Stay-Pilgrimage – The Mountaintop

You may have noticed I keep inviting you to ‘imagine’. Using your imagination while on a pilgrimage can enhance and enrich the whole experience. Before you start to worry too much about using your imagination recall the stories / parables Jesus told. Each story requires the listeners to use their imagination to grasp the meaning of the story.

Our pilgrimage continues as we join Jesus and his disciples as they leave Caesarea Philippi. The disciples are to begin a six day walk toward a mountain top experience. On route Jesus points to the future, his death and resurrection. The man, Peter, who was the ‘rock’ on which the Church would be built shows he has still a lot to learn and earns a rebuke from Jesus. This episode ends with the account of Jesus’ transfiguration.  Some now feel that this event happened on nearby Mt. Hermon rather than on the traditional and smaller site of Mt. Tabor.

I think it is good that we do not know the precise mountain, all we know is that Jesus led Peter, James and John ‘up a high mountain’. So, whether it was Mount Hermon or Tabor it does not matter.

Mount Hermon

or Mount Tabor

As you slowly read the account of the Transfiguration enter into this mountain top experience. Sensing the divine nature of Jesus the Christ, ponder a while the vision of our Lord.

. . . he (Jesus) was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. Then Peter said to Jesus, ‘Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.’ While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!’ When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, ‘Get up and do not be afraid.’ And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone.

The gospel account moves quickly from the Transfiguration to the reality of the culmination of Jesus’ ministry.

As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, ‘Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.’ And the disciples asked him, ‘Why, then, do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?’ He replied, ‘Elijah is indeed coming and will restore all things; but I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognise him, but they did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of Man is about to suffer at their hands.’ Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them about John the Baptist. (Matthew 17. 2-13)

I remember, in my teens, hearing a recording of Martin Luther King’s ‘I’ve been to the Mountaintop’ speech (April 3 1968):   “Like anybody, I would like to live – a long life; longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land. So I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.” 

The following day Martin Luther King was assassinated.

A stark reminder that no matter how uplifting a mountaintop experience is you need to move on.

St Paul in his letter to the Philippians gives us a beautiful piece of writing that brings together the glory, the humility, the suffering, humanity and the divinity of our Lord.

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.

Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2.5-11)

Let us pray

The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and for ever. Amen.

Is there a sentence or two that have stuck in your mind from our reading?
Read them again and hold on to them for a minute or two.

Creator God, you are the source of all life and motivation.May we journey in faith and love, rejoicing and eager to serve you.
Grant us a glimpse of your glory as we seek to follow you –
The Way, the Truth and the Life. Amen.

Join in and sing or listen to ‘How lovely on the mountains’

How lovely on the mountains are the feet of them,
Who bring good news, good news,
Proclaiming peace, announcing news of happiness,
Our God reigns, Our God reigns.
Our God reigns, Our God reigns,
Our God reigns, Our God reigns.

Waste places of Jerusalem, break forth with joy,
We are redeemed, redeemed.
The Lord has saved and comforted His people:
Your God reigns, your God reigns!
Our God reigns, Our God reigns,
Our God reigns, Our God reigns.

Ends of the earth, see the salvation of your God,
Jesus is Lord, is Lord.
Before the nations, He has bared His holy arm,
Your God reigns, your God reigns!
Our God reigns, Our God reigns,
Our God reigns, Our God reigns.

We close this time of prayer and reflection with:
May God the Father who created you, guide your footsteps,
May God the Son who redeemed you, share your journey,
May God the Holy Spirit who sanctifies you, lead you on his life’s pilgrimage,
And the blessing of God Father, Son and Holy Spirit be with you wherever you may go. Amen.
Prayers from Pilgrimage Prayers by Jenny Child (Canterbury Cathedral)

Derek Akker