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FAITH FOR TODAY: From the mountains to the valleys

Many years ago, a group of youngish adults attended a “retreat” type of event with me.

The youngish adults were leading a group of actual young people who gathered at the Gaelic College, away from their everyday life, away from electronics and expectations. It took some doing, but with a great music team, some intense listening, quality facilitation, and lots of good food, conversations that mattered began to take place.

It was a time apart, just a few days, but something happened that many of us were unable to put into words. It seemed the young people actually were eager to talk about life and spirit, meaning and purpose. They cared about being known and understood, and so did we who were leading. Oddly enough, the conversation I remember most clearly was the one that happened on the way home. One of the facilitators, a banker, in a demanding job and a tired domestic relationship was debriefing with me. I asked if he would tell his partner about the weekend. His response was that though this time apart was so important to him, there was absolutely no one he could share it with. His partner would not understand or appreciate his retelling of his time apart.

It occurs to me that often we hesitate to share those life-changing experiences, confessing that finding the right words is next to impossible. Yet, those moments, rare and mystical, invite us to live the ordinary days with purpose and confidence. We realize that we do matter, there is something beyond our daily needs and responsibilities. Mountains and valleys define us.

The story of the transfiguration, of Jesus intentionally going up the mountain to pray, and taking with him the inner circle of disciples, invites me to ponder what was happening back in the valley. Those disciples who were not invited would never really understand what happened on the mountain. Though they might be very interested on one level to hear, words are so individualistic and one dimensional. Maybe that is why Jesus instructed his disciples to tell no one. The mountain was not a place to stay, but a place to be, for a time. Mystical moments offer the opportunity to see beyond the ordinary and somehow they hold us in the ordinary times.

Sometimes it seems that we appreciate the high points in life, because we know too well there are also low points. We know sorrow because we experience love, we seek comfort when we feel pain, we yearn for the comfort of community when we feel most isolated. The balance is intriguing.

What lay ahead for Peter and John and James was still unknown to them. They would rely on this moment of illumination far from the mountain top in the everyday life of discipleship which lay ahead.

But it is not only those followers who needed to acknowledge that their time with Jesus changed how they responded in every day life. Our mountaintop experiences in nature, music, in poetry, stand alongside our every day life. In a faith for today, listening for the voice of the beloved matters.

Hopefully, we will find appropriate times and places to show how those moments hold each of us.

Rev. Donna Tourneur is minister at Trinity United Church in New Glasgow.

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