Excerpt from Pauses for Lent
Six days lat­er, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high moun­tain apart, by them­selves. And he was trans­fig­ured before them, and his clothes became daz­zling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Eli­jah with Moses, who were talk­ing with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus, Rab­bi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Eli­jah.” He did not know what to say, for they were ter­ri­fied. Then a cloud over­shad­owed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, This is my Son, the Beloved; lis­ten to him!” Sud­den­ly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.

As they were com­ing down the moun­tain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So they kept the mat­ter to them­selves, ques­tion­ing what this ris­ing from the dead could mean.

—Mark 9:2 – 10 NRSV

The details of the Trans­fig­u­ra­tion are both straight­for­ward and stag­ger­ing. Jesus and three dis­ci­ples go up a moun­tain to pray. As Jesus prays, his appear­ance changes. He becomes vis­i­bly radi­ant as if the light of heav­en shone out of him. Then two ancient bib­li­cal fig­ures, Moses and Eli­jah, appear and talk with him. Final­ly a cloud cov­ers them, and the dis­ci­ples became fright­ened. A voice comes out of the cloud and says, This is my Son, the Beloved; lis­ten to him!” (v. 7). Then sud­den­ly, the dis­ci­ples find them­selves alone with Jesus again. 

This expe­ri­ence stress­es two essen­tial truths for our jour­ney in the king­dom of God. First, as Christ-fol­low­ers we need moun­tain­top expe­ri­ences to keep our dis­ci­ple­ship fresh, vital, and alive. The eter­nal realm, the hid­den dimen­sion of God’s trans­form­ing pres­ence, pen­e­trates our earth­ly real­i­ty and is always avail­able to us. We need to reg­u­lar­ly open our­selves to this divine real­i­ty so that our lives also glow with God’s pres­ence and pow­er. If we have nev­er expe­ri­enced an encounter like this, we may want to reex­am­ine those spir­i­tu­al prac­tices of soli­tude, prayer, and wor­ship that open our lives to them. 

Sec­ond, the Trans­fig­u­ra­tion reminds us that moun­tain­top expe­ri­ences are not ends in and of them­selves. Their impor­tance lies in where they lead us. Imme­di­ate­ly after Jesus is trans­fig­ured, he comes down from the moun­tain­top into the val­ley of human need and suf­fer­ing. He brings heal­ing to a child suf­fer­ing from seizures. In that moment he trans­lates his spir­i­tu­al expe­ri­ence into com­pas­sion­ate action. For Jesus, com­ing down from the moun­tain is as impor­tant as going up the mountain. 

Let us take time to pon­der this truth. As fol­low­ers of Jesus, we are invit­ed to bring the light of our moun­tain­top expe­ri­ences into the dark­ness of our pain-filled world. Some­times we don’t want to look at the pain and mis­ery around us — at home, at work, among our neigh­bors and friends. After all, we live in a cul­ture that works to avoid or ignore oth­ers’ suf­fer­ing. But we need to be sharply coun­ter­cul­tur­al. Rather than avoid­ing them, we need to inten­tion­al­ly engage those who suf­fer. We can make new begin­nings this Lent by con­nect­ing with those who are hurt­ing and by offer­ing them the heal­ing beam of God’s presence.

Hud­son, Trevor. Paus­es for Lent: 40 Words for 40 Days. Upper Room Books. Kin­dle Edi­tion. Used with permission.

Originally published January 2015

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