Matthew 17:1-2 - And after six days Jesus took with Him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And He was transfigured before them, and His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became white as light.
Mere religion is not the answer to the problems of our times. It offers no hope to people at the bottom of the valley, feeding them the notion, as it does, that they can live with "peace of mind" like bugs in a cocoon. Because we are human beings, we cannot be protected from the blows and irritations of living. We cannot live in unbroken serenity and undisturbed security. Christ does not offer such hope. He does not tell us there will be nor further problems or that all of our questions will have pat answers.
Christ does give answers to the problems of life, however. He Himself is that answer. He went the way for you. He goes the way with you, and He will go the way before you. You can see His glory on the mountain top, and at the bottom of the valley. There is no place where He is not the Redeemer of men, no circumstance in which He is not the Savior. Christ, the Son of God, is Lord. Christ, the Savior of the world, has a care for suffering humanity. Christ is your Lord, and He has a care for you. He calls you to have faith in Him.
Faith in Christ has its mountain tops, too. There are those moments when a man by faith in Christ sees everything clearly: God is Father, Christ is Savior, and all is right with the world. Faith in Christ has those moments when He seems almost to be transfigured right before your eyes. Those moments are important. They help prepare people of faith for the bottom of the valley.
Like Christ Himself, in whom they trust, people of faith have to be prepared for the bottom of the valley. Have you ever been in despair so deep and black that God seemed far away or even dead? Have you ever experienced what somebody has called "the dark night of the soul"? Have you ever hit bottom, the very bottom, just when you thought you were riding high? Has it happened to you in some severe personal or world crisis? In some illness or upon a death in the family?
It is all part of one picture, as Raphael painted it: on the top of the mountain Christ was transfigured for all of the pain-filled humanity in the bottom of the valley. It is all part of one picture. Yet, at the center of it stands the victorious Son of God in all His glory, having come through pain and suffering just like ours to be the Lord of all. See Him in all His glory, and follow Him in utter confidence from the top of the mountain to the bottom of the valley, and finally to the top of the mountain again, from which there will be no more returning. Amen.
THE PRAYER: Lord God, give us faith in Christ that we may know how to take the ups and downs, the twists and turns of life -- not complaining but always rejoicing in the hope of glory through Christ. Amen.
From "Top of the Mountain-Bottom of the Valley," a sermon excerpt from Oswald Hoffmann, Speaker of The Lutheran Hour
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