Erik Weihenmayer was the first blind man to summit Everest as well as the first blind man to solo kayak the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. Clearly, this is one extraordinary man.
In 2005 he founded “No Barriers” an organization dedicated to helping people with varying levels of abilities break through perceived obstacles, discover their purpose, and contribute their best to the world.
One of the key efforts of No Barriers is their annual Summit, which is a weekend experience that helps folks with disabilities discover and harness their potential through a variety of activities like mountain biking, kayaking, climbing, yoga, and music
Motivating these efforts is their motto “what’s within you is stronger than what’s in your way”
Kristan was invited to her first Summit in Lake Tahoe 2 years ago; they even allowed her to bring the whole family along, giving new meaning to “no barriers”! Ya’ll probably remember it. It was an inspiring, hopeful, and motivating experience.
I met Billy Lister, a man who suffered a stroke at 17 and developed partial paralysis. After attending a Summit, he not only learned that he could ride a bike but learned how. He’s now a paralympian and professional cyclist, traveling around the world competing.
I met Mandy Harvey, a musician who lost her hearing but learned to feel the rhythm of the music through her feet. After the No Barriers Summit she went on to compete in “America’s Got Talent” where she was awarded the “Golden Buzzer” by Simon Cowell, moving her on to the next round.
I met scores of equally talented folks; countless individuals who after the Summit used the experience to break through, conquer challenges, and go on to inspire and serve others.
At the end of each Summit, before leaving to return home, participants are provided a flag with the No Barriers logo and they’re told to plant that flag to commemorate the accomplishments of the weekend and to capture their newfound motivation and hope. But while planting that flag, they’re told to make a goal- a big goal- a life-changing goal they commit to accomplishing that next year.
They don’t leave the flag on the mountain. After planting it with the promise and the hope of a changed life ahead, they take the flag with them to remind them to stay on track.
To remind them of their potential.
To encourage them to keep up the fight and to continue their journey.
This is Kristan’s flag. And this represents her goal- her dream- to start a private practice in counseling. And we’re happy to report she’s done it. She’s loving her work and her practice has really taken off.
She’s moved from being unsure if she would ever be able to live independently, to being a small business owner and a pretty popular motivational speaker.
Her mountaintop experience gave her the courage to move past her perceived limitations and harness her education and experience to help people.
The point of mountaintop experiences is not to stay there–
The point is not to be stagnate—
Mountaintop moments are always to propel us forward.
When Weihenmayer had summited Everest, when he was literally standing on the top of the world- his guide turned to him and said,
“Congratulations Eric you did it–now don’t let this be the greatest thing you ever do”
Mountaintop moments are best at motivating us to keep going, to go out and serve.
In the Bible, the tops of mountains are usually the location of divine revelation and inspiration
In today’s Gospel, Jesus takes his “inner circle”- Peter, James, and John, up the mountain to pray.
And there, he is transformed before them.
his face changed and his clothes dazzling white—
And there he is joined by Moses and Elijah.
This must have been quite the experience—
Having your leader revealed as divine and also
Being in the physical presence of the heroes of the faith- Moses and Elijah
Moses-representative of the Law
Elijah – representative of the Prophets
Talking about a true mountaintop moment.
So of COURSE Peter wanted to stay in the moment! He didn’t want it to end
Luke writes, “Just as they were leaving him…” Peter races to capture the moment, offering what he knew to do— to preserve the moment- to commemorate it— by building 3 tents or 3 booths for each of them which is was what they did during the Festival of the Tabernacles – to commemorate the exodus.
He was searching for some way to keep the moment going.
But that wasn’t the purpose
Luke notes “Not knowing what he said”. A polite way of saying it.
So what would the purpose be? Why would Jesus reveal his glory like this? Why would Moses and Elijah appear?
Luke offers some hints–
“They speak of the “departure” which he was to accomplish in Jerusalem”
Greek word for “departure” is exodus
We know from the Bible that “exodus” also meant the Liberation of Gods people
In Jerusalem Jesus would accomplish“the liberation of God’s people”
Through his death and resurrection
But it wasn’t going to happen on that mountain.
In order to move forward
In order to go forth
they had to go down the mountain
It wasn’t going to be easy
Jesus knew this.
And Jesus knew it wasn’t going to be easy for us either
But he promises to be with us always.
To send us the Holy Spirit.
That’s good news
We might have to go down the mountain, but we don’t do it alone.
In our baptism we are named and claimed as children of God- a truly mountaintop moment that propels us forward.
To equip us to go be Christ’s disciples!
And in response to this, when we affirm our baptism, we make the following promises:
to live among God’s faithful people;
to hear the word of God and share in the Lord’s Supper;
to proclaim the good news of God in Christ through word and deed;
to serve all people following the example of Jesus;
to strive for justice and peace in all the earth
Or in other words, not stay on the mountain, but go down and out and into the world.
But on that mountain, Peter, James, and John experienced the glory of God revealed in Jesus. And not just that, they heard the voice of God
“This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”
This might sound familiar. God said something similar at Jesus’ baptism- the start of his ministry.
And from there, Jesus “immediately” went into the wilderness.
What follows for Peter, James, and John is something similar-
Luke writes, “the next day they had come down from the mountain” and are immediately met by a child possessed by a demon.
The work had begun.
Jesus doesn’t promise us it will be easy. And we shouldn’t expect it to be so.
But we are often provided with life-changing, inspiring God moments- mountaintop moments— that equip us for the work at hand.
You might have had your mountaintop moment. Or who knows, it could be just around the corner.
I invite you to claim those moments as God’s work in your life.
Consider that moment as a transfiguration.
Where glory is revealed
hope is restored
And your heart is filled.
But I invite you to resist the urge to stay put.
Resist the urge to get comfortable.
Resist the urge to play it safe
or keep it to yourself
Plant your flag!
And Don’t let it be the greatest thing you ever do
Fill up your heart with God’s glory
and go and serve!
use that mountaintop moment to change the world.
Because “what is in you is stronger than what’s in your way”.