May the Words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be always acceptable in your sight, Oh Lord my strength and my redeemer.
There’s something important about Mountains. Reaching up into the clouds—A holy place, A transforming place.
We read today, in the Acts of the Apostles, About clouds and mountains. Jesus—Climbing up a mountain. Ascending into the clouds. Just as Moses did years before. Just as Jesus did as he was transfigured and transformed on the mountaintop.
It’s a weird story. Jesus has died. Jesus was resurrected from the dead. Jesus hung out with his friends.And then he goes up into a cloud. And suddenly—“two men in white robes stood by the disciples.” It’s weird! It’s nuts! But there’s something important about Mountains…
Up on this mountain: Up in this cloud: Jesus doesn’t perform any miracles. Up on this mountain, Jesus BECOMES a miracle. Ascending to the Father—
And all of the disciples once again see him: Truly as he really is--The messiah, The Son of God, God’s beloved.
Jesus is visibly transformed and changed—On the top of a mountain—He becomes the miraculous bridge between the human and the divine.
Up on this mountain, Jesus’ friends understand his true identity. The Mountain is the place where human nature is transformed, Where human nature meets and connects to God’s nature.
Now as the missioner for youth and young adults. I have to tell you today about some young people on a mountain.
Young people across this diocese report on their own mountaintop experiences—When they come to camp at our very own Thunderhead Episcopal center. Also known as TEC.
And here’s the thing: There’s something important about mountains. Because Jesus, Moses, and the disciples are not the only ones who are transformed on the mountaintop. They are not the only ones who bridge the human and divine.
Because at Camp, our young people are transformed. And this is a big deal. This is big news. This is good news. Gospel news.
At the end of every camp session, We hike up to “The Cliffs” An outdoor chapel at the top of a high mountain—Overlooking the dark green pines, and the overwhelming beauty of God’s creation.
Most campers will tell you that this hike—With a church service on the top of the mountain Is one of their favorite things about camp.
Because there’s something important about mountains. Something amazing about looking down. Something that makes us feel a little bit different—A little bit transformed—And a bit closer to God.
But the mountaintop experience is also about identity. All of the bible stories about mountains tell us about Who Jesus is. Who God is. And who we really are.
And our young people who go to camp know this. And they know it deeply.
One camper reported: “At camp, I learned about peace, God, and that people can be your family without actually being related to you.” This is who we are. A family. Related to each other through Christ.
Transformed into a family through Christ. Made whole through Christ.
And deeply, deeply beloved people of God.
The young people who go to Camp know this. Because when they come to camp, they are loved. Loved for exactly who they are. Just as they are.
And that love transforms and transfigures them into people who love one another.
One of my favorite quotes from a camper, is one who said: “At camp, I learned that God is everything. Love is powerful.”
That’s transfiguration. That’s transformation. That’s God’s love doing real work in the world.
A Counselor at TEC said:" Over my time at TEC, I have witnessed and taken part in something I like to refer to as, The TEC Transformation. It's this amazing thing that happens to people who visit TEC where peoples doubt and worry and insecurity become transformed into confidence, comfort, and serenity. TEC is place, yes, but more so, TEC is an experience."
It’s pretty clear that God is doing something amazing—Up in the Mountains at TEC. Transforming young people into a people whose insecurities become confidence. Who see and feel that they have been transformed into God’s beloved.
But now that I’ve talked up the Mountaintop so much. I’m going to tell you that it’s not really about the mountain. It’s not really about Camp. It’s about the amazing things that God does in our world.
The AMAZING spectacular things that God does everywhere. And I want to be clear that out on the prairie, along the sea, In the desert—In all places and at all times—God is doing something amazing. Inviting us to be transformed. It’s not exclusive to mountaintops.
But there’s something about the mountaintop that describes a journey. Because unless you’re Jesus: When you go up a mountain, You’ve gotta come back down sometime.
The image of the mountaintop is about movement—Not complacency. Continuing. Not static.
The image of going up to the top of a mountain. Is an image about making a choice. Saying yes: To transformation. Saying yes: to God’s love. Choosing to continue the journey.
The amazing thing about camp is not the mountains—Although the Black Hills are beautiful, peaceful, and serene. The amazing thing about camp is that young people choose to go. The choose to make themselves vulnerable as they meet new people—to share a part of themselves and their stories.
They Choose to learn about God’s amazing love. And choose to say yes to the possibility of transformation.
This is what Jesus offers—To all of us. Young and old alike. To take part in his identity as the beloved of God. Offering a spiritual change for each and every one of us to be transformed in Christ.
Inviting us to say yes to the journey to the mountaintop.