Going Climbing Together

How did this message impact you? Share your testimony

Manuscript:

Introduction:

Earlier this year we went to Colorado for a few days and we decided to go up Pikes Peak. How many of you are familiar with Pikes Peak? It is over 14,000 feet above sea level and you can drive to the summit. At first it was a pretty easy drive but as we got above the tree line my nerves kicked in. Maisie on the other hand loved it and kept saying “going up!”

It was a much different experience than hiking in the Blue Ridge Mountains on the east coast. There was a small trail that we could hike called Humpback Rock. It was a pretty tough trail that scaled several thousand feet in a short distance. We did it twice and although it was a lot of work, reaching the goal was amazing.

We hiked it to get a glimpse, a glimpse of something great.

Each year just before the beginning of Lent we as a congregation go climbing as well in anticipation of something great.

In the book of Matthew we read about a hiking adventure that Jesus took with a few of his disciples.

Lets stand for the hearing of the Word from Matthew.

Six days later Jesus took Peter and the two brothers, James and John, and led them up a high mountain to be alone. As the men watched, Jesus’ appearance was transformed so that his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as light. Suddenly, Moses and Elijah appeared and began talking with Jesus.

Peter exclaimed, “Lord, it’s wonderful for us to be here! If you want, I’ll make three shelters as memorials—one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”

But even as he spoke, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy. Listen to him.” The disciples were terrified and fell face down on the ground.

Then Jesus came over and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” And when they looked up, Moses and Elijah were gone, and they saw only Jesus.
As they went back down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

Body:

Today we go on a hike together, climbing with Jesus as we remember his transfiguration – when God divinely transformed him in front of his companions. We go, like Peter and James and John did, following Jesus. We hope that it will be fun and perhaps someone brought loaves and fishes this time – and that once we reach our destination that all of the effort will be worth it. At the mountain height we see him as he really is. By him and with him and in him the glory of God shines.”

We climb the mountain of Transfiguration each year before Lent begins for the same reason Moses climbed Mount Pisgah; to get a glimpse of the Promised Land and to see where we ourselves are headed.

“Come dance with the West wind, and touch on the mountaintops,” wrote John Denver. “Sail o’er the canyons, and up to the stars. And reach for the heavens, and hope for the future, and all that we can be, not what we are.”

When we gathered last week, we began our short 2- week series called Building On the Cornerstone. We started with looking at whom God has created us to be in His image, that Christ is the foundation for all of life, and we are called to be true worshipers of Him – living in moment-by-moment relationship with God to be not who we are but who Christ desires for us to be.
But our worship, our relationship with God, is not just individualistic or strictly personal. It is communal. God created us for relationship with Him and relationship with others. If we are seeking Christ and are in right relationship with Him, then that will lead us into right relationships with others.

In Genesis we read that God created Eve because it is not good for man to be alone. When Jesus walked the earth He lived life with others. He worshiped with them, shared meals together, served others together, and calls all believers to share with one another as the body of Christ.

We need each other.

In verse 2 of the Matthew passage we read,
“As the men watched, Jesus’ appearance was transformed…”

Last week we read from Romans 12,
So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering…fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out.”

In the NIV it reads like this,
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

Besides the parallel passage in Mark, the word translated “transformed” is only found in Romans 12:2 and @ Corinthians 3:18.
“Transformed” comes from metamorphoo, derived from metamorphosis.

Definition of metamorphosis: “a complete change of form, structure, or substance”

When Christ captivates us, we will be transformed from who we are into Christlikeness – that is the essence of holiness. But holiness is not limited to personal piety but spreads to one another as we see articulated in the flow of Romans 12.

Romans 12: Begins with Personal Holiness, leads to social holiness (the body of Christ), and culminates in social justice (being sent into the world as His hands and feet).
One of John Wesley’s (the founder of Methodism and our Nazarene heritage) famous quotes appears “In the preface to Hymns and Sacred Poems, published in 1739. He wrote,
“Solitary religion is not to be found there. ‘Holy Solitaries’ is a phrase no more consistent with the gospel than holy adulterers. The gospel of Christ knows of no religion, but social; no holiness but social holiness.”

