Thursday, March 31, 2011

Go Light Your World

There is a great little quip that I found over at Lindy Black’s “Sermon Fodder” that I thought I would start with this week…. It has been suggested that the origins of denominations occurred when the healed blind men met each other. At first they were all excited about the miracle of sight that Jesus had given them, but as they talked about how Jesus had healed them, they began to discover some significant differences. For some, the healing came with simply a touch from Jesus (Mt 9:29; 20:34). Another proudly boasted that he had enough faith so that Jesus didn't have to touch him to perform the miracle (Mk 10:52). Another meekly exclaimed that Jesus not only touched him twice, but also "spit on his eyes" in order for him to see clearly (Mk 8:23). The final one really felt embarrassed to admit that even though a touch wasn't part of his healing, Jesus' "spit" wasn't enough. Jesus had mixed his saliva with dirt and put the mud on his eyes and then told him to go and wash in some pool of water (John 9:6-7). Since each one thought his healing was normal and better than the others, they divided into spittites and non-spittites; muddites and non-muddites; little muddies, some muddies and lot muddies, touchites and non-touchites. Denominationalism was born.

But then it occurred to me that maybe we might be missing the point; that we might be failing to see what we are supposed to see and not just what we want to see. Confused? Please allow me to explain. The sacraments are the ways in which we become aware of the presence of the Almighty in the midst of us. We see and know God presence chiefly in the celebration of Eucharist and Baptism. We recount the saving acts of God in human history and we recall what God is doing among us so that we can celebrate not only what we have had in the past but also what we have in the present and the hope we have for the future. The healing of a man who has been blind from the moment of birth, while maybe not directly known as a sacrament, is at least sacramental. That is to say, it should make us keenly aware of the presence of God among us and that we should be able not only to see God but also to acknowledge and give thanks for the divine presence that surrounds us.

What makes you aware of the presence of the Almighty? Is it a glorious sunset? A problem that seemed insurmountable is suddenly overcome? Watching the face of a sleeping child? It is both significant and crucial to know that Jesus saw the man – really saw him. Jesus saw him and like a bright light turn on in a darkened room he came to this man and gave him light and new life. Instantly the formerly blind man and all the people around him saw this great and wonderful thing. And then they had to do one of the most human things – they questioned why it happened and how exactly this incredible thing came to be. Over and over the man told his story: the one the call Jesus came and made mud and put it on my eyes and then sent me to wash at Siloam. Now I see you!

Take the time to stop and really see where the kingdom might be breaking through and work to help the Light shine brightly so that others might see Jesus and through Jesus see the way home too. Go light your candle, take it to the darkness and reach out your hand for someone else to take it. The Church is not call to husband a small bonfire that only a few can get around. The Church is called to carry torches to reach out to those who are helpless needy and worn. And in the process we might discover some light for ourselves too. So let us do so in Jesus name. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Unlikely Messengers

The woman coming to the well of Jacob outside the town of Sychar was an unlikely messenger. But we do need to be aware of the highly imaginative and unwarranted descriptions in the past of this woman which may distort or warp our understanding of what took place at that well. It is easy to brighten her nails with colour (red being the most likely candidate), darken and thicken her mascara, deepen the blush on her checks, plunge her neckline and shorten her hemline. To be sure, Jesus knows she has been married five times and now "has" a man who is not her husband, but what are the particulars? Deaths? Divorces? Legal tangles? Or is it promiscuity? What if she had buried five husbands? What if she had been thrown out of her houses by successive men and completely disowned? We do not know. All we know for certain is that Jesus, as is his custom in John, reveals special knowledge of the individuals he encounters and alerts them that in meeting him they may encounter the transcendent. Jesus does not urge the woman to repent or change her behavior. He simply reveals that he really knows her and her life and then makes her aware of whom he really is and the kind of life he offers. Nothing more but then there is nothing less here either.

