Up on the mountain

The lectionary text for this coming Sunday details Jesus’ transfiguration on the mountain while Peter, John, and James witness this event. Peter, who has just confessed his belief that Jesus is the Christ, comes up with the idea to build tents up there on the mountain — you can tell how eager he is to stay in the middle of that glory, how he wants to hold on to it for as long as he can. I think we’re all like that with God, really. We get glimpses and we try to bottle it all up for ourselves. It’s almost like we think that if we have God over here, with us, on our side, then we have ownership of Him. We have validation that our faith is the correct faith, so we try to contain it, and in doing so, we take away anyone else’s chance to experience the divine for themselves.

I think that’s part of the reason why the moment is interrupted, why Peter is jolted back to reality. We can’t stay on our mountaintops forever. My spiritual director recently reminded me that life happens in the middle parts; that’s the sweet spot. Yes, we have these incredible, indescribable moments of joy sometimes and yes, we even have deep, dark valleys of pain and grief. But the bulk of what Mary Oliver calls our “one precious life?” It happens in the middle. In the ordinary, the routine. The mundane. That’s what matters.

But I also think God needed Peter and the disciples to see that staying on the mountain is not kingdom-work. Attempting to settle down and isolate as if they had this whole faith-walk thing figured out was not an option in God’s eyes. The work isn’t on the mountain. People aren’t on the mountain. Setting prisoners free and doing justice and proclaiming the wide welcome of God can’t happen on the mountain. The disciples needed to get out there and do the work.

And so do we. Which is why I have some (ok, a lot) of pretty complicated thoughts about #Asbury. I do not doubt God is there. I do not doubt that people are having real, transformational experiences with Her. But I fear it’s almost turned into just another mountain, one not everyone has access to. I fear it’s become another human attempt to bottle up the goodness of God for a certain group of people instead of taking it outside those four walls for all — and I do mean all. I fear it’s become a “come and see” moment when really, I think the Lord is always urging us to “go and show.” I read someone commenting that if we hide ourselves away in a room for days and aren’t going out to care for the most vulnerable of God’s beloveds, then what you are experiencing isn’t actually revival. It’s an upper room moment at best. A mountain-top moment at best.

Food for thought, I guess.