February 27th 2022

On the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, a great crowd met him.

Luke 9:37

I love to sing and I love to pray,
Worship the Lord most every day.
I go to the temple, and I just want to stay
To hide from the hustle of the world and its ways.

And I’d
Love to live on a mountain top,
Fellowshipping with the Lord.
I’d love to stand on a mountain top,
‘Cause I love to feel my spirit
Soar…

But I’ve got to come down
>From the mountain top
To the people in the valley below;
They’ll never know
That they can go
To the mountain of the Lord.

Now praising the Father is a good thing to do,
To worship the Trinity in spirit and truth.
But if we worshipped all of the time,
Well, there would be no one to lead the blind.

~Amy Grant, “Mountaintop”

Who here likes to hike?  Hiking is one of my pastimes; it has actually been too long since I have been out hiking last.  I am planning to make the time to do that again this year; it is very important to be able to get fresh air for long periods of time, at least occasionally.  If you are one of those who loves the outdoors, you must appreciate a beautiful view.  Perhaps you simply like to watch the sun rise or the sun set.  You appreciate the beauty of the outdoors close to home.  I certainly love that when I give myself the time to appreciate it.  Though even more than that, I love the awesome views that can be seen looking out over a valley from a high place.  I remember sitting on a rock at the top of Mount Katahdin, the tallest point in Maine, only desiring to leave once the wind became too cold.  The views are beautiful, and there is the temptation to linger.  It is an apt analogy for wanting to linger in our safe places with the Lord.  We love the experience we have with the Lord in our own homes, in our own churches, and in our own hearts.  We tremble at times when we think about expanding outside of our comfort zone to places we have not been, churches we have not seen, and hearts who have not yet felt what it is like at the top of the mountain.

The first point to remember is this: Our mountaintop is our own place to be connected to God.  High places were usually viewed as being closer to God in the ancient days because they were physically closer to the Heavens.  Today, we do not carry that understanding as much because we do not see Heaven an actual physical place, because God is everywhere.  Yet the top of a mountain can often be a place of connection to God for the reasons I have already outlined.  It is a beautiful place where God’s creation and goodness can be admired.  Whether that place is the top of a mountain for you, or in a prayer corner in your home, or perhaps your home church, what is your mountaintop?  Where do you feel most connected to God?  Hopefully all of you can think of an answer; if you cannot, that probably means that you never feel connected to God, and this is a spiritual problem.  If you need help feeling connected to God, we will be addressing this more in our Lent series starting next week.  Do stop right now and think about where your place is.  You do need to have at least one.  If you are never connected to God, God will have a very hard time telling you what you are called to do, and it will be almost impossible for God to work through you.  Because we are each vessels for God’s glory, we want to make this as possible as we can.

Second, we need to visit our mountaintop regularly.  If my mountaintop is a literal mountaintop, exploring new places, or the very thought of having conquered the mountain itself, I need to make sure that I get to spend enough time on mountaintops.  Sometimes conquering a literal mountain may make it easier for you to conquer that difficult mountain in your life too – the one that you seem to always be climbing and there is no end in sight.  Psalm 99 is a praise song to God, emphasizing the king of mountaintop that we need to visit.  We need to seek a place where we can be confident that the Lord is King (Ps. 99:1)!  The world often – if not constantly – tries to take that away from us; this is why we need to always revisit our special place of connection with God.  We need to remind ourselves as we pray that God still moves.  Just as God answered Moses and Aaron, as the Psalm proclaims, God answers us too (Ps. 99:6)!  Are you in doubt of that?  Try to find a new way to actively listen to God.  We remind ourselves of verse 8: “O Lord our God, you answered them; you were a forgiving God to them, but an avenger of their wrongdoings.  Extol the Lord our God, and worship at his holy mountain; for the Lord our God is holy” (Ps. 99:8-9).  When you lose confidence in these things – that God is just, merciful, and holy – you have not visited your own mountaintop often enough.  This is one of the most important things that we can do.  We keep trusting in God, and nothing else can steal our trust from us.

Yet, as Amy Grant’s song implies, we cannot stay on the mountaintop.  We need to be able to find it, but once we do, we may enjoy it so much that we never want to leave it.  For some, that can be the hardest part.  “Here,” we say, “I can exist in my own world and I never challenge my belief that God is good.  Isn’t that a good thing?”  It is a good thing if you believe that never leaving your own house is a good thing.  We need to be able to venture out from our spiritual homes to challenge our thinking, challenge our beliefs, and come to resolve them anew.  We have not truly tested our faith until we take it out to the struggling world, where we meet a homeless person struggling to believe that there is a God, where we talk to someone who has lost a child and is wondering where God was, and where we encounter people who believe that they are making it just fine on their own.  Sure, you may be able to make it without God just fine for a little while, but when the accounts are settled, it may be a different story.  I would like to suggest two reasons why, once we have found our mountaintop, we cannot stay there.

