I have always enjoyed being among hills, and especially getting to the top. Maybe it’s something to do with being born within spitting distance of Dartmoor or spending afternoons and days in the Shropshire Hills and holidays in North Wales in my youth. I am now blessed to live within half a mile of a hill top from which large parts of Leicestershire and even the West Midlands can be seen on a clear day. Once on a hill-top one gains a different perspective and there is often the temptation to linger – unless it’s blowing a gale or tipping with rain.
Tomorrow morning we commemorate the Transfiguration – this year in St. Luke’s account – a story which takes place on a mountain-top. For Peter, James and John it is such a powerful experience that the temptation to linger there is great. Peter even wants to set up a kind of home from home. Yet, in spite of the revelation they receive, perhaps even because of it, they cannot stay but have to return to the valley where they encounter human suffering and anguish in an acute form.
This is a reminder that those who are serious about following Jesus cannot be content with the mountain-top experiences, the spiritual highs of life, unless they lead us back into valleys, into the world as it is rather than as we might prefer it to be. This is the world where the beautiful aspects of creation such as a sunset or a beautifully sung evensong or an inspirational charismatic service coexist with earthquakes in Haiti or a widow trying to make sense of her husband’s early death from an accident or from cancer. The perspectives from the two places are quite different, but they must both be acknowledged and engaged with if we are to move forward on life’s path with Jesus and with one another.