Jesus starts by striking up a conversation with the woman (John 4:5-42). A male Jew speaks to a Samaritan, and not just a Samaritan but an unescorted Samaritan woman. Such a person was a total mortal enemy of any God fearing, Jewish man of that day. Added to this, were disagreements about where to worship so that one could worship properly: some wanted to worship on one hill in Samaria while others insisted that it had to be on another the hill in Jerusalem. If the walls are to come down there has to be some ground on which a conversation is to happen. What is more common to people of every language, race and nation than necessity of water?

Jesus then offers her a drink of living water. Strange to us perhaps but the conversation moved from the physical need to have water to the need to have the Spirit to live and to worship God. The woman wanted this water, this drink that Jesus spoke of but did not fully understand the implications of drinking in the Spirit. She was not resistant to it the way that Nicodemus had been.  Like any human being she wanted to pursue the physical because that what change her life. She would not have to do everything the hard way anymore. All of us can relate to that, we want the physical things that the world has to offer; we want what we perceive to be good and helpful precisely because we see it, we know it and it is familiar and reachable. But Jesus is offering more than indoor plumbing so that the woman can hide away from people and from God.

The water was changed into wine at the wedding in Cana. Now water becomes living water for a person who is in need of freedom and life. She is not asked to repent of her past or even her present. According to John, she starts to change because she discovers that she is known by God and that God is watching and interested in her and her life. This woman’s life changes not because of demands made from a pulpit or an altar for some form of human piety or perfection though both Jesus and the woman acknowledge that the state of her life needs to change.   This woman’s life begins to change because she is allowed to discover the joy of the presence of Christ in her life and allows her to begin to see Christ in her community (Remember the baptismal covenant? Seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbour as yourself?). This is why she goes to the very people she has been avoiding, and who for the most part have been avoiding her, and says to them, “Come and see the man who told me everything I have ever done!” Even if they weren’t look specifically for Jesus at that moment there must have been something in the invitation that drew these people out of the town and to that well to see this man. She draws them into the presence of Jesus and then learns who he is for themselves. She was the most unlikely of messengers.

But where does all of this leave the rest of us? With the apostles of course! Some of them are now apparently upset that the townsfolk might have been tending to Jesus’ need and robbed them of the opportunity to do what they perceive is theirs and theirs alone to do. Jesus clearly points out to them that they need to be aware of what is going on around them spiritually; to see that they are going to reap harvests where they have not worked for it. We as a Church can choose to focus on what we are doing or not doing internally and allow that to be our focus or we can look up. In essence they’re going to draw in all the people who have been waiting for the moment that they to discover that Gods knows them and is amongst them and their communities. They are going to be the ones to establish the new community and to rebuild the relationships that have been long since served between God and people… all they need do is open their eyes and be ready.  

The goal of this Church outside of worship is to live the fourfold action of planting, watering, praying and reaping – to be the Good News of God in the world – just as we celebrate the fourfold action in our worship of taking, offering, breaking and giving through Eucharist. We too, in our time and in spite of all our weakness, shortcomings and foibles, are called to be unlikely messengers of God’s good news. We are called to live out our liturgies beyond the walls of our church building; to draw others into the presence and liturgy of God.  Let us live that good news out loud this week. 

Monday, March 21, 2011

Ways to Maintain A Healthy Level Of Insanity!!

 Thanks again to the folks at Rumours; I thought that since we are part of the way through Lent, that we might need a laugh or two. Here are some ways with which you could help to keep an appropriate level of insanity in your life: 