First, as we read in the story of the Transfiguration in Luke 9, Jesus did not stay on the mountaintop.  Therefore, neither should we.  If Jesus is our model for living, we should do as Jesus models for us.  He could have stayed on the top of the mountain with Moses and Elijah.  Peter even offered to Jesus to make them all dwellings, so that they might be able to stay there longer: “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah” (Luke 9:33).  Yet this was not meant to be.  Likewise, while we visit it regularly, we should not make our mountaintop the only place that we ever are.  Amy Grant reflects the same sentiment: While it would be amazing to “live on a mountaintop fellowshipping with the Lord,” she knows that she cannot because there are people in the valley who do not know about this mountain.  It is our responsibility, as given by Jesus in the Great Commission of Matthew 28:20, to reach as many people as we can to let them know what they can experience in the Lord.  We do not stay on the mountaintop because it would actually be very selfish.  It is saying that as long as we are happy and know God, all is right with the world.  But we know that it is not.  Not yet.  Jesus gave us the example of ministry off the mountain; if we are disciples, we should follow that example.

Second, we cannot rely on Jesus forever!  Yes, Jesus is alive and with us every moment.  But turning around and saying that Jesus can always fix it all and we should leave it to “the boss” is not what Jesus wants us to do.  In Luke 9, the day after the Transfiguration, we hear about a man who came to Jesus complaining that his disciples could not cast out the demon in his son.  Jesus actually seems to become upset about this: “Jesus answered, ‘You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you and bear with you?’” (Luke 9:41).  How many times have you said that when you are trying to teach someone something??  Jesus does not want the disciples to rely on Jesus being able to cast out the demon.  He wants them to be able to do what he has done.  That is, He wants us to be able to do what He has done.  Jesus is telling his disciples, “You must trust your mountaintop experience and trust that YOU, not only me, can do this work!!  We need to use our connection to God to believe in our own power to have an impact on God’s legacy and God’s glory!

My first challenge for you this week is to find your mountaintop.  If you have not or will not share it with someone else today, give it some more thought when you get home.  If you do not do this step, you are like a car without wheels.  It may look pretty.  The engine probably even works.  But you are going nowhere.  God cannot use you to the fullest extent that God wants to use you.  You can keep someone warm inside the car.  You can play the radio.  But you cannot travel into other places of God’s coming kingdom.

If you have met this challenge, I have a follow-up challenge.  Set yourself a defined time each day or each week where you will visit your mountaintop.  This is crucial to staying connected to God and keeping gas in the car.  If you do not believe in your destination, why drive there?  If you do not feed your car, you can only get partway there.  Having a regular check-in schedule with God is crucial to accomplishing what God wants for you in this life.

And if you are feeling really up to challenges this week, the final one is this: Pray about one person in the valley – that is, one who is not connected to God – who you can speak to this week.  Do not try to evangelize and convert them to God straight away, but tell them you prayed for them.  Tell them you believe in them.  Tell them you were thinking of them.  That could be exactly what they need to hear.  Trust your training.  God believes in you.  God knows you.  You DO have work to do in the valley.  May all glory be to God and may all delight be in God’s purposes.  Thanks be to God!  Amen.

Scripture Readings:

Exodus 34:29-35
34:29 Moses came down from Mount Sinai. As he came down from the mountain with the two tablets of the covenant in his hand, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God.
34:30 When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, the skin of his face was shining, and they were afraid to come near him.
34:31 But Moses called to them; and Aaron and all the leaders of the congregation returned to him, and Moses spoke with them.
34:32 Afterward all the Israelites came near, and he gave them in commandment all that the LORD had spoken with him on Mount Sinai.
34:33 When Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil on his face;
34:34 but whenever Moses went in before the LORD to speak with him, he would take the veil off, until he came out; and when he came out, and told the Israelites what he had been commanded,
34:35 the Israelites would see the face of Moses, that the skin of his face was shining; and Moses would put the veil on his face again, until he went in to speak with him.

Psalm 99
99:1 The LORD is king; let the peoples tremble! He sits enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth quake!
99:2 The LORD is great in Zion; he is exalted over all the peoples.
99:3 Let them praise your great and awesome name. Holy is he!
99:4 Mighty King, lover of justice, you have established equity; you have executed justice and righteousness in Jacob.
99:5 Extol the LORD our God; worship at his footstool. Holy is he!
99:6 Moses and Aaron were among his priests, Samuel also was among those who called on his name. They cried to the LORD, and he answered them.
99:7 He spoke to them in the pillar of cloud; they kept his decrees, and the statutes that he gave them.
99:8 O LORD our God, you answered them; you were a forgiving God to them, but an avenger of their wrongdoings.
99:9 Extol the LORD our God, and worship at his holy mountain; for the LORD our God is holy.

Luke 9:28-36, (37-43a)
9:28 Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray.
9:29 And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white.
9:30 Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him.
9:31 They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.
9:32 Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him.
9:33 Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah” — not knowing what he said.
9:34 While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud.
9:35 Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”
9:36 When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.
9:37 On the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, a great crowd met him.
9:38 Just then a man from the crowd shouted, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son; he is my only child.
9:39 Suddenly a spirit seizes him, and all at once he shrieks. It convulses him until he foams at the mouth; it mauls him and will scarcely leave him.
9:40 I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.”
9:41 Jesus answered, “You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here.”
9:42 While he was coming, the demon dashed him to the ground in convulsions. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the boy, and gave him back to his father.
9:43a And all were astounded at the greatness of God.

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