27th February 2022
Morning Worship – Mountain tops & special places
Introduction – Special places and mountaintop experiences
The readings remind us of two key moments in Bible. Both happen on mountains. God speaking to Moses and God revealing the divine nature of Jesus to the disciples. We can all relate to mountains as special places where we become close to God – places where we feel God’s presence through mountaintop experiences.
Lord, we approach you
as people climbing your holy mountain,
hoping to meet with you there.
May we be changed by our encounter.
May we be strengthened to face the world
with renewed courage and faith.
Reading – Exodus 34.29-end
29 Moses came down from Mount Sinai. As he came down from the mountain with the two tablets of the covenant in his hand, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God. 30When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, the skin of his face was shining, and they were afraid to come near him. 31But Moses called to them; and Aaron and all the leaders of the congregation returned to him, and Moses spoke with them.32Afterwards all the Israelites came near, and he gave them in commandment all that the Lord had spoken with him on Mount Sinai.33When Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil on his face; 34but whenever Moses went in before the Lord to speak with him, he would take the veil off, until he came out; and when he came out, and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, 35the Israelites would see the face of Moses, that the skin of his face was shining; and Moses would put the veil on his face again, until he went in to speak with him.
Reading – Luke 9.28-43
28 Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. 29And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. 30Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. 31They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. 32Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. 33Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, ‘Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah’—not knowing what he said. 34While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. 35Then from the cloud came a voice that said, ‘This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!’ 36When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.
37 On the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, a great crowd met him. 38Just then a man from the crowd shouted, ‘Teacher, I beg you to look at my son; he is my only child. 39Suddenly a spirit seizes him, and all at once he shrieks. It throws him into convulsions until he foams at the mouth; it mauls him and will scarcely leave him. 40I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.’41Jesus answered, ‘You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here.’42While he was coming, the demon dashed him to the ground in convulsions. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the boy, and gave him back to his father. 43And all were astounded at the greatness of God.
Moses’ return from the mountaintop with the Ten Commandments represents a moment of change for the Hebrew community. The new covenant between God and his people has been established. Moses’ mountaintop experience represents a point of transformation for Moses and the Hebrew people.
When Jesus takes some of his closest disciples away to the mountain to pray with him, they share a ‘mountaintop’ experience as Jesus’ appearance changes and they hear the voice of God revealing the divine nature of Jesus. The disciples, Peter, James and John, were changed by their mountaintop experience.
We all have mountaintop experiences. The concept of a ‘mountaintop experience’ is a common metaphor that we use. It is used to suggest intense experiences or those moments when we encounter something greater than ourselves or we see something more clearly, or gain new insights or gain inspiration. Moments when perhaps our purpose or direction becomes clearer.
We see from the readings that mountaintop experiences transform and they give support as we continue on our daily lives. From the encounter with God on the mountain, Moses led the people onward. On the mountain with Jesus the disciples saw for a moment the glory of God and as much as Peter wanted to remain in that moment the vision passed, but the disciples were changed. The disciples descended from the mountain and back to their journey with Jesus. They are approached by a father whose son was possessed by a demon, who Jesus heals. Jesus’ ministry continued to reveal to the disciples what they now saw as the greatness of God.
It reminds us that it is important we hold on to those moments when we felt God presence and inspiration. These mountaintop experiences are to be treasured as they will continue to support us. What we encounter in those moments will continue to strengthen us in our daily lives.
A prayer of confession
Father, we confess that we are always desperate
for mountaintop experiences.
We want our faith to be fuelled by awe and excitement.
We admit that our faith becomes jaded
when life is difficult or just mundane.
We want to feel spiritually uplifted all the time.
Forgive us, Father, for failing to keep the faith
when we descend from the mountain.
Forgive us for failing you when everyday life returns.
We recommit ourselves to walking with you
every inch of the way, every moment of the day,
whether it be fair or foul,
knowing that you will be faithful to us
even when we lack faith in you.
Assurance of forgiveness
O God of all patience and forgiveness, thank you for bearing with us when in your grace you grant us spiritual highs but to our pleasure-seeking humanity, they are never enough.
Thank you for forgiving us for not holding the moment like a divine spark, safe within cupped hands to light the way in darker times. Instead we let it go and stumble on, yet still you forgive us and raise us up time and time again.
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
Father, thank you that you are transforming us every day.
We pray that, not only will we have mountaintop experiences,
but also that we will know your presence with us
in our everyday and ordinary moments.
May we be continually astounded at your greatness,
and may it show in our lives.
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
And the love of God,
And the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all, now and evermore.
Posted by Nigel Smetham on Saturday, February 26, 2022