* At Lunch Time, Sit In Your Parked Car With Sunglasses on and point a Hair Dryer At Passing Cars. See If They Slow Down
* Page Yourself Over The Intercom. Don't Disguise Your Voice.
* Put Your Garbage Can On Your Desk And Label It "In."
* Put Decaf In The Coffee Maker For three Weeks. Once Everyone has Gotten Over Their Caffeine 
Addictions, Switch to Espresso.
* In The Memo Field Of All Your Checks, Write "For Smuggling Diamonds"
* Finish All Your sentences with "In Accordance With The Prophecy."
* As Often As Possible, Skip Rather Than Walk.
* Order a Diet Water whenever you go out to eat. Look serious.
* Specify That Your Drive-through Order Is "To Go."
* Sing Along At The Opera.
* Go To A Poetry Recital And Ask Why The Poems Don't Rhyme?
* Put Mosquito Netting Around Your Work Area And Play tropical Sounds All Day.
* When The Money Comes Out The ATM, Scream "I Won! I Won!"
* When Leaving The Zoo, Start Running Towards The Parking lot, Yelling "Run For Your Lives, They're Loose!!"
* Tell Your Children Over Dinner. "Due To The Economy, We Are Going To Have To Let One Of You Go."
* Capitalize Almost All of Your Words Whenever You Write Something. If Someone asks Why, Tell Them It’s In The Bible. Leviticus 1:5.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Living out loud in the small moments

Controversy. We seem to feed on it in North American society. And it seems to have become increasingly worse in our current life with 24 hour news channels, charging into places and staying in places to give the latest pictures and updates for public consumption. Such coverage also brings almost relentless vilification of the authorities involved when fresh information is not forth coming on an hourly clockwork basis.  For example, there is a major disaster in one part of the world. An earthquake moves an island eight feet. A tsunami is created that wipes out villages, businesses, human lives while the media is critical of the electricity company because they are more focused on doing their jobs and thus helping people than they are about their media relations at the moment. Imagine that.

And we don’t have to go somewhere else in the world to find controversy. Here at home there is much discussion and reaction to the hit that Zdeno Chara laid on Max Pacioretty. Pundits criticize it, many bemoan it as just another bad moment in violent sport and the league doesn’t seemingly care about how it looks so sponsors threaten the owners’ bottom line if they don’t “get it together”. Or there is always the political life of this country and the antics of those who are to lead our civil governments playing she said, he said.

So it is no wonder that Nicodemus might be a little confused when he pays Jesus a compliment for all the signs and wonders he has done and the ways in which he has helped people. Jesus answers back with, “I tell you the truth: you must be born from on high if you are going to see the kingdom of heaven.”    Nicodemus is confused by such a response, asks a question, “Do I have to do it all over again? Is that what you expect?” Jesus expands on this notion and says to Nicodemus, no you must be born of water (baptism and repentance) and of the Spirit to see the kingdom. You need to be born from the Spirit, from on high.
It is not what we are commonly taught in the Anglican Church today. And I am not sure that I was taught it Sunday School of yesteryear either. It took a spirit-filled person being put (by God) in my path to get me to ask some of the questions that were fuelled by a natural curiosity and thirst for knowledge that in turn caused me to start living the life from above.

There was an evangelistic mission in the parish where we were living a few weeks before my Nicodemus moment. I remember the day I started living my faith well. It was December 9th 1982. We were living in a Northern BC town called Houston. I was active at the small, quaint little Anglican Church as a server. This particular morning I was at the Church for the 8am service at which there were only three people: the parish priest, a woman I did not know who sat at the back and myself. After the Eucharist, I was setting up the altar for the next service when I heard the parish priest say to the lady at the back of the church, remember, God so loves you that he gave his only Son, so that you might not perish but have eternal life… After the lady left, the priest and I walked across the street to a local restaurant to have a slice of toast and tea. Pensively chomping on a slice of toast, I ask the priest, “What do you mean when you say God loves me?” David explained that God loved us so very much that he had to be with us and to bring us home. He loves you too much to leave you out in the cold and alone. He sent Jesus to bring you home. At that moment, something clicked. And I began to put it all together for the first time.

Like Nicodemus, I had been a good Anglican. I had been baptized and gone to Sunday School and to Church. I was active in my congregation but it wasn’t until, sitting in that place, that it struck me that what God did through Jesus; it was done was for me. And I have spent every waking moment of everyday since that moment discovering and rediscovering just how much God really does love me and what he can enable me to do for him. And like so many other moments that have happened since then, I am discovering that what really counts is how we live out the little moments that follow the big moments when God is revealed to us in some great and awesome way. It is not about how well you debate an issue or how passionate you are about a cause. Nicodemus is proof of that. He took time to come out from the shadows into the light, but he was there when he was needed most and realized what Jesus had done for him. Let's allow the thought of how Jesus has lived and died for us empower our observation of Lent and let’s live our lent out loud for him.      

