This Isn’t The Mountain Top You Were Looking For
OK, it’s not exactly what one usually means when one thinks of mountain-top experiences. They are usually something we long for, hunger for. They speak of transcendence, being caught up with the Lord in ecstatic communion. Not trapped in a liminal state between disaster and a new normal.
But that is exactly what the first recorded ‘mountain top experience’ was like.
It is tucked away in Genesis 8:3-4:
At the end of 150 days the waters had abated, and in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat.
The initial crisis - 40 days and nights of rain - had passed, the water had gradually receded, and here were Noah, his family and a lot of noisy, smelly animals, stranded on a mountain top. Little did they know that they would remain there for a further seven months before God finally told them it was safe to come out.
Can you imagine what it must have been like?
I think we all can, to some extent. Waiting… waiting… trying to get on with life - mucking out the stables, pens, coops and cages; feeding the endlessly hungry animals, birds and reptiles; sloshing out dirty water, bringing in clean water; rinse. Repeat.
The frustration. The futility. The fear that this might be it - we might be trapped here forever, doomed to a Sisyphean eternity of vaguely unpleasant, fundamentally meaningless tasks.
Peter relates the preservation of Noah in the ark to baptism - passing through waters that don’t in themselves cleanse you, but are a sign of the fact that you have been saved through righteousness (in our case, the righteousness imputed to us by Christ).
I’m not aware of any biblical interpretation of the meaning or purpose of the time spent in the ark after the rain, but if the flood waters are a symbol of baptism, what if hanging around on the mountain top corresponds to life after baptism? We have been brought safely through the flood, but we are not yet in the glorious new life that has been promised. Our salvation is now and not yet; the danger is passed, but the destination has not yet been reached.
That was also part of the thrust of Sunday’s sermon - stay awake! The Master will return. The glories he has promised us will come to pass.
Meanwhile, be diligent about the tasks he has assigned to you up here on this mountaintop in this boatload of sheep and goats.
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