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Down in the Valley

According to Biblical scholar Fred Craddock, mountain top experiences are fine and dandy, but where the rubber really meets the road is what happens when we come down off the mountain, when we enter the valley; where the light has faded, the sheen dulled and the dirt and grime of daily life takes over….

Christianity isn’t about mountaintops, it’s about valleys.  If it was about mountaintops then Jesus wouldn’t have been born in a cave, to peasant parents from a backwater town. If our faith was about mountaintops Jesus wouldn’t have been executed like a common criminal, hung on a tree, mocked and scourged. If our faith was all about mountaintops Jesus’ followers wouldn’t have been a rag-tag band of disciples who fell asleep at a drop of a hat, doubted at the slightest turn of fortune or denied their teacher in times of greatest need. No this faith of ours is definitely the faith of the valley. This faith of ours gets lived out in our day-to-day lives because Christianity is less about fancy and more about simple.

But simple doesn’t mean less Holy. You see, what we forget is that even down here in the valley, sacred things happen all the time. The Holy can—the Holy does-- pop up everywhere.

The sacred isn’t necessarily glamorous and the Holy needn’t be in some transfigured glory. Usually, God is just right here, walking with us on our journey through the valley of regular life.

But, who can blame Peter, or the rest of us, for wanting to freeze the moment of glory atop the mountain, to linger in the wisdom and wonder of Elijah, Moses and Jesus? That’s far more appealing than going back to daily life. But Peter, like all of us, forgets that such an overwhelming experience of the Holy isn’t the transformative thing—no the Technicolor wow of an experience of the sacred, of the Holy is simply the fuel for change. Blockbuster encounters with the Holy serve as the nourishment needed to live our lives as Jesus has taught us.
Strength to follow God’s directive to listen to this Jesus-- God’s beloved Son—and allow  the Good News of his life and ministry to transform the world. 

Peter sees the Transfiguration but fails to feel the transformation.

Everyone has experienced this in one form or another---we have some momentous experience—a moment when we feel truly touched by God and we swear, we swear that this is it, we’ll change our ways, we’ll never forget, we’ll turn over a new leaf…but it doesn’t last. It doesn’t last because the high of that moment, the amazing moment of awareness that shining moment of enlightenment cannot be sustained.

It can’t be sustained because it isn’t on the mountaintop where life happens; it’s down in the valley….

All the experiences of the Holy, all the sacred feelings, all the Transfigurations doesn’t bring God’s kingdom to earth.

What heals this world, what brings the Holy right here, right now, are people. People who’ve listened to God’s Son, the Messiah, the Chosen One, and try our best to live as we’ve been taught. We are to find the sacred in the mundane, we are to find the holy in the ordinary and we are to be transformed by the routine. For our faith is not the faith of royalty, it’s the faith of peasants. Ours is not the faith of the powerful, it’s the faith of the weak and ours is not the faith of the mountaintop it’s the faith of the valley.

So today, staring right into the approaching Lent, we put our alleluias away as we prepare to live into the fullness of what the incarnation—God in the flesh---requires us to do: to journey with Jesus to Jerusalem, onto the cross and into the tomb. Today we climb off the mountaintop of the nativity and the Epiphany to walk in the valley of real life --- not a walk of despair and hopelessness but a walk of transformed faith and transfigured hope rejoicing that we, along with God’s Son, are Beloved by God. 

- Catherine Dempesy, excerpted from "See the Transfiguration, Feel the Transformation," a sermon preached on February 19, 2012 at Good Shepherd Episcopal Church, Buffalo, NY