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Why life is the way it is

Thanks to the Folks at "Rumours" - I thought this was worth posting here:

On the first day, God created the dog and said: “Sit all day by the door of your house and bark at anyone who comes in or walks past. For this, I will give you a life span of twenty years.”

“That's a long time to be barking. How about only ten years and I'll give you back the other ten?”

So God agreed.

On the second day, God created the monkey and said: “Entertain people, do tricks, and make them laugh. For this, I'll give you a twenty-year life span.”

“Monkey tricks for twenty years?” asked the chimp. “That's a pretty long time to perform. How about I give you back ten like the Dog did?”

And God agreed.

On the third day, God created the cow and said: “You must go into the field with the farmer all day long and suffer under the sun, have calves and give milk to support the farmer's family. For this, I will give you a life span of sixty years.”

“Whoa!” said the cow. “That's kind of a tough life you want me to live for sixty years. How about twenty and I'll give back the other forty?”

And God agreed again.

On the fourth day, God created the human and said: “'Eat, sleep, play, marry and enjoy your life. For this, I'll give you twenty years.”

“Only twenty years?” wailed the human. “Could you possibly give me my twenty, the forty the cow gave back, the ten the monkey gave back, and the ten the dog gave back; that makes eighty, okay?”

'Okay,' said God, 'You asked for it.'

So that is why for our first twenty years we eat, sleep, play and enjoy ourselves. For the next forty years we slave in the sun to support our family. For the next ten years we do monkey tricks to entertain the grandchildren. And for the last ten years we sit on the front porch and bark at everyone.

Friday, March 11, 2011

In thinking of the people of Japan...

I thought that I would repost this blog. I wrote in the aftermath of the tragic earthquake in Haiti - and I think of home too which has been on alert since this has happened, waiting for word of whether the tsunami hits home or not. 

In the cold light of last night’s disaster and the loss of our fire department and in the wake of the Haiti earthquake and what we have been striving to do in the face of human suffering near and far, I thought that it might be good to respond to some questions that have been brought to me around the question of where is God in the middle of disaster? Where is God when we are hurting and suffering?  I want to acknowledge that I have been reading a fair bit of Bishop NT Wright’s work lately and so I thank him for his thoughts as I try to work through what I am hearing in making some sort of response.

First of all, we like to think that we live in an inherently good world. In fact there may be some who will point out that God call creation not only good but very good when he was finished. What we fail to recognize often is that this creation not only humanity but all of creation has been affected by the fall and the entrance of sin into creation. It is no small matter that the Saviour needs to enter into our humanity and work redemption through the frailty of human flesh so that God can freely offer salvation to anyone who wishes it. The restoration of righteousness (of the relationship between God and humanity) comes with a price. There was a need to deal with the falling short on the part of humanity because we chose to depend on ourselves rather than to trust God to provide. We chose ourselves over having a relationship with God. In the process, the good that was in humanity and that of the rest of creation was marred. The image was still present but spoiled. And so in order to restore that image and that relationship, grace had to be given, mercy had to be shown and salvation has to be offered.

A word does need to be said about how we fell and the role of evil in that fall. Evil’s greatest strength is not in the manufacturing of evil, but in the subversion of what is best. What this means is that evil can do evil but it is more likely that evil would rather tempt humanity so that they choose good over the best. The serpent’s conversation with the woman shows us that we might have already been leaning towards wondering what it might be like to be more like God, wanting to be on our own. Evil showed us that this is possible that we could achieve things on our own and that we could in some manner be self sufficing. In doing so we have put ourselves and our own wills ahead of what God desires for us. And at the same time we have lost many of the qualities within the sustaining relationship with God that we so desire – health, long life blessings. Through Christ, God has made the way back to him possible. It should also be said that evil is not the opposite of God – God is above both good and evil. There is nothing equal to or with God. Not evil and not the devil.      

