Our experiences of the transformative power of the Holy are often few and far between. In the Bible, many of those transformative experiences happen at special places and often on mountain tops as with the transfiguration, Moses’ encounter with God that gave the law, and Noah’s landing with the arc on Mount Ararat, to name a few. It is in those high places of life that we experience the wondrous ways of the Lord. It is when we are in those high places that we are overly aware of the wondrous work that the Lord is doing not only for us but also for the rest of humanity.
It is from those mountain top experiences that we get glimpses into the reality that is God. But we only get glimpses here and there. Those glimpses as rare and brief as they are, are intended to be life changing. They mold us and guide us for the future. They call us to contemplation and decisions. They require more from us. They require us to change.
When in my first year of seminary, my denomination sent me out for the first of three conference trainings required of me. It was Halloween weekend and my trip was to Mexico. The only thing I knew about the trip was my flight information, and that this was to be a mission experience. This was only my second time out of the United States and the first time going somewhere where English was not widely spoken. As we drew near to the airport, everyone on the plane was handed paperwork to fill out. It was all very confusing for me and the stewardess spoke in such a thick accent that I had no idea what I was to be doing.
There was a man sitting behind me who noticed my confusion written all over my face who took the time to help me fill out my paperwork. Just in time too, because we then began to descend into Mexico City. Once in the airport, everything was labeled in Spanish and I was kicking myself for not taking Spanish in high school. I had no idea how to get to the baggage claim. And yet again, a very kind individual who was on his way to meeting his family showed me where to go. And it was in baggage claim that I finally met up with the group I was to suppose to meet. In those moments, I thanked God for the kindness of those strangers.
We then drove out of Mexico City and into the mountains where we stayed at the mission which was in a 15th century Hacienda. Every day we had fresh calla lilies in our rooms. They grew wild there. And we would go out and learn about the community. We saw children running around after chickens dressed only in underwear and torn stained tee shirts covered head to toe in the dust from the road. The community was living in houses with no roofs just tarps tied over the tops of their crumbing homes. We watched as some individuals washed their cars in the same rivers that others were drawing drinking water from.
Yet as poverty stricken as they were, they welcomed us with open arms, and invited us to their weddings and baptism celebrations. They shared their tequila, their specialty soup, and homemade tamales. I learned something from these experiences. I learned about the welcome, joy, and presence of God in the world around me and just what true welcome was. I learned that God asks only that we love and care for other individuals. I learned that I couldn’t go back to life the way it was, I needed to really take to heart the glimpse into the holy I was gifted with on that weekend. In those moments, I saw great pain, great suffering, immense courage, and experienced acceptance and love. I experienced the love that God seeks to bring into our world. A love and kindness that one day will bring an end to great suffering if we only work for it. I may not see the results in my lifetime. But I know that what I do today helps bring God’s future into being.
This is what our scriptures for today are all about. We hear about two of the most famous God experiences of the Bible: two of the most transformative experiences. Elijah escaped the pains of death but the real transformative experience happened for his successor Elisha whose life was forever changed because of how God had touched his life by allowing him to witness the transfiguration of Elijah from a human being to a heavenly being. He went forth and changed the lives of thousands of other people with his ministry sharing the powerful life changing experience he had.
Jesus chose to have three very specific disciples join him for the transfiguration he experienced. Why did he choose these three? Why are we invited to join with those disciples in this experience? These are the questions that flow through my mind every time I read about the transfiguration. Peter, James, and John are thought to have been chosen so there would be no question in their minds of whom Jesus was and his importance. But also they would each become important pillars of the church and this gave the foundations they needed to know that God was doing something great and that there was a great future to be had. I believe these messages are being imparted to us as we are invited to look on and witness as those disciples did the wonder of what God is doing. So we might know that we can trust in Jesus and his work because he has the blessing of God and God implores us to listen to him.
We are called to be open to the transformative experiences in our lives and in this world because like the transfiguration they are God’s way of imparting important information to us. Geraldine Brooks the author of The Second Chord wrote, “I understand that I was being shown the future: shards of what would come to be. Often I cried for the pain of it. But other times, I was comforted, because I saw, for an instant, the pattern of the whole”. We are called to be inspired by God through those moments that leave us in awe. We are called to use the conviction of God alive amongst us to drive the work that we do and the way we reach out to touch the lives of others. Our goal is not to make tents or tabernacles to honor and commemorate those experiences but rather to take the lessons from those experiences and allow for them to transform our lives teaching us how we are called to interact in the world. Remember the words of God to the disciples on that day, “This is my Son, the Beloved, listen to him!” So, go forth and feel the inspiration of God and listen to what it tells you to do. As disciples, this is how we are called to interact in the world around us. As disciples, this is what drives our work and inspires us to continue to evolve spiritually towards God’s better tomorrow.
 Geraldine Brooks, The Second Chord, 21st century.
 Mark 9:7, NRSV.
(Based on 2 Kings 2: 1-12 and Mark 9: 2-9)