This past Sunday at my church, Hunter Hills Church in Prattville, AL, I preached a sermon on a text from the book of Mark that I find strange. It is in Mark 9:2-13. Jesus takes 3 disciples up on a mountain with him and there he is “transfigured”. It is here, on top of this mountain that these 3 get to see the glory of God fully revealed in Jesus Christ. They see God’s future world, and for a moment they have a foot in that world that is coming.
Without re-preaching the whole sermon here, I will just say that I tried to make the claim that this story we call “The Transfiguration” is the turning point in Mark’s gospel. Up to this point, Mark has been making a claim for the identity of Christ, and then on top of that mountain in verse 7 it reaches a climax when the voice from heaven says, “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” Identity crisis solved. This is Jesus, God’s Son, God in the flesh. This is the One that will fulfill the law and the prophets. This is the climax of Israel’s story. Listen to him and follow him. So, here comes the turning point.
After this story, Jesus leads these disciples back down the mountain. The world we got a glimpse of is pulled away, and we follow Jesus back down the mountain into the valley. We have a foot planted in God’s new world that is coming, but we also have a foot firmly planted in this world where there is pain, suffering, death, disease, and failures. There are some discussions in Christian thinking that I think lead us to a place of “hanging on to our pews” and waiting for eternity. If we live in this broken world, and a new world is coming, then we just wait to die, right? I think there is more to the Christian life than this. I like a quote by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove that says, “Eternal life isn’t something that begins when you die. It’s an invitation to begin living now the kind of life that can last forever.”
So, we like the disciples have seen and tasted the glory of God on top of that mountain. And we, like the disciples follow Jesus back down the mountain into the valley. We assume our positions as disciples behind him, following in the path of the Crucified One. And following the path of the Crucified One is learning to live a different way in this world, particularly in how we live toward others. As the quote above tells us, following in the path of Christ is an invitation to begin living a life now that can last forever. When we practice patience, root out racism, turn the other cheek, love our enemies, forgive, mend broken relationships, and other things that restore the brokenness in this world, I think we are learning to live the kind of lives that proclaim the nearness of the kingdom of God, and point to that glorious day when God will be all in all.
We live with one foot firmly planted in God’s future world, where the brokenness is restored. But, we live with one foot in this world, where there is still brokenness. We are learning to follow the path of Christ, the path of discipleship, where we live the kind of lives that restore the brokenness we see all around. What if our churches became known as communities of people who seek to restore the brokenness of the world as we learn to journey on the path of the Crucified One.