The Mountains of Matthew (Sermon)

This is an adapted form of the sermon I preached this morning, the Transfiguration of Our Lord. The gospel reading was Matthew 17:1-9.

Something amazing, absolutely astonishing, happened on top of a mountain in today’s gospel reading. But I think in order to really see what was so astonishing, we need to take a step back and look at the whole mountain range. You see, the Gospel of Matthew is filled with mountains. And on every mountain in the Matthew Range we learn something about Jesus. So let’s go exploring. But I have to warn you – these mountains can get a little … poetic.

We begin in a dream, a very odd location
For the first mountain we meet is called Mt. Temptation
The devil took Jesus there while trying to tempt him
He didn’t like Jesus’ plan, so he tried to preempt him
Worship me! Satan said. And I’ll give you all this!
Jesus said, Forget it, man. Back to the abyss!
Jesus knew God, he had perfect vision.
And nothing could shift him from his perfect mission.
And so we see on Temptation Hill
That Jesus won’t bow down, he never will

Now we hear lots of words, but not English, not German
For Jesus spoke Aramaic as he stood on Mt. Sermon
Mt. Sermon’s the place that he spoke for three chapters
He broached many topics, discussed many matters
“Blessed are you,” he said. “You are all blest.”
And then he continued with fervor and zest.
He said “You are the salt” and “You are the light.”
Then he spoke for some time about how to act right.
And most of that advice about which he jawed,
Came down to one thing: “Trust only in God.”
And so we see on the Sermon Plateau
That Jesus trusted God only, and taught others so

Now shhh, keep your voice down. Jesus is there.
Can you see him praying on the top of Mt. Prayer?
He just sent his friends to get in their boat
And he went off alone to a place quite remote
Then a windstorm starts up, it’s becoming a gale
And Jesus quickly goes to where his friends just set sail
And look at him now, like some superman otter
He’s walking to the boat, walking right on the water
And so we see as we’re leaving Mt. Prayer
That Jesus can do things no human could dare!

Let’s keep moving on, there’s more mountains ahead
Next we come to a big one. I call it Mt. Bread.
It’s good that it’s big, for he drew lots of crowds in
I’m trying to count them, it looks like four thousand.
He healed and taught them, but now they’re all hungry
“Let’s send them away,” his disciples said humbly.
But Jesus picked up a loaf and he picked up a fish
And he fed them all a quite filling dish
And so we see up here on Bread Heights
That Jesus can perform miraculous sights

And then we arrive at a place where we’ll mull
It’s called Golgotha, Hebrew for Mt. Skull
It’s here that Christ died, it’s here that he bled
It’s here that he finally hung down his head
But we know that this death was not what it seemed
Because through this death the whole world was redeemed
We see through our tears on top of Skull Mountain
That Jesus unveiled a life-giving fountain

The last stop we’ll take as we finish our vision
Is a place back in Galilee we’ll call Mt. Commission
It’s here that Christ met his friends after his death
After the resurrection, the wondrous new breath!
Here he told them to go out, and get others to follow
To baptize them and teach them that their lives were not hollow
So finally we learn that Christ has been raised
And he gives us a plan for all of our days

So we finish our journey through this mountain range
We’ve learned things exciting, we’ve learned some things strange
We saw upon Temptation Hill
That Jesus won’t bow down, he never will
We saw upon the Sermon Plateau
That he trusted God only, and taught others so
We saw as we were leaving Mt. Prayer
That Jesus can do things no human could dare!
We saw way up upon the Bread Heights
That Jesus can perform miraculous sights
We saw through our tears on top of Skull Mountain
That Jesus unveiled a life-giving fountain
And finally we learned that Christ has been raised
And that he gives us a plan for all of our days

I told you that something astounding happened upon Mt. Transfiguration. But it wasn’t that Jesus’ face was glowing. It’s not that Moses and Elijah, or even God’s voice, were there. We’ve learned that those kind of things are actually par for the course for mountains in Matthew! It’s no wonder that Peter, James, and John fell down in fear. But that’s not what was astounding.

The astounding event on Mt. Transfiguration
Happened after the disciples hit the foundation
They lay on the ground, confused and dismayed
And Jesus reached down and said, “Do not be afraid.”
He touched them and told them, “There’s no need to fear.
For I am your Savior, and I am right here.”

You see, throughout the ancient world, from Israel to Rome to Greece to Asia, people believed that mountains were places where the human could reach up and touch the divine. But that’s not what happens here. Here the divine reaches down and touches us.

God the creator of all things. God the savior of the world. God the spirit that indwells us and renews us and guides us. God in the flesh as Jesus of Nazareth, reached down and touched them and said, “Do not be afraid.”

We don’t need to climb the mountain to meet God. God has already met us.

And that is the miracle. God came down and touched them. And spoke to them.

And this is the miracle. Jesus still lives. And touches you. And speaks to you.

Saying, “I’m with you always, to the end of the age.
I will set you free from every cage.
And give you more wisdom than every sage.
Until your life’s story completes its last page,
Until your final exit, your journey off-stage.
And always, always until you come with me here
I’ll be with you. And you have nothing to fear.”

Featured image by Adam Derewecki from Pixabay.

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