Matthew 17 v 1 – 9; Matthew 26 v 36 – 44
I think it was to celebrate our thirtieth wedding anniversary that Jean and I went on holiday to Austria. It was early June as our anniversary was on the twenty first of May, and we stayed in a rather nice hotel in St., Gilgan on the banks of Lake Wolfgang.
Geographically it was superb, surrounded by mountains and small villages nestled on the banks of the lake, but also in easy reach of Salzburg with its rich history and musical heritage, being the birth place of Mozart.
Some of our friends , and Bob the travel agent, advised us to take our walking boots, as the area around the lake was renowned for its outstandingly beautiful walks and scenery, so as we always take other people’s experiences as being good advice we packed our walking boots, thick socks and small back packs.
The mountains around the lake seemed to come in three sizes; the towering mini Everest size, the moderate medium range, and the small Dovedale replica size. After ruling out the mini Everest, and the Dovedale replicas, after all we were on holiday away from Derbyshire; we chose to assault the medium sized mountain to give our walking boots an airing. I think the fact that this particular mountain had a railway to take you to the top was also a deciding factor.
We booked our tickets through the hotel and when the appointed day arrived we were delighted to see sunshine and blue cloudless skies as far as the eye could see, even at breakfast it was warm enough to sit outside.
‘You ought to have your shorts on’, Jean told me over breakfast. ‘Everyone’s got their shorts on and you’re here in your trousers’.
Well known for doing as I am told, after breakfast I changed into my shorts and off we went to climb a mountain. On arrival at the small station we ascertained that we had three options; we could get the train to the top and return on the train, or we could get the train to the top and walk back down, or we could walk up to the top and walk back down and not use the train at all. We decided on option two and ride to the top and walk down, just to show willing.
There were about twenty people on the train mostly German tourists, with one family from America and a man and wife from Liverpool who were actually staying in the same hotel as Jean and me. Everyone was very quiet and there was little or no conversation and what conversation did take place was in whispers.
The train set off, rattling its way upwards along a narrow gauge track and almost immediately the vista across the lake unfolded like the pages of a glossy travel brochure, there were cameras and mobile phones clicking in every direction.
It was about twenty minutes into our forty minute journey when I noticed flecks of white in the lush green outside the carriage window and with every metre that we climbed the white began to engulf all available green until the landscape changed into an Alpine Christmas Grotto. People on the train started to put coats and scarves and even gloves, I whispered to Jean, ‘have we brought a coat?’ and she whispered back, ‘No’ and smiling gave my naked legs a gentle slap.
We disembarked from the train at the end of the track but still about a hundred meters or so from the summit, a distance I had to walk up to my knees in snow. The views were breathtakingly beautiful, (or was it the cold that took my breath away) as we viewed the panoramic display of mountains, some towering above us and some we looked down onto their summits, and everyone was still whispering as in fear that we could start an avalanche.
Suddenly I became aware that the Liverpool couple had moved over to be next to us. The wife then whispered to me, and said, ‘Are you cold?’. I didn’t bother about a whisper, I proclaimed very loudly, ‘Actually, I am absolutely freezing!’.
My loud voice in the quiet atmosphere, metaphorically speaking seemed to break the ice, and everyone started laughing, including the Germans. By the time we had walked back down the mountain, (taking the ‘easy route’) the conversations were flowing and Jean and I seemed to know the family life story of most of the group.
As I explained the couple from Liverpool were staying at the same hotel as Jean and me and they had obviously shared with the hotel management the story of me up a mountain in my shorts. At dinner that evening I was served with an extra pudding with a note that said, ‘ for the man who conquered the mountain in his shorts’. Everyone laughed, well almost everyone, but I did get an extra Apple Strudel.
We know that Jesus had ‘special’ places that he chose to visit and where he felt close to his Father God. The high mountain in Matthew 17 was almost certainly on the banks of Lake Galilee and a place where Jesus would have visited on previous occasions. It was here where the true glory of Jesus of displayed. Up to now his glory had been veiled in flesh and blood but here in this special place he was transfigured and his face and clothes became radiant like the sun.
Similarly it was usual for Jesus to walk in Gethsemane’s gardens after an evening meal. It was a place where perhaps he would meditate and talk in prayer to God the Father. It was a place where Judas knew Jesus would be at that time, a place where Judas would betray Jesus. (Matthew 26 v 36 – 44)