Scripture for this Sunday (last after Epiphany, Transfiguration):
2 Kings 2:1-12; Psalm 50:1-6; 2 Corinthians 4:3-6; Mark 9:2-9
ITV recently had a feature on Britain’s 100 favourite walks. Of the top 20, most were connected in some way with hills and mountains. The most popular was Helvellyn in the Lake District. Why do people like to go up mountains? There are many reasons: the view; the clarity of the air; the different light; the relative seclusion …
There is one thing about the view from a hill or a mountain: what we see is the same thing that we see below. It is just that we see it differently, from a different viewpoint. This is rather like the disciples who accompanied Jesus up the mountain for what we call the transfiguration. What was transformed? Jesus? Or the disciples’ view of him? Perhaps a combination of both? He was the same Jesus that they had been following all along. The words from heaven were the same words that had been spoken at his baptism.
Being up a mountain, with fewer people and distractions, plus a gentle nudge from God (most people don’t see Moses and Elijah!), might have clarified their vision just a little. This is one reason why mountain walks are so popular: they can bring focus to our attention; sometimes they renew us; and we are more open to hear God’s wisdom concerning Jesus: “This is my beloved son. Listen to him.”
Some years ago, at a particularly sad time, I went to Salt Spring Island, a beautiful place, between Vancouver Island and the mainland of British Columbia. There is a large hill, or small mountain, called Mount Maxwell. I decided to go to the top, as a therapeutic exercise. I found a path, and after an extended period of struggling up a steep hillside, through forest and bushes, I arrived at the summit. There, I found that there was a road up from the other side! I felt rather deflated. Only much later did it occur to me that it was the route I needed to take at the time. Only by taking that route up the mountain could I feel what I needed to feel, learn what I needed to learn.
I have taken the long way up several mountains, since – physical ones and metaphorical ones; but I no longer feel silly should I find a road up the other side. I just look a little more deeply for the meaning of the path taken. I have a greater acceptance of others who seem to be taking their own, seemingly more difficult path on their mountain journeys.
And I try to remember what we need to hear on all our mountain journeys: the voice of the Spirit, saying, “This is my beloved son. Listen to him.”