There are those moments – those moments when you are lifted from the everyday, the routine – and given a glimpse of heaven. We yearn for those moments – you know what I’m talking about – when you go to a retreat or a conference or participate in an event that is so powerful, so transforming that you never want to go home – you just want to stay and soak it in. And you wonder – why can’t it be like this all the time?
Our youth group would go to Bible camp when I was a teenager. We’d be gone for a week. 7 days – 24 hours a day. Surrounded by Christian friends, immersed in spiritual activities, encouraged and challenged by great teachers – and the singing – we thought we’d died and gone to heaven – literally! On the trip back to town, we’d be fired up, singing and talking about how we were going to take the world for Christ. We dared Satan to show up, because we’d have taken him with one arm tied behind our back. But when we arrived home – it was the same old parents and brothers and sisters – even church the next day was a little bit disappointing – it just wasn’t like camp.
Not even Jesus’ disciples lived on the mountain top. There were those moments, though: About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray.
As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem. Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. As the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to him, “Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (He did not know what he was saying.) While he was speaking, a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. A voice came from the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.” When the voice had spoken, they found that Jesus was alone. The disciples kept this to themselves, and told no one at that time what they had seen.
The next day, when they came down from the mountain, a large crowd met him. A man in the crowd called out, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son, for he is my only child. A spirit seizes him and he suddenly screams; it throws him into convulsions so that he foams at the mouth. It scarcely ever leaves him and is destroying him. I begged your disciples to drive it out, but they could not.” “O unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you and put up with you? Bring your son here.” Even while the boy was coming, the demon threw him to the ground in a convulsion. But Jesus rebuked the evil spirit, healed the boy and gave him back to his father. And they were all amazed at the greatness of God. (Luke 9:28-43).
Notice a couple of things about the mountain top:
Jesus didn’t stay on the mountain with his disciples. They went for a time of prayer – while they were there something unforgettable took place that changed their lives. But the next day, they came back down the mountain – back into the city – to the crowds – to the marketplace.
One of the mistakes the second century church made was to create the system of monasticism. It sounded good – leave the world behind, go off with other spiritual people and focus on God – not just for a week, or a month, but for a lifetime. But the mountain top doesn’t stay a mountain top. You can’t hide from sin, you can’t be the salt of the earth and stay in the salt shaker. All of the things they thought they were leaving behind found them behind their cloistered walls, and all the things Christ sent us into the world to do – they no longer did.
When Jesus came down off the mountain the crowds were waiting for him – with all their problems. But he didn’t turn around and run back up the mountain. The people didn’t keep Jesus from his mission – they were his mission. It was in the midst of the crowd – yes, there were frustrations (“O unbelieving and perverse generation, how long shall I stay with you and put up with you?”), but there were the opportunities to change the lives of people (“Jesus rebuked the evil spirit, healed the boy and gave him back to his father. And they were all amazed at the greatness of God.”)
Jesus knew the need to get away and relax and recharge. In Mark 6, Jesus sends his disciples out and they go across the countryside driving out demons and healing sick people. And when they return, they gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then in vs. 31 – “Because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’ So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.” It didn’t last long – when they get off the boat, the crowds have gathered, so Jesus teaches them and then feeds them – over 5,000 of them.
Even Jesus needed to step away – to regroup, to recharge – but then it was back into the crowds – to minister, to meet needs.
We need the mountain top (that’s where God meets us) – but we also need the marketplace (that’s where God sends us).
Our times of worship are the mountain top. To be transported and transformed. To be challenged and inspired by coming before the throne of God. To have one of those opportunities to wish it would always be like this.
What if Jesus had said to Peter, James and John, “Come on guys, we’re going up to the mountain tonight,”
· and James had said, “You know, Jesus, I’m kind of busy right now – I’ve got too many irons in the fire just to take off to the mountain – you’ll have to go without me.”
· and John had said, “Jesus, you know I work awfully hard for you during the days, and in the evenings I just have to have some time to relax – count me out.”
· and Peter, “Well, I’ll go, but I hope you won’t keep me up too late and don’t expect me to do anything once we get there.”
· That would be pretty pathetic, wouldn’t it?
We need the mountaintop. We need to be in the presence of God. We need what happens when we’re together on Sunday morning. But this isn’t why we’re here. We’re here so that God can get us ready to go out there.
You see, the thing about the mountain top is that it prepares you to go back into the marketplace – back to the crowds – back to the people that need Jesus in their lives. And you are the one who can’t wait to take them with you to experience what you’ve experienced – to share with them a savior who changed your life forever.
If all we do as Christians is come to worship, we’ve missed what being Christians is about. It’s like the athlete who sits in his easy chair and listens to motivational tapes, but never actually gets out and participates. Like a craftsman who owns all the tools and has all the skills, but never actually builds anything.
We need to take what we get in here and use it out there. In John 13, Jesus didn’t wash the disciples feet in the upper room so that they would have clean feet. Listen to Jesus’ own words: When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” (John 13:12-17). He washed their feet so that they would go out and wash others’ feet. In other words, he showed them what it looks like to be a real servant to others, so that they would go out and serve others.
And if you’re here this morning simply to be served, and you don’t go back out into your world tomorrow to be a servant to others, you have completely missed what Jesus was talking about. His words and his example were lost on you. It’s exactly what Paul described in Ephesians 2:10 – “For we are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
This morning I want to share with you an opportunity to serve others. It is one of those “glass of cold water to the least of these” kind of ministries.
Over the last four months, several of our ladies have been studying and exploring a need that exists in this community, and developing a ministry to address that need. This is a grassroots ministry, meaning it wasn’t something that Justin or I developed, but members in the pews who have seen a need and have asked God to show them how to meet it. And this morning, they are inviting you to join them. And I want to tell you how exciting that is. It is exactly what Paul was describing in Eph.4:15-16, “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”
This ministry is the outgrowth of exactly that. Over a dozen members have already been involved in the development and leadership of it, and this morning, I want you to see what they have prepared.
Slide show presentation of “At Your Service”
The presentation is over, but the work is just beginning. As we launch this ministry, it will only be as effective and successful as you make it. It is a very personal ministry that requires hands-on participation from every one of us. And here’s where you come in. You will find in the book pockets a participation signup form. There is something for everyone to do – there are avenues for using whatever talents and however much time you have to give. What one person can do won’t be the same as what another person can do, but with each of us doing our part, we will see Christ working in us and through us to serve people and bring glory to God.
Posted on Sun, February 28, 2010
by John Roberts