James Pedlar comments, “Wesley is explicitly rejecting “holy solitaries”, or the attempt to become holy in isolation from other Christians. And he is insisting on the importance of community for becoming Christ- like.”

“Wesley…(was) particularly concerned about inviting people to experience God’s grace and to grow in their knowledge and love of God through disciplined Christian living. They placed primary emphasis on Christian living, on putting faith and love into action.”

“The fellowship of believers is the place where social holiness is cultivated and exercised, but it also spills over the boundaries of the church and reaches out to those who are outside of the fellowship.”

“Because salvation for Wesley was not simply about “souls” going to heaven, but about loving God and neighbor, he realized that the holiness was a reality which needed to be lived out in community. And not only is Christian fellowship the necessary consequence of a holy life, but true Christian koinonia is also the means whereby the Spirit forms the mind of Christ in us.
Wesley was fully aware that the life of the church is messy, and sometimes painful. But even through the difficulties of church conflict, the Christian community remains the place where Christians are formed after the mind of Christ, and learn to walk as he walked.

Therefore the mission of God requires the church as the people of God, as a living, embodied reality. The church is not an afterthought to mission, and Christian community is not an obstacle to mission, but the vehicle through which mission takes place. Though Wesley felt he needed to create new structures and new forms of community to produce true Christian fellowship, he did not suggest (as many, who are understandably disillusioned with the church today) that we can live out our faith in the world without being a part of the fellowship of believers. This fellowship is the foundation of social holiness, and “zeal for every good word and work” is one of the fruits that grows from this root.”

Our society and culture has changed a little bit over the past 60-70 years and even more so since the time of Wesley. In the 1950’s we see a culture where Christians were the majority and society revolved around the church calendar. Communities shut down on Sundays and Wednesday nights to preserve those times for the church to gather and worship. If you did not attend church on Sunday morning you were most likely in the minority.

We wont take the time to dive into the all of the cultural shifts that occurred over the next several decades but for many of you who lived through those times, there were seismic shifts in the culture through the hippie and Jesus movements, escalation of drugs, the sexual revolution, and the bitter aftertaste of legalism of the church.
You were a good Christian if you went to church every Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night. You were a good Christian if you paid your tithe, volunteered with the children, and drove the church bus. You were a good Christian if you had proper clothes and hair.
But the generations that followed realized that there had to be more to being a part of a church or faith in God than following a bunch of rules that for the most part weren’t even found in scripture.

So here we find ourselves in 2017 where the majority of people in the US do not claim any religious affiliation. Only 29% of people in Ashland claim a religious affiliation. That is 20% lower than the national average.

Why has there been such a dramatic shift? I am sure we could talk a long time about all of the reasons or possibilities but today I want to focus on one component that has been on the decline.

We are no longer captivated by Christ but captivated by ourselves.

We live in an iCulture. IPhone, iPods, iPads, the customer is always right with a consumerist, disposable mentality. The Internet has made every person with a WIFI connection an expert in any given field at any given time and given them a platform to proclaim their knowledge through social media, blogs, and the endless stream of comments on websites and postings. This iCulture has slipped over into the church as well where many have stopped being a part of a church because they “don’t need a church to have a personal relationship with God”. Sure there is a personal element to our relationship with God as we talked about last week but we have lost the reality that there is only so far we can go alone. We need one another.
Romans 12:4-5 (NLT)

Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, 5 so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.

The Lion Inside – Part 2

Just this past week in the city Angelia grew up in and one I have been a part of for over a decade suffered a huge blow. A man walked into a restaurant that we have frequented and began shouting racial slurs towards what he thought were middle eastern men. He told them to go back to their own country and to get out of his. He left when others stepped in to calm the rhetoric but returned with a gun and shot 3 people, killing one of them. It turns out the men he attacked were college educated, white collar men from India who worked for the worldwide company that you and I use everyday – Garmin.