Second of all we like to think the world is getting better and better. This is a recent idea called “process theology”. We seem to believe that evils are solvable like an equation or some kind of scientific experiment and therefore can be handled by technology, education and the development of the rest of the world into the westernized ideal of democracy and capitalism. Everyone else has to be like us and that way everyone will be better off. We continue to ignore evil until it smacks us in the face and then we are surprised by its appearance. The reality is that we don’t know how to deal with the presence of evil in our communities or in our own personal lives. We thought it had been taken care of. So  when disaster strikes, like the earthquake in Haiti, genocide in Yugoslavia or Germany, a tidal wave in South East Asia, a teenage girl is murdered by a peer or a community loses its fire station to a fire we struggle with how to react.  North American society has been rocked in the last 10 years by so many things that reminds of how life is outside of our comfy, insulated cocoon.  

Third of all, spiritually the war is won, but life beyond the cross is a “mop up” operation. Bishop Wright would point out that we in those moments tend to react and lash out because we are hurt. We hit back without considering what the consequences would be and we move to fight wars without considering whether they are just, accuse people of selling themselves to the devil without being prepared to wage spiritual warfare on their behalf. Jesus offered himself on the cross as an offering for sin, “once offered, a full, perfect and sufficient sacrifice, oblation and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world.” Evil has been totally defeated. But like in any conflict there is “mop up” to be done. Evil still has the ability to tempt and to thwart as it always has, but it can no longer win. Evil can still hurt and destroy but it cannot overcome love nor corrupt the truth. People ask where is God in the midst of all this? God is here with us. He is with the parent who sits in the dust of what is left of a shanty home and cries over the loss of children. God is with the solider in the fields of Southern Afghanistan who lies broken and dying after being attacked with an IED. God is with the firefighter who can only stand back and watch as the station house he has spent so much time in, working to build up, as it goes up in flames and smoke. God is with those who recall a young life that was too shortly lived.

We are promised that someday heaven and earth will be brought together and the sea between them will be no more. There will be nothing of the former life and that every tear will be wiped away. We will come to that which we are promised in God, someday. In the meantime, let us make sure that we concentrate on God and on announcing that Jesus is Lord to this world that needs a Saviour so much and live as the message of hope that this world is so desperate to hear.     

Dealing with temptation

The intrepid salesman had finally got his chance to make the really big sale… the kind that makes careers and “legendary” reputations.   As he was ushered into the office of the executive buyer, an assistant brought in a can of soft drink, placed it on the desk, and left again. The atmosphere was cordial, and he knew he was giving his best presentation ever. Then the assistant tapped on the door, re-entered the office and spoke briefly with the executive.  She stood and said, "I apologize, but I have to tend to a matter.  I'll just be a minute or two." And she followed her assistant out of the room.

The sales representative saw her family pictures on her desk.  Then he noticed a contract on her desk.  She had evidently been studying a bid from a competitor.  Leaning forward, he could see the column of figures, but it was obscured by the diet soda can. He was tempted to move the can and see the bottom line of his competitor's bid.   After wrestling with himself a while, he finally decided to take a peek. As he lifted the soda can, he discovered that the can wasn't filled with soda at all.  Instead, the bottom of the can was not attached to the top and the can filled with thousands of little pellets that gushed out, and ran all over the desk cascading down onto the carpet.  His attempt to short cut the competition was exposed.  

We all face temptations every day. And perhaps from time to time we encounter a temptation that is very great and hard to pass up that we then find is very costly to us in some and often many ways. In those moments after we have been found out, we so desire to have a second chance, a “do over” because we know what to do the next time. Perhaps the sad thing is we have not yet done it. And that is where Jesus comes in. Jesus is portrayed as the second chance – the second Adam. It is the ultimate in the “do over” department. Jesus follows the leading of the Spirit and goes out into the wilderness where the nation was in times past to deal with their mistrust, their failings, to discover who God is and thus who they were because of whose they were.

