Epiphany Last Year B: Come, Let Us Go To The Mountain Of The Lord

I Kings 19:9-18
II Peter 1:16-21
Mark 9:2-9

Our scripture readings have at least two themes in common. One is that of being on a mountain. The other is that of the human tendency to wrongly assume and presume. In the First Book of the Kings, we have Elijah on the run because he has just destroyed the prophets of Baal, and so he is afraid of what King Ahab and Queen Jezebel will do to him if they find him. He finally makes it to Mount Horeb, where our story takes place. In the Gospel according to Mark, we have Jesus taking Peter, James, and John up a mountain where he is transfigured and meets with Elijah (making his second mountaintop appearance this morning), and Moses (who is known for his mountaintop conversations with God on Mount Sinai or Mount Horeb, where we just met Elijah). Then, in the Second Letter from Peter, we hear Peter recalling the transfiguration of Jesus on the mountain that we heard about in the gospel reading. That takes care of the first common theme.

The second common theme, that of God combating the human tendency to wrongly assume and presume, is a little more subtle. When Elijah finally meets with God on the mountain, the prophet complains that he is the only one left who is loyal to God. God tells him that is not true; there are seven thousand worshippers of God left. When Peter, James, and John are coming down from the mountain after the transfiguration, Jesus warns them to not tell anyone about it until after his resurrection. That seems an odd thing to say, and Jesus says that same thing to people throughout the Gospel of Mark, but as the abbot mentioned in a sermon a month ago, maybe Jesus did not want people to wrongly assume that he was who they wanted and expected him to be, because they would get it wrong. Jesus was and is different from and more than anyone could have ever thought. Just as Elijah had jumped to a wrong conclusion until he was corrected by God on the mountain, so would have the disciples had they not been silenced by Jesus.

It is the same with us; our experiences with God can cause us to jump to wrong conclusions about God, ourselves, and the people around us. That doesn’t happen because we are stupid. It happens simply because compared to God, our perspective is so small that we can see only a small glimpse of the infinite. We need to compare our experiences and understanding of God with others’. They won’t be the same, because just as everyone is different, so will their relationship with God be different. But we do need to be sure that our assumptions and presumptions about God are not totally out of bounds. As Peter says in his letter this morning: “…no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation…”.

So we need to be always open to others’ interpretations of and understanding of God. We don’t have to blindly accept everything anyone says, and we can honestly and politely let people know when our beliefs differ from theirs and we think they are wrong, but we ought to be open to the fact that they may be on to something – whether or not they are of a different opinion, a different denomination, or even an entirely different religion. We can do that by listening to others and allowing them to listen to us. We can also do it by reading works by people from different cultures and times. More specifically we can do that by being open to the Holy Spirit as we meet together here; seeing Jesus shining through each other, in the scriptures read, in the psalms sung, in prayers offered, and in the food on the altar. So let us go to the mountain of the Lord – the table where we meet with God individually and as a group, and let us not forget that every time we are up here, we are with everyone else at every other Holy Table with Jesus around the world and throughout time. The Lord is here to feed us individually and as a group. We all have much to learn from each other and from God.   AMEN