by Maximino Cerezo Barredo

Exodus 24:12-18; Matthew 17:1-9

I’m thinking about a sacred mountain in Arashiyama, Japan. The dirt trail up this mountain eventually gives way to stone steps, laid long ago by Buddhist monks. The monks still climb up and down those steps, and you can see in the center of each step where their feet have worn away at the rock.

I’m thinking of our sanctuary, pondering on what we as Presbyterians can mean by “sacred space,” a place set apart for particular religious use. I need to qualify what I said some weeks ago about the end of using our church building as our primary outreach tool. That used to work by attracting “our kind of people” to join us on Sunday morning, because we had the best brick building downtown. Now, our location attracts people who need money (and often some kind of spiritual support, because we’re not just material people). And the reality is that most of our guests won’t become financial supporters of HCPC. But our ministry belongs to them, to the people who need what we have to offer. That’s what always attracts me about temples and churches, openness of a sacred space. It’s a place for anybody to be, even if it is set apart for a special use.

We go off alone, of course, as anyone should. We gather on Sunday morning, and it’s just us. Moses and Jesus go off alone too. Moses went up the mountain into God’s presence to get ready to receive God’s direction for the people. Jesus parallels this. He waits six days and then goes up the mountain. The cloud of God’s glory gathers around him, and the meaning of Jesus’ incarnation is revealed. Peter suggests building three tents so Jesus, Moses, and Elijah can all have their place. But then as the story tells it, Jesus takes over both Moses and Elijah. Jesus is God’s complete revelation, as the text suggests.

But it’s not that we can just say that. We have to go back down the mountain first. The grace we find here has to be given away. The Son of Man must die and be raised again. We can’t even talk about religious truth without first giving it (and ourselves) to death and resurrection. So we’re invited to share this building, this ritual, our money and our substance with others, even to the point of bankrupting the church. We’ll truly find the life of this institution by giving its life away.

Just as Jesus died to be raised – just as the bread and cup are eaten to become our life – we find our true selves when we give ourselves to others in Christ.