This important because we need to recognize that Jesus has just had his identity confirmed in his baptism by the Father. He has been told who he is. Now he has to live it. Matthew’s Gospel portrays Jesus as the devout and pious person who goes out into the wilderness to, in a sense, confront his demons. The tempter does come with a series of tests which will push Jesus to assert his true identity or accept the identity the world wants to give him. When taken as a whole, the temptations assert Jesus’ true identity because the tempter repeatedly says to Jesus, “If you are the Son of God…” Secure in the knowledge that he knows not only whose he is, but even more from the knowledge that he is loved by his Father, Jesus responds with Scripture and with the lessons that the nation of Israel was taught in that wilderness. Israel remained in the wilderness for forty years learning these lessons and as a punishment for their mistrust of God in spite of the ways in which he had broken the power of the Pharaoh and brought the Israelites out of Egypt and through the Red Sea. Both the Israelites and Jesus emerged from that experience to accept the role and the mission that God would have them fulfill, having strengthen and purified their relationships.

Taken separately, the temptations are tests to see whether Jesus might put his trust somewhere else – that was the failure of the first Adam. The serpent calls into question God’s trustworthiness and apparent unwillingness to be more forthcoming about revealing the master plan but he does not lie to Adam and Eve. The fist Adam seems to believe that there was more to life than God was telling and realized that it was possible to know more and so ate from the forbidden tree. Adam was tempted and chose to give in and to try and make a go of things himself instead of trusting God to be faithful and to provide. Adam through the eating of the forbidden fruit did become more like God knowing good and evil. And then humanity had to take the consequences of the mistrust allowed to grow in human hearts. Jesus is tested as to whether he will allow mistrust to grow within him. Will he make a display of his power? Will he put God to the test by endangering himself before his appointed time? Who will Jesus worship?   The tempter appeals to Jesus’ strengths not to his weaknesses to try and get him to mistrust God and to go it alone and do it himself.  

So where does this leave us? We too need to learn the lessons of the wilderness. We too need to learn the discipline of the wilderness so that we move to purify our relationships with God; that we might be stronger and bolder as witnesses to Jesus’ life death and resurrection. We are tempted to give in and to just be ourselves rather than the holy people God desires to make us. And like Jesus we can learn the lessons of the wilderness to remind each other of the necessity of placing our trust in God because we know whose we are and that we too are loved by God. And lets remind each other that we’re on the way back to that Garden where we will wait and watch as Jesus faces the temptation again only to hear the answer, “Not my will but yours be done”. 

Friday, March 4, 2011

Living Lent out loud!

Perhaps you remember the movie “Chocolat”? It is about a woman who blows into a French village to open up a chocolate and candy store. The village into which the woman enters is a much stayed, totally religious, and above all very traditional community. Everyone knows what is expected of them and no one challenges things or steps out of line. In some sense it might be considered by the religious as a bit of a utopia. But as the movie I think reminds us, being alive and being alive to God can be a bit of a messy business!

Perhaps that is why I have been feeling of late that this upcoming Lenten season needs to be different in some ways from at least some of the other Lents we have been through. I have yet to hear of any talk about what people are giving up (or taking on for that matter) for Lent. It is an old and worthwhile discipline. Perhaps you might have noticed that the people who are really living are dressed in brightly coloured clothes while a good many in the village remain in the grey and drab. It helps us to see who is living and who is seeking and who needs to. Now it is not always that easy so we need to stop, to look, to ask and to listen before we can move forward. We need to see things the way that other people see things. It is what we should both as individuals and as a community be doing so that there is fuel for prayer. The colours and the chocolate are used to help us see what passion is all about and who we might use it in our relationships around us: with our spouses, with our children, with our friends and neighbours, with those in authority around us. But how does this help us live out loud in this Lent?

