"ON THE MOUNTAINTOP" PASTOR ALEX TYCHKIN
February 14, 2021
Aloha Church Family and Friends,
During these pandemic days, weeks and months, I ran into some curious words and phrases like “air-hug” or “contact-free”. Most of them I hope I could forget when this whole virus thing is over but one got stuck in my mind because a month, or so, ago my buddy who lives on the mainland and works from his home, told me he would be on “staycation”. What in the world is a “staycation”? In his case, it meant he’d be staying at home and vacationing solo for a week on his couch, about 10 feet away from his desk and 20 feet away from his wife. What kind of a lame vacation is that? I mean, aren’t vacations supposed to be a change of scenery, new exciting experiences and adventures, a time of not only relaxation but also restored energy, inspiration, new insights, and maybe, even something life-changing?
Our story from the Bible today is about a period of life when Jesus needed some time off, had to get away and withdraw from the hustle and bustle of demanding crowds that clamored for more miracles. With three of his closest disciples invited to join, what began as a mini-vacation in the mountains, turned out to be a life-changing mountaintop experience of eternal importance. We read in the gospels that at the top of the mountain, a place where God often revealed Himself, Jesus was transfigured, or dramatically changed, right before their eyes: his clothes dazzling white and his entire appearance changed in ways they couldn’t explain. Moses and Elijah, two prominent prophets of the Old Testament, appeared in glorious splendor, paid respect and talked to Jesus. The disciples were in awe of what they saw; they came face-to-face with God, and became aware of their mundane life realities and God’s unfathomable holiness. The feelings they experienced were so terrifying, yet otherworldly intriguing that they wished they could seize the moment and stay on the mountaintop forever.
On that mountaintop, the disciples saw the glory of God and their experience suddenly made them aware of God’s nearness. They witnessed that Jesus was not just a prophet or a miracle worker- he was indeed God Himself. The new perspective gave them strength and courage to face difficult times ahead; by the grace of God they were offered a sneak preview of their own future and the future of the world: there would be struggles, failures, defeats and heart-wrenching losses. The mountaintop of God’s glory would eventually become the place of Jesus’ suffering and death. The light of hope for
a short while would be overshadowed by betrayal and suffering. Yet in the end, God’s love for humanity would prevail and triumph victoriously over despair, decay and death itself.
We are truly blessed if at some point in our lives we too had a personal “mountaintop moment” and experienced the time of extraordinary joy, peace, breathtaking beauty and supernatural inspiration. If it ever happened to us, it seemed that time stopped; the uniqueness and greatness of that moment was so tremendous that we had a hard time processing it all, we struggled for words and were confused by our feelings, in deep awe of the mystery unfolding right before our eyes. Perhaps, for some it was the time of falling in love for the first time, for others -giving birth to a child or holding it in their hands. For many, they reached the mountaintop when they humbly approached God in prayer and felt on a deeper level the light of God’s love that shined on their darkest corners of life, filling them with forgiveness, restoration and new possibilities.
Some places in life are great to visit, but we cannot stay there forever. Intense and extraordinary as they are, those precious moments have a brief life-span and fade away for good once they run their course. To spend time on the mountaintop is great, yet it also can be dangerous if we get stuck in time, unable to let go and choose to remain in the afterglow of those extraordinary memories forever. Imagine if in our own marriage we were still stuck in our honeymoon moments- using them as a measuring yardstick for the rest of our lives, yearning for how it used to be, resenting the fact that feelings change, mature and evolve dramatically over time. As powerful as they are, our mountaintop experiences have value and get traction only on the ground and in the lowdown valleys of our lives. Their purpose is not to fill us with addictive “emotional highs” but give us a breakthrough and also, the strength to stand firm when the darkness falls and we find ourselves in the midst of hardship and turmoil. They are meant to be our rock when the ground is shifting beneath our feet, the source of strength when we are battered by life’s storms; our breath of life when we are paralyzed by fears and can’t catch our breath.
The Jesus’ disciples had a rare glimpse of God’s plan for the future unfolding before them, they got a foretaste of God’s victory over the world of darkness and evil; they saw the end of the story. It is my prayer that 2000 years later, we too may see God face-to-face, experience the glory of God’s Kingdom and trust our lives to God’s crucified and Risen Son Jesus Christ. As always, keeping you and your loved ones in my thoughts and prayers. May God bless us all!
Pastor Alex Tychkin, Lihue United Church