Down from the mountain

I often take my preaching text from the revised common lectionary, especially from Advent through Pentecost.*   Next Sunday’s lectionary reading is Luke 9:28-36 — the story of the transfiguration of Jesus, but the story has new meaning for me now.

You know the story — Jesus takes Peter, James, and John up on the mountain to pray.  For once, these three guys stay awake and see the transfigured Jesus in dazzling brightness, talking to Moses and Elijah.  Peter gets so excited that about the time Moses and Elijah depart, Peter says, “This is great, let’s build three monuments — one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”  Good idea if you’re opening Bibleland and need a new attraction. 

While Peter was saying this, according to Luke, a cloud overshadows them, scares the daylights out of them, and God speaks, “This is my Son, my chosen, listen to him!”  Needless to say they do, but here’s what’s interesting — Luke says after they go down the mountain, “they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.”

Luke’s comment wrecks the standard sermon titled “Why We Can’t Stay on the Mountaintop, but Have to Go Back Down Into The Valley And Preach.”  Okay, so that’s a really long sermon title, but you get the idea.  The thinking usually goes that we can’t revel in our spiritual experiences, but need to get down off the mountain and tell the good news.  Or something like that.  But Peter, James, and John say nothing.  Zilch.  Nada.  Zero.  Not a word, they kept silent.

I have just returned from two weeks at Fuller and my second DMin seminar there.  My temptation is to tell everybody what I’ve learned.  But instead, I’m keeping silent.  Okay, maybe not silent, but I’m trying not to talk about all the great ideas I heard, and all the great books I read, and all the neat people I met.  Instead, I’m going to let it soak for awhile, and see what God is going to do with it.  Like Peter, I’m still in awe of the experience, but need time to reflect on it some more.  After all, Luke says that Moses and Elijah were talking to Jesus about his “departure.”  I’m sure the conversation that Peter overheard meant much more to him later when the cock crowed three times or when the stone was rolled away or when the risen Christ appeared to him.  When you come down from the mountain, try keeping silent about what you’ve seen until you know what God is doing.  You might just be surprised!

*There are about a dozen reasons I use the RCL, and if you’re interested you can read “Why I Preach From the Lectionary” on my missional church blog, Amicus Dei