Central Presbyterian Church

Massillon, Ohio

"Game Changer"

Mark 9: 1-8

Luke 22: 14-20

      Have you ever had a mountaintop experience?  By mountaintop experience, I mean an intensely

personal experience or life event which, on some level, was profoundly life-changing; transformative. 

Oftentimes, such mountaintop experiences separate all which came before from all which comes after. 

I guess a good way to understand a mountaintop experience is as a game changer.  So let me reframe

my question.  Have you had a game changer in your life?

      Mine was on January 20, 1988.  As I’ve told the story a hundred times, I was in my study doing

some reports for work.  For a few years prior to that, I had been struggling with what I recognize in

hindsight as my call to vocational ministry.  In a manner of speaking, I had been in a wrestling

match with the Lord, resisting that call, and essentially asking the Lord to leave me alone. 

      Vale was on the evening shift at the Coraopolis Cash Market, a local grocery store.  Liz, who was

almost five, was in the living room watching TV.  Our one year-old Vicki was asleep in her crib.  Life

was good.  My career was good.  My marriage was good.  My health was good.  Why I suddenly felt

compelled to leave my study and go into my darkened bedroom; there was no good explanation. 

But when I got there, I dropped to my knees at my bedside, and I began to weep.  At the time, I

didn’t know what was happening to me.  Again in hindsight, I’ve come to see it as a convulsion of

spirit.  I cried out to the Lord from the depths – confessing my sin; admitting my unworthiness; beg-

ging for forgiveness; finally giving in to that call I had been fighting tooth and nail.  There were no

flashing lights; no voices; no angels; just me and the Almighty working things out. 

      While the whole experience was surreal, and much of the details of it hard to sort out, the epitome of the

experience was feeling the touch of Liz’s hand on my shoulder, and hearing her sweet voice ask, “Why are you crying Daddy?” 

What I do remember clearly was my answer:  “Jesus is coming into me.”   With that, I gave her a big hug,

stood up and dried my eyes, and long story short, my life has never been the same since. And for the

remainder of my life, I will point to that January evening as my defining moment; my mountaintop experience; my game changer

      I suppose a lot of vocational decisions come from mountaintop experiences.  Things come to

light, and it becomes clear who and what we are called to be and to do.  When I was serving the

church in Carrollton, one of my parishioners who was a retired obstetrician shared with me his

game changer.  He was doing his first rotation in the Obstetrics Unit at Akron City Hospital.  He had

been wrestling for months with what specialty he would be best suited for.  A mother in the unit

was ready to deliver but the attending physician had not yet arrived, so he was suddenly called to

service.  He relayed that when he caught that baby in his shaking hands, and experienced firsthand

the wonder and beauty of new birth, he knew at once what specialty would become his.  “After

that moment, I never looked back,” he told me.  That was the first of thousands of children he’d

delivered over the course of his career.       

      When we speak of mountaintop experiences, we speak in terms of transformation; life altering;

game-changing.  I think we can add to that, eye-opening.  This dimension of a mountaintop experience

we might call “vision.”  During and following the game changer, we see things differently.  We perceive the world,

others, ourselves, and oftentimes, such as in my experience, God, in a new, and enlightened, and enriched way.

      When Jesus took Peter, James and John – His three closest BFF’s – up on the mountain that day,

it was a game changer for all four of them.  For the three disciples, they were given a vision of

God’s glory in the person of Jesus of Nazareth.  They were also able to see Jesus talking with long-

departed Moses and Elijah, representing Law and prophecy; their eyes opened to recognize two


men they had, of course, never seen.  This mountaintop experience was nothing less than surreal;

the details of the experience hard to sort out.  Peter was so overcome that he suggested they set

up camp, perhaps not wanting this life-altering episode to come to an end. 

     For Jesus’ part, this experience was surely as powerfully transformative and game changing as

His baptism by John at the Jordan River, when Jesus heard those words declared from the heavens:

“You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”  This was an affirmation of God’s blessing upon

the work He was about to undertake.  Now, well into that work, it is again declared from the heavens –

not for Jesus alone, but for all to hear --  “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to

him!”  At that very moment, God was affirming that all Law and all prophecy would rest upon,

respond to, and indeed be fulfilled by, this Jesus of Nazareth.

      Talk about a massive game changer!  The disciples had walked and talked, listened to and traveled with Jesus

through the Palestinian countryside.  After this so-called transfiguration, never

again would they see Jesus as they had seen him before.  Never again would they see the world

they were called to serve in the same way.  Never again would they see themselves as disciples of

Christ in the same way.  Now they knew the very glory of God rested on this One they followed. 

      As present-day followers of Christ, we are in a sense invited to the mountaintop this morning;

to remember and relive an episode in the life of Jesus and His disciples which was in itself a game

changer.  On that last evening of Jesus’ earthly life, He took the common elements of the Jewish

Passover – the bread and the cup – and gave them new meaning.  The old had gone.  The new had

come.  Things would never be the same again as Jesus declared:  “This is my body which is given

for you…. This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”  So let us together

climb the mountain while coming to table.  May our eyes be opened to see Jesus, the beloved Son of God; the

One to whom we listen.  May our eyes be opened to Jesus talking with Moses and Elijah; perceiving Jesus as the

very embodiment and fulfillment of all Law and all prophecy.  May our eyes be opened to recognize our own callings as

disciples of Christ; as witnesses to His very glory; as those called to serve a broken world in Jesus’ name.  Every time we

break this bread, and drink this cup, may we remember it as THE game changer.