May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable to you O Lord, for you are our rock, our strength and our redeemer.
During my second year of seminary, I was fortunate enough to make a visit to the Holy Land. This visit was part of a course offered by St. George’s College in Jerusalem. Although my group attended seminars, our course also included tours to various sights where Jesus walked.
One of these tours took us to the wilderness where we climbed to a lookout point, which gave us a spectacular view of the Jezreel valley and Mount Tabor. Although we were not able to make a trip up the mountain, we could see the winding road we were told was the only way up and down the mountain.
Some scholars believe Mt. Tabor was the site where the Transfiguration in our Gospel lesson today took place. A clergy friend from the Diocese of Southeast Florida, who also visited the Holy Land, recounted her experience to me in this way. “One of my classmates and I took a taxi up Mount Tabor. New York City cab drivers had nothing on the driver that took us up those winding roads. As he rounded each corner he would shout ‘Alleluia’ while my classmate threw up in the back seat of the taxi” She went on to say “The whole trip up the mountain was a series of ‘yikes’ and ‘wow’ and that is how I believe Peter experienced the Transfiguration on the mountain that day. He must have been scared out of his wits, yet completely in awe.”
I want to suggest that most of us have had mountaintop experiences and these experiences often do not involve an actual physical mountain. How about the birth of our sweet babies like the ones baptized in the church this morning? I remember just wanting to sit and stare and marvel at the wonder of the miracle of the birth of each of my children. But like Peter and the other disciples found out, we mothers and fathers become aware that we cannot just sit in utter amazement on that mountain. We realize that at some point we need to feed that child, change that child and give that child what he or she needs to survive. We need to have our children baptized, enroll them in school and provide for them until they can provide for themselves; and sometimes even beyond that. As the father in our gospel reading sought healing for his child, we too need to seek healing for our children if or when they become sick.
Mountaintops and valleys come for most of us, and whether we know it or not or feel it or not, God is with us in both places. Sometimes the mountaintop seeks us out and yet we are afraid to embrace those experiences. Perhaps we feel that we do not deserve those moments of clarity and joy, or we are afraid that the experience will not last and we will be back in the valley again.
I recall a particularly difficult time in my life when I had suffered loss and would push away moments of joy. A wise friend, who is also a therapist, encouraged me to enjoy those moments of joy because in life, we are either going up a mountain or going down to the valley and those mountaintop experiences will sustain us when we find ourselves in the valley.
Some of the ladies in our parish had mountaintop experiences at the Women’s Retreat held last weekend at Balcones Springs. Quite a few of them expressed to me how the presentations, especially the one offered by Becca Stevens inspired them to work to bring about change. For those of you who have not heard of Becca Stevens, she is an Episcopal Priest, an author, speaker, a 2016 CNN Hero, founder, and president of Thistle Farms, an organization whose mission is to ensure that women who have survived trafficking, prostitution and addiction receive a second chance at life.
In a follow up email to the women of the parish, coordinator of the retreat, our very own Aimee Bostwick, expressed her excitement at the success of the retreat by saying, and I quote, “Our time together this weekend will be a highlight for me in the coming months. I was so happy to be in such a loving, healing community. Thank you. I know that the women of this parish will continue to lead Good Shepherd in building authentic, deeply spiritual community together. I am excited to see where this will lead us.” Aimee also asked the ladies to be on the look out for ways to support Magdalene house, the first long-term residential program in central Texas that will offer a life in community that empowers survivors to create an independent and meaningful future.
Stevens claims, and I quote “The line between prostitution and trafficking is not as clear as we are often led to believe. Without exception, women do not make the choice to be trafficked, and do not have a voice in how they are labeled. “Human trafficking forcefully converts a human being into a commodity. One person profits by stripping rights and dignity from another person. There is no element of choice for the trafficked person; he or she is a product in a multi-billion dollar industry.” (from, The Exodus Road)
Aimee suggested that other amazing opportunities for offering healing love include the support of the Women’s Storybook Project and becoming more involved at the Hill by supporting the women and families of Rosemont and Pleasant Hills communities. Please contact Aimee and Kathy Pfister if you are interested in receiving more information on these opportunities.
Our baptismal Covenant calls us to strive for justice and peace among all people, and to respect the dignity of every human being. We are anointed and marked, as Christ’s own forever and as such are called to listen to Jesus and to help to bring freedom and abundant life to God’s people who suffer in the valleys. But how can we accomplish this if we sit in our tents on the mountaintop? Like the disciples, Jesus calls us to follow him down that mountain and to be transformed as the apostle Paul tells us, “ And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)
At Jesus’ baptism, God spoke only to Jesus saying: “You are my son, the beloved; with you I am well pleased.”(Luke 3:22) On the mountain as Jesus is transfigured, God spoke to the disciples and, God is telling us, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” (Luke 9: 35b)
As we journey from Epiphany to Lent, I wonder what it would if we allowed the glory of God to transform into change agents? I wonder how it would be if we took seriously the words. “Love heals?’ I wonder, would they know we are Christians by our love? I wonder, will we experience those ‘yikes’ and wows?’ I wonder!