No question about it.
The view from high atop the mountain.
Is momentous.

Deep into the past.
And illumining the present.

A view back to Moses.
When God first claims Israel as a chosen people,
brings them out of the land of Egypt,
and writes for them the life-giving law of the covenant.

A view back to Elijah.
When God appoints prophets and priests
to anoint the kings of Israel and Judah,
and speak words of truth through times of great uncertainty.

A view of the present with Jesus.
Who preaches good news to the poor,
eats with the outcast and the despised,
sits with those in bondage to prejudice and sin.

No question about it.
The view from high atop the mountain.
Is momentous.
So momentous.
The disciples suggest
three dwellings be made
in order for past and present
to have a place to dwell.

Peter's is an honest, well-intended suggestion.
One of honorable hospitality.
One of theological wisdom.

We can't fault him for that.

Who among us wouldn't suggest the same
should these,
or three such luminaries,
come to stand in our midst.

And yet, God is not satisfied.

Almost as soon as Peter makes his suggestion,
God intervenes.

Something more is needed for
this mountaintop experience
not simply to "be good."

Something more is needed for
it to be momentous.

Listen to Jesus,
God divinely commands.

Listen. For all the trouble people get themselves into
in the Bible and in life,
then as now,
no one has ever gotten into any trouble
by listening to God.

Ignoring God. Yes.
Mis-hearing God. You bet.
Mis-representing God. That never goes over very well.

generally speaking,
when God speaks,
and we listen and follow,
we thrive.

The only clue Saint Luke gives
for how this mountaintop experience
will be more than simply good,
for how it will be momentous,
is in listening to God,
listening to Jesus
But here's the trouble:
Jesus doesn't say a word.

At least, no conversation is recorded.
They apparently descend the mountain in silence.
Until Jesus appears at the bottom and
pulls what I'll call a "Moses moment"
by calling the great crowd at the mountain's base
a "faithless and perverse generation."

Not the best of ways to make friends.
Or more followers.
Maybe it's a fear of heights.

Maybe it's that Jesus is overwhelmed by the experience with
Moses and Elijah.

Maybe it's hunger and exhaustion.

Likely, it's what Jesus saw from that mountain peak.

The road to Jerusalem.
Betrayal by one of his own.
The last supper, last passover shared with them.
A rigged trial.
Passion and death on a cross.

Turns out,
what makes the view something more than simply "good,"
what makes the mountaintop experience momentous
is not simply the meeting of past and present,
the future.
The future, which is coming and which is yet to come.

The future none of the disciples could see—
they were too caught up in this overwhelming experience.

The future Jesus knows will define him,
define life for his disciples,
define God's people Israel,
later define all nations,
define the whole world.
Define us.
As God's new creation.

Where the evil one is trampled underfoot.
Where discord gives way to unity.
Where prejudice is replaced by self-less love.
Where death itself is crushed.
Where the body of Christ is
broken to grant us peace.

We stand on a mountaintop today.
As we turn from the manger.
Toward the cross.

We stand stand on such a mountaintop
time and time again
throughout life.

Mountaintops where we've enjoyed the past.
And delight in the present.

Let's be honest:
for however much we enlightened people,
however much we urge ourselves to look to the future,
we wish everything around us could stay
just as it is;
wish that we could stay
right where we are.
Maybe it's not knowing what will come next.

Maybe it's having some sense
of what is to come on the other side of the mountain.
Maybe it's knowing a good deal of what is to come.

Whether we know the future fully or not,
we can't help but pause as we begin to see
that for life to go on beyond the mountaintop
requires life to change.

The Good News is this:
God is with us in times of change,
often marked by uncertainty and struggle.

My guess is the sense that God wouldn't be with using times of change with all its uncertainty and struggle
is what Jesus was railing against
with his comment about a
"faithless and perverse generation."

The gift of faith is confidence
to know that
uncertainty and struggle are not God's negative judgment,
but always signs and markers of new growth and new life.
For God is with us
when hope seems lost.
when life itself seems fleeting.
If you grapple with such faith,
grapple to rely on such confidence,
remember the road to Jerusalem,
come to the table,
look to the cross.
And there see God in Christ Jesus
always with you.

But here's the thing.
We are not simply mountaintop people.
We are not simply road, table and cross people.

We are empty tomb people.

Because for however much Jesus sees
forty days of road, table and cross before him,
Jesus also see beyond all that.

To resurrection morning.
To an empty tomb.
To new and everlasting life.

"See," God says,
"See, I am making all things new."

The promise of such vantage point,
is, dear sisters and brothers,
what makes this and every mountaintop momentous.
Is what is heard every time we follow the divine command to

From the mountaintop.
Jesus sees the change that is to come.
Even if we can't.
And says, "yes."

From the mountaintop.
Jesus sees the change that is to come.
Talks about it and understands it.
Even if we can't.
And says, "yes."

For God's view is long.
And deep.
And wide.

Past. Present. And future.

And God's past, present and future is ours, too.
As of old with Moses and the people of Israel.
As with Elijah and the widow at Zerapheth.
And Elisha with Naaman the Syrian
who washed his leprosy clean.
As with Jesus and the entire body of Christ.

For in us, in the body of Christ,
is the very breath of life.

Saint Luke may not give us many clues to discern
the mountaintop experience in today's text.
But he gives us the most important clue
all throughout the Gospel
and into the Book of Acts:

The very breath of God.
The gift of the holy, and life-giving spirit.

Breath that brings order from chaos.
Breath that separates water from dry land.
Breath that brings life from the dust of the ground.

When life seems difficult,
remember you are dust.

No question there will be times over the course of these 40 days.
When it will be easy to remember we are dust.

But remember, too, what God does with dust.

Always brings forth life.

Yes, how good, Lord, for us to be here.
But how good to be wherever God leads us to be.

For there, we are alive.
Alive with the breath of God.

Alive with Jesus,
together, as the body of Christ.

And we wouldn't want to be anywhere
or anything else.

Jared R. Stahler
Saint Peter's Church
In the City of New York


Isaiah 55:1-9
Psalm 63:1-8
1 Corinthians 10:1-13
Saint Luke 13:1-9