greatest prophets, talking with Jesus. 

Was it some kind of shared vision? Is this the gospel's way of saying the disciples experienced a great awakening about Jesus, seeing clearly that he was connected in the deepest, purest way to God's work on earth? Was this a one-time event? Or did it happen every time Jesus went away, by himself, on a lonely mountaintop, to pray?

At our nearest National Park, within feet of the park boundary, are the headwaters for a downhill stream of human commerce. T-shirts airbrushed with your true love's name. Body artists ready to permanently ink your lower back with shapes, flowers, or even the name of Our Lord. Souvenirs, pancakes, kettle corn, and ceramics handmade in China.

Such is human nature. Within moments of seeing his Lord transfigured, Peter wanted to build dwellings, tents, tabernacles for the Big Three of his religion. People who have been to Israel tell me much of it looks more like Gatlinburg real estate than holy land. The Apostle Peter got his way. 

The boundaries between solitude and commerce are crowded. A prayer is answered in the affirmative, and we want to shout it out on Facebook. A miracle becomes the highlight of a 20/20 news story. People like John Muir and Teddy Roosevelt knew that if we don't protect our places of natural wonder, they will quickly be turned into crude tourist attractions.

How strong are the boundaries of your faith? Is your inner spirit a place of solitude and renewal? Or is faith one of many roadside attractions, a site of commerce, a dispensary of souvenirs?

We get frustrated because faith comes and goes. We reach for it in our need, and we forget to call or visit when times are good. Jesus could have stayed on the mountain, glowing radiant, with neon lights and billboards pointing visitors the way to his dwelling. But instead, he came down. Even the glory of Jesus came and went, ebbed and flowed, was a silent memory of a dirt path before returning to the roar of the highway. And not only did he come down, he told Peter, James and John not to tell anyone about this vision. 

If we aren't so fast to pave the road to spiritual mountaintops, maybe the rocky bottoms won't be so disappointing. In modern America, we have the impression that if something isn't shouted from the mountaintops, isn't broadcast on TV or spewed across the Internet, it must not be of value. If we're not pounding on doors and dragging people to salvation, if we're not advertising our sincerity and crying for the cameras, we don't really care. Eventually, the disciples' story did leak out. We know, because it's written in the pages of the Bible. Years later, it came out, not as a sales technique, but as a story of love. A story of mountain miracles. A vision, and a guide, for us all.

Lake Hills Presbyterian Church. Framed between the stained glass images of mountains and water, of earth and sky, of lake and hills, we worship. With the Lord coming down from up high to serve his supper, we share. His meal, his presence will come and go, will descend and return again to heaven. We are blessed to share a common vision. We are blessed to receive, and to partake. Quietly, personally, Our Lord changes before our eyes. And in his presence, we change. We change from people whose daily concerns are getting and keeping and not having taken away, we change from people of commerce to people of spirit. 

We can't hold onto a mountaintop. We can't stay aglow in the Holy Spirit forever. Like Jesus, we have to be willing to let go of the miracles in order to remember them as they really were. May our moments of worship today, between the symbols of lake and hills, between the music and the words, between the smiles and the friendship... may our moments of worship today be guarded boundaries of God's love. And may our hearts open. And may our spirits be transformed.