Mount Everest, Mount Fuji, Mount Kilimanjaro, Mount Tabor: Famous mountains all, but you may not be familiar with Mount Tabor. It’s the site where Jesus was transfigured.
Mark says Jesus took Peter, James, and John “up a high mountain apart.” Mt. Tabor is Galilee’s only stand-alone mountain.
Mt. Tabor is NOT a snow-capped, vertical peak of stunning beauty. It is a small, round hill that is completely ordinary.
Which makes it the perfect place for the extraordinary to happen. Jesus didn’t morph into glory at the Coliseum in Rome or the Temple in Jerusalem to wow the high and mighty. Jesus picked plain, old, boring Mt. Tabor. Which makes sense given the rest of Jesus’ life.
He was born in a barn. He grew up poor. He worked with his hands. He taught and healed illiterate fishermen, traitorous tax collectors, and bleeding women. He was executed atop a garbage heap. He lived briefly, died violently, and arose unexpectedly. Most didn’t notice a thing.
Including us. We expect God to speak to us booming from heaven. Instead, God uses a 2,000-year-old book and a boring sermon. We want God to wow us with miracles. Instead, God blesses us through Sacraments. We want fireworks. Instead, we get water in Baptism and a cracker with juice in Communion. We want to be overwhelmed so we automatically believe without question so we can be perfect. Instead, we are invited to take up our cross and struggle so we learn how to love without counting the cost – not to be perfect, but to be good.
When did you come to believe that Jesus was the Christ? The Real Deal? That Jesus is who he says he is? That his way of love is the only hope for this world and the only way to us to be truly alive? I bet it wasn’t on some famous mountaintop with Jesus shining before you. I bet it was in an ordinary place that you got to know Jesus because of a caring grandparent or a kind Sunday school teacher or common, everyday church people who showed you that God loves you because they love you.
I think we miss the extraordinary, transfiguring moments of faith because we are searching for perfect, blue skies when instead Jesus regularly shows up in the middle of the overwhelming, dark clouds that billow up in our ordinary lives. Since Jesus spent his life with common, struggling people, it shouldn’t surprise us that he is here with us right now in the big, hot mess of today.
Jesus said that God’s Kingdom – the way God’s will is made real on this earth – happens through ordinary things like salt, light, and bread. Jesus said that you are part of God’s Kingdom – your life is transfigured by the holiness of the living God – when you are salt, light and bread: When you forgive someone who doesn’t deserve to be forgiven. When you share with the hungry. When you set aside your ego and what it wants to share yourself in love so others have what they need. Do that and you’ll be closer to Christ now than Peter, James, and John were on that old hill then.
Like Peter, we love mountain top moments. We want our lives to be a highlight reel of success and happiness. We want to be young again. We want our kids to be children we can hug and hold. And control. But Christ, just like life itself, continues to move on. We need to as well. So we can follow Christ today so that “thy kingdom come, thy will be done” can happen today. And that only happens down here where life’s challenges are: In the valley. That’s where we come face to face with our neighbor. That’s where we come face to face with Christ.
Getting off our hill and getting on the road with Jesus means that we’re going to be challenged – and blessed. We know who Christ is. We know what Christ wants us to do. We know Christ is with us as we follow him. So, let’s take the first step. It’s right in front of us. All we need is a little faith for the journey to begin.