Today is Transfiguration Sunday, the day we remember the time when Jesus went up a mountain and met with Father God (and Moses and Elijah).
In the Bible, mountains are signs and symbols of having an encounter with God. The place of revelation of God’s glory, and of instruction, or teaching. (Moses and Elijah both met God on mountains long before Jesus.) In fact, David called God our rock, our solid ground, our cave to shelter in, our firm foundation.
There’s another geographic feature in the Bible, the sea. In the Bible, the sea is a sign and a symbol of chaos. Not only the epic destructive chaos of, say, war, but also the background noise and distraction that appears to separate us from God. So in the Bible we see God setting limits on the sea, parting the sea, treading the sea under foot, and in John’s vision of the future world-made-new ‘there was no sea’ (symbolically, not literally—if you love the sea, don’t worry!).
Jesus said, if you have faith you can say to a mountain be thrown into the sea, and it will be. This is often taken to mean, if you have struggles, difficulties, obstacles, you can move them out of the way. But that isn’t what Jesus was saying. Remember, the mountain was the place of encounter, not trouble.
Jesus was saying, if you have faith, you can take the experience of encountering God in one space and one time, and transfer it into another space and time.
We have just spent a week at New Wine, encountering God in pilgrimage. And today we travel home, to a place that seems a thousand miles apart. By faith we can tell the mountain to be thrown into the sea, providing solid ground.
Peter wants to stay longer on the mountain. Jesus says no, we take the mountain with us, into the sea. To the boy seized by convulsions, and his heart-broken father…