This story has been and will continue to be repeated. Our world is filling up with hate and discrimination in an age when tolerance is shouted from the highest soapbox. But the idea of mutual respect and ultimately love for one another will never occur when it is based on our own thoughts, ideas, and will. We are reaping the results of self-dependence and it is not pretty.
Just like the mouse in the book, if we want something to change we first must change ourselves – or in Christian sense, we must be willing to allow God to change us. The reality is that we are each the mouse or the lion at different times. Maybe we are meek and feel small. We believe that we have nothing to offer the world so we shrink back and stay under the rock. Or perhaps you are sitting on top of the rock, puffing out your mane and roaring for all to hear because you are actually scared that those around may find out who you really are so you keep them at a distance.

In each case, God desires for us to not project an image but to reflect the image of Christ by allowing Him to draw us out of the self-serving tendencies and embrace the unconditional love for all of God’s creation. Move beyond the fear, self-doubt, anger, and ultimate hate and let go.
Then as the body of Christ we will be compelled to move into our world with the Good News and to love our neighbors.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

Two are better off than one, because together they can work more effectively. If one of them falls down, the other can help him up. But if someone is alone and falls, it’s just too bad, because there is no one to help him. If it is cold, two can sleep together and stay warm, but how can you keep warm by yourself? Two people can resist an attack that would defeat one person alone. A rope made of three cords is hard to break.

Conclusion:

So we go climbing together over the next 40 days.

The climb will not be easy, which explains why we feel like we’re being chipped and chiseled. God places us next to other believers who constantly rub against one another, which is aggravating because we are living stones. Yet it is the process God uses to knock off our rough edges and grind smooth our imperfections. It takes the church and its ministry to remake us into greater and greater Christ-likeness. Sometimes God puts us right next to the very people He knows will rub on us so that He can shape us and fit us into a body, a temple polished to reflect His glory.

When Jesus arrived at the mountaintop his figure changed and the outside of him, which had been ordinary and like us, shone as if he was not like one of us.
Jesus was facing the long journey to another mountain, where he would be lifted higher. Jesus knew that ahead was the long walk to the cross, with all its possible escapes and sidetracks. Jesus knew that he could walk away from the will of the Holy One.

Jesus knew that he had a way out of this, but Jesus also knew that he would not take it. He knew that his death was only weeks away.
As unlikely as it seems, the scripture tells in many places that to be like Jesus is our destiny; that the intention of God in his calling of us is to make us like him.
We are destined for glory – a glory like his, a glory that will make us shine as he shone.

But first – as with Jesus – there is cross to bear. In the weeks to come we will be reminded that the Lord did not go straight from his baptism to heaven. We will remember that he walked the path of suffering for us, that he prayed for us, that he fought the spiritual fight for us. That he bled and died for us.
The road ahead is the way of the cross.

And so – each year we climb the mountain of Transfiguration with him.
We climb because there is a rough road ahead of us.

Jesus looked ahead to the choices of the cross and God gave him the vision and the strength he needed: the vision and the strength to walk with us in the long steps of life’s journey.
And God too wills to give us the vision and the strength we need. The vision and the strength to face the fears and weaknesses of our lives. The vision and the strength we need to respond to the call of God to live beyond ourselves, to live lives of sacrifice and courage.

Response:

As we climb together where do you find yourself today? Are you the mouse? Are you the lion? Who is God asking you to be? Are you stuck in the realm of personal holiness and need to make the step into really embracing social holiness and being a part of the body of Christ? As a part of GracePoint, are there things that you feel God is asking you to do with your gifts? Is there someone who you have been chiseling or who is chiseling you that you need to go to with courage this week as the mouse?

What image are you reflecting today? Are you reflecting God’s glory or something else? How is our transformation going?

As we go climbing together the road will not always be easy but when Christ captivates us then we can be faithful together and shine Christ radiantly and really be the church.

Benediction:

Therefore I beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. 2 Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. 3 Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. 4 For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future.

The Way of Hope