Adult Object Lesson: Transfiguration
Matthew 17:1-9 • Exodus 24:12-18
Psalm 2 • 2 Peter 1:16-21
Mountaintop Experiences for Valley-Dwellers
You know the old philosophical question: Is the glass half empty or half full? The answer determines, for some, whether you are an optimist or a pessimist.
Artists would ask: Are you looking at the positive space—the water—or negative space—the air? Artists know that both work together to create great things!
It’s with this question in mind that we are going to ponder a bowl and how it might help us think of The Transfiguration.
Use a simple kitchen bowl. Nothing fancy. A glass half-filled with water will also be a useful prop. You might fill the glass from the baptismal font as you start your lesson.
Today’s lectionary lessons refer to and compare the Bible’s great mountaintop experiences.
In the Old Testament, Moses climbs Mount Sinai to spend 40 days and nights closer to God. In the New Testament, Jesus goes on a little hike with a few select disciples. For all they know they are just taking another stroll with Jesus. If he stops to pray, it will be nothing new. They are accustomed to His ways and are totally comfortable using Jesus’ prayer time to nod off, just as they will do in Gethsemane. Praying is something Jesus tends to do alone.
Both mountaintop experiences are beyond memorable. They are highlights of our collective relationship with God—foundational stories of our faith.
As you talk about mountaintop experiences display your bowl upside down. It will be like a little mountain. With the bowl inverted, talk about the two biblical mountaintop experiences. Explain that they are like the bowl turned upside down—out of the ordinary—not the usual way we view a bowl.
Mountaintop experiences are exhilarating. Having reached the top, we feel a personal sense of accomplishment. We feel closer to God. With the world laid at our feet, we may even feel a little more like God.
Allow your learners to think about their own mountaintop experiences. When you’ve talked about the amazing events that occur on mountaintops, slide your fingers down the side of the bowl (mountain) to remind them that both Moses and the disciples came down from the mountain. And so must we.
Do we leave God behind? Does God remain in the clouds, waiting for us to return? Now turn the bowl around. The bowl becomes a valley. Valleys in the Bible are a symbol of the depths of despair.
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil. For thou art with me.”
God is with us on the mountaintop in spectacular glory. But he is also with us in the valleys—the everyday trials and troubles of life—our personal and collective depths of despair.
At this point you might want to pour the water from that half-filled glass into the bowl. Water seeks the valleys. Our baptismal waters, like the River Jordan, flow through the valleys of our life.
We need occasional mountaintop experiences to catch the view, to help our spirits soar. But most of us spend more time in the valleys. God is with us there, too.
Is the glass half full or half empty? Is your bowl a mountain or a valley? Regardless, God is with us.
With that thought we end the season of Epiphany and begin our journey into the valley we call Lent.
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