When I was in my mid 20’s I convinced my wife to travel down to San Diego for an overnight trip just to get away for a bit and leave our worries behind. The next day we decided to go walk around and window shop at one of the malls. This is one of our favorite things to do because we would dream about the future and things we would have as our little family grew. That’s when we found the Warner Brothers store and decided to go “check it out”.
As we were walking around the store we noticed a table set up in the back and a line forming with comic book geeks. Turns out that four of the animators from the Batman and Batman Beyond animated series were there to sign autographs and meet the fans! As you can probably imagine (my fellow comic geeks) our true geeky identities came out in full force. We bought some merchandise and joined our Batman brothers and sisters in this joyous occasion. On our way out we were invited to the next year’s Batman signing event with the the man who gave the Joker his voice… MARK HAMILL!!! (For those of you that don’t know, that’s Luke Skywalker from the Star Wars franchise) Immediately we began to make plans for that weekend and as that weekend approached our excitement grew greater and greater.
Even though it was almost 20 years ago I still remember it like it was yesterday. I remember the excitement of getting to meet one of my childhood heroes. I remember going directly to the WB store, picking up our Joker maquette, and joining our comic book brothers and sisters as we were all waiting to meet Mark Hamill. I remember just wanting to stay in that moment for as long as I could.
When it was finally time for us to meet him it felt like it was a dream, like it wasn’t real at all. Here I was standing in the presence of Luke Skywalker! The little boy in me was jumping for joy, but the adult just stood there mesmerized I didn’t know what to do or say! We had a little conversation about my Charlie Tuna shirt and then…. well, it was over and we were led to the front of the store. I wanted to get back in line… I wanted that moment to last as long as possible… If only I had something better to say besides, “Hi” and, “Oh that’s cool.” But, it was over. Archived in my memory banks forever.
So, you’re probably reading this and thinking, “Nice story, but where ya going with this?” That’s a great question. Yesterday was Transfiguration Sunday and we discussed Luke’s account of the Transfiguration (Luke 9:28-36) In Luke’s account we read:
“28 About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray. 29 As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. 30 Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. 31 They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem. 32 Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. 33 As the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to him, “Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (He did not know what he was saying.)
34 While he was speaking, a cloud appeared and covered them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. 35 A voice came from the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.” 36 When the voice had spoken, they found that Jesus was alone. The disciples kept this to themselves and did not tell anyone at that time what they had seen.”
So, Jesus invites Peter, James, and John on a little spiritual retreat, or mountaintop experience, and while they are up on the mountain they are joined by two old friends, and when I say old I mean dead. Like, dead dead. They are joined by Moses and Elijah who begin discussing Jesus’ departure from earth. And while this was happening Peter offers to put up some shelters for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah. This was a moment that He and the others didn’t want to leave. Then God crashes the party to announce that Jesus is His divine Son and that He has authority over all the Earth. There are a few things that we can pull out of this.
First, we must understand that we all need mountaintop experiences.Just like Beccy and I needed to get away to recharge and have that experience meeting one of our childhood heroes, we need mountaintop experiences with Jesus because it is in those moments where we are renewed and strengthened for everything that life has to throw at us. And, it is in those moments up on the mountain where we grow into the spiritual giants that God calls His people to be.
But here’s what happens when we don’t get away and have those mountaintop experiences… We can become a spiritual couch potato. Our drive to do God’s will tends to fade away and before we know it we begin to feel spiritually depressed, and we can’t even get up off the couch. We might be able to go through the motions of Christianity at first; however, there is no depth to what you are doing and sooner or later you just stop following all together. Do I need to remind you that following Christ requires action?
Secondly, no matter how much we want to stay up on the mountaintop, we must come down. Just like Beccy and I would have loved to stay in that moment with Mark Hamill we couldn’t. We had to leave that incredible experience and return to reality. Peter, James, and John had an incredible experience that day up on the mountaintop. And, like any of us, they probably didn’t want it to end. When we have experiences like this it is tempting to want to just stay there. In that place. In that moment. Leaving the reality of our daily lives behind… escaping all our problems, our stress, and our anxieties. Knowing what awaits us in the valleys of our life isn’t really a good selling point for wanting to come off the mountain. However, despite our deep desire to stay on the mountaintop as long as possible. we must return to the valleys of life. If we stay up on the mountain top for too long we miss the opportunities to minister to those that desperately need it.
Know this to be true… if you are a follower of Christ you, yes you, are called to be the spiritual giants of society…. not the spiritual couch potatoes… Staying up on the mountaintop for too long can lead to a spiritual self-centeredness that is absolutely toxic to the mission of God. This is deadly to the Church. It is a cancer.
Finally, we need to understand that Jesus, the Messiah, the Divine Son of God, extends invitations for you to come up to the Mountain Top! Much like that invitation that Beccy and I received to come back to the WB store to meet Mark Hamill the following year, Jesus invites you back up to the mountaintop! Jesus loves spending time with you especially when He can pull you away from all your daily distractions for just a moment, and He wants to invite you to the mountaintop so that He can reveal Himself to you in new and exciting ways. But, here’s the thing…. The mountaintop can be anywhere, and it occurs when we pause for a moment and simple say, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” (1 Sam 3:10b NIV)
Peace and Blessings to you all,
The Underdog Preacher