Although it is some years ago, I clearly remember the first morning at work after a long service leave journey which took our family half way around Australia. We had drunk in the sights, sounds and culture of remote places. But that first morning – the children at school, my wife at work – saw me staring alone into the suffocating box which was my office (still bigger than the caravan!) and my mind immediately returned to far flung places where we had felt so alive, so free, so in touch with who we are, and with God. “What am I doing here?” echoed in my head.
A similar experience - less intense - greets me after all holidays, which represent special moments with loved ones; exotic encounters with the variety of culture and life which is human experience; and breathtaking nature. And then there is work. Routine. Pressure. Schedules. Deadlines. The journey from the mountaintop holiday back into the valley of work responsibilities can be jolting.
In the days following the resurrection, Jesus’ disciples must have felt a deep sense of invigoration, excitement and wonder. Having encountered the resurrected Jesus, the lid had been blown off key preconceptions, every meeting charged with energy and a thirst to explore those mysteries. They could sit forever with him, marvelling at the wonder of Jesus being alive, and the thoughts of what resurrection meant for their approach to life. The following weeks were a continuing adventure, listening to Jesus’ teaching with a focus they had never known. But these moments eventually gave way to a time when he was no longer with them and a new question… what next? It was time to open the office door and encounter the responsibilities of the ordinary day. To leave the mountain-top and re-enter everyday reality.
Many of the parables and stories of Jesus’ life are grounded in ordinary experiences: the drawing of water to slake a thirst brought a deep encounter with a Samaritan woman; a boy’s lunch (loaves and fishes) immortalised in its unexpected abundance; a camel and a needle, a sower about his task - ordinary moments in life pregnant with imagery of God’s kingdom. Returning from the mountaintop was not to leave God behind, but to encounter him in a new way, in the ordinary
Holiday experiences are never truly left behind – they help shape our perspective and re-evaluate daily routines. We return to familiar places as new people, eyes opened afresh to distinguish the important from the petty. Daily routines and pressures of domestic and working life shouldn’t extinguish the mountaintop experience, for the hope of resurrection is alive here too.
May 1, 2011
NB: this reflection was published in the Sunday Age on May 1, 2011
Rev Gary Heard is pastor of The Eighth Day, a Baptist Community in West Melbourne.