First, we need to remind ourselves that like the growing light of the day, the kingdom of heaven is also grow in power and influence in the world. The kingdom grows because the Word of God is living and active in the world, some time quiet and almost imperceptible and at other times bold and brashly striding forward, knocking, seeking and finding.

Second, we need to be more aware of how we are living out our lives and the impact that we are having (or not having as the case may be) on the people around us. We need to recognize that not all the world is a stage. There are moments when we need to draw aside and pray quietly in our rooms. There are moments when we need to deny ourselves certain things to be good stewards and to creation new passions as well as demonstrating some self control. Have you ever asked yourself why you take up again a thing you stopped and did without during Lent. Shouldn’t this season be about letting things go and about taking new and good things up for good and for ever?

Lastly, shouldn’t we work at making sure that we pray with simplicity, live like life is worship denying ourselves taking up our crosses and recognize that everything that we do is an act of worship where God is concerned? These are some of the things I want you to come and explore with me in this Lenten season. Come and let us live out loud for Christ and his kingdom!       

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Rise up, go preach - life is back down the mountain!

We end the season of Epiphany as we began: with considering who Jesus is and is for us in the light of God’s revelation of himself. We could marvel at the wondrous things the shepherds and the Magi said and did; coming from far and near to see this thing that had happened and to witness to God’s active presence in this world. Perhaps now we need to pay attention to how Matthew’s Gospel sets up this particular mountainside encounter.  The Gospel writer notes that six days after the pivotal events in and around Caesarea Philippi when Peter had made his great confession of Jesus as the Christ, (Mt. 16.16) Peter along with James and John accompany Jesus on a side trip up a “high mountain”. The disciples knew that something was up because they knew through Scripture that important people in the faith met God on mountains – their curiosity and excitement was palpable as they quietly trudged along.

As they hiked up the trail of this mountain, they noticed that Jesus began to changed, not all at once mind you but discernibly nonetheless. His face was glowing brighter and brighter as they moved along. Jesus’ clothes became so white that the garments gleamed like a lightning strike. High up the mountain, the quartet came to a small flat place where they found Moses and Elijah waiting for them. The appearances of these other men was similar to Jesus own appearance. The three sojourners looked at one another in fear and wonder but whispered nothing. Luke’s Gospel tells au about the discussion between these men: that they were considering the choices Jesus has made and about the coming departure, which included Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension (Lk. 9.31).

Then we have what I like to think of as a classic “Peter” moment when peter decides to act and opens his mouth, interrupting the discussion, “ Lord is it good for us to be here. If you wish I can do something useful like building tents…” And as Peter is speaking they’re all suddenly aware of the cloud that has enveloped them and there is a booming voice that shakes the mountainside, “This is my Son, whom I love; with whom I am well pleased. Listen to him.” In one fell swoop the Father has silenced Peter and the disciples fall to the ground now in abject fear and trembling. And as fast as it had all happened, the cloud, the voice and the holy men were gone and the disciples were there alone with Jesus with his appearance returned to normal.

We should also notice some remarkable things are noted at the end of lesson.  First Jesus went over and touched these three mice, saying to them, “rise up, don’t be afraid.” In Matthew, the touch of Jesus is for healing and restoration. The path has been made clear and the argument about what is going to happen is over – even if the disciples aren’t clear as to why just yet. Second, The frightened men looked and realized that the moment was over and they were being called to live again, having been raised up by the Master. The way in which the Gospel writer puts it, these three have been raised from death and have been forever changed by this encounter. They will not see things the ways in which they used to see them or Jesus because of this mountain top moment.  
So what might this have to do with us? We too need too need to be raised up. We too need to stop being afraid because we have been in the presence of the Almighty. We too need to pick ourselves up and move back down the mountain with Jesus. Life goes on back down the mountain. People need to hear that God is amongst us, that God is reaching out to touch us. People need to know that we have not been abandoned and that God’s plan and grace are at work in us. And if we need any affirmation of just that from the world around us, consider the Monty Python video I include with this week’s blog.

Pax Dominum! Rise up and don’t be afraid! Rise up and go preach the message!