So, the young lady had what she thought was a mountain-top experience in Malaysia, but it all went sour in the end.
I often think of the mountain-top experience in Mark’s gospel. We’re told that Jesus took his inner circle –Peter, James and John –to a mountain with him and they experienced something unlike anything they had ever seen.
Most of us have what we might call a mountain-top experience in our lives, but they’re unlikely to resemble either that felt by Jesus’ inner circle, or the young lady in Malaysia.
I can tell of such times in my life, usually deep in the Mournes, alone, or in a theatre with my wife or at a praise service when it seemed that we stood at the very door of heaven itself.
But what do you do when such an unforgettable thing happens to you?
The most common mistake, certainly one that I have made, is to try to recreate it, to relive the experience, but you could end up spending the rest of your life searching for an experience rather than simply enjoying the company of spouse, friends or our Father.
On the mountain top Peter tried to do exactly that, he wanted to make a memorial to what happened on the mountain so they could return to it and relive the moment when the going got rough.
But Jesus brought them back down to earth, literally, even to the extent that he forbade them to even mention it until after his death.
What he was concerned about was that they would create an idol of sorts out of the experience.
He was trying to teach them that it’s OK to cherish the moment, to draw strength from it, without obsessing about it.
But what about the young lady on the mountain top, the 24-year-old Briton who, with three of her friends, stripped off and posed nude atop Mount Kinabalu?
It was said that they upset the mountain gods by desecrating the sacred mountain and their insulting behaviour led to an earthquake of in nearby Borneo that killed 18 climbers.
Whether or not there is a link is not the point here. The fact is that when you are in another’s culture it is only decent that you respect their views.
What I find sad is the recurring theme that gods can be upset and vent their anger by killing people. Archaic and off-the-wall thinking? Maybe, but not that unusual. We’ve seen and heard it ad nauseum by out-of-touch Bible students who show that while they might be familiar with the Book, they know nothing of its author.
Such an example is Rev John Hagee, pastor of a ‘mega church’ in Texas. It was he who said: ‘New Orleans had a level of sin that was offensive to God, and they were recipients of the judgment of God for that.’
Wouldn’t it be great if we could put that sort of nonsense to bed by simply pointing to the scripture that these guys preach from? How about Psalm 103: 8-10: ‘The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbour his anger forever, he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.’