Sunday, March 6, 2011

Last Sunday after Epiphany/Transfiguration

Let’s go up the mountain.
Let’s go up to the place where the land meets the sky
where the earth touches the heavens,
to the place of meeting,
to the place of mists,
to the place of voices and conversations,
to the place of listening.  (
prepared by William Loader 2/2001)

Today we meet Peter at this best.  I don’t know about you, but I love Peter.  I want to be like Peter and sometimes I think I am.

See Peter rushes in with exuberance and excitement.   Shortly thereafter he usually falls on his face.

Today Peter wants to stay in the presence of Jesus, Moses, and Elijah. 

"Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah."

Peter doesn’t want to understand what is going on in this moment, but he wants to capture it, to save it for ever.  He wants to make the divine and eternal, human and present.  The disciple that figured out first that Jesus is the Son of Man now wants to keep him human rather than accept the dazzling brilliance of his divinity.

I get that.  It is easier to negotiate Jesus as my friend that I spend comfortable time with rather than Jesus as my Lord and Savior who calls me from mountain top to desert, from fear to faith, from doubt to trust, from death to life.

This disciple who recognizes Jesus as the Son of Man, watches him transfigured, will soon deny him, not once but three times.  Remember what Peter says when Jesus tells him he will?  “Oh not me, Lord.  I could never do that!”  Yet he did, didn’t he?

And I find I do that to.  It is much easier to put Jesus in a box and expect little from him, from myself.  Yet like Peter, God continues to offer us another chance as we are called from fear to trust, from doubt to faith on this mountain top today. 

Mountain top.  That is the expression we often use for the best experiences we have in the journey of faith.  On top of the mountain we too are changed, transfigured, made new.
We want to stay there and forget the coming down, the valleys, the deserts, the real world.  Mountain tops are glorious, full of life, transforming, awe inspiring, breath taking.  Like peter we want to build something tangible to respond to our mountain top experiences.  And stay there.   Forever.

Yet like Peter, James, and John we are not meant to stay on the mountain top, we are called into the rest of life.  The valley of broken dreams, the desert of unanswered prayers, the swamp of family pain, the sea of violence around us.  It is in these times and these places we must hold onto that voice that calls from the cloud, "This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased.”

That voice calls to us, we too are God’s beloved.  In those times when we cannot see, touch, or feel God, he is there.  In the midst of our doubt, he is there.  He is in the little things we overlook as we search for the big things.  He speaks to us where we are.

He is in that first daffodil poking through the ground, the smile on your child’s face, the hug of a dear friend, the unexpected telephone call that redeems your day, that little surprise you find that can only come from God responding to the prayer of your heart.

We started this season of Epiphany in the light of stars which revealed Emmanuel, God with us and now we leave this season in the light of the Transfiguration.  In this time we have been invited to come and see, to repent, to be poor in worldly things and rich in godly things, to be salt and light, to love the law in an inward and life changing way, to love our enemy, to lay down worry, and to move from fear to trust,  from doubt to faith.  This journey has not been easy for many of us, yet it has led us to this mountain top.

The mountain where we hear God say, “You are my beloved, with you I am well pleased.”  We want to say, “That cannot be for me.  I am too broken, too sinful, too whatever.”  But I tell you, you ARE God’s beloved.   Listen again…”you are my beloved with whom I am well pleased.” 

As we leave this mountain, hold on to that.  How it feels to hear those words.  The mix of fear in the pit of your gut when you think you might let God (or yourself) down, and yet at the same time the hope and the joy in them.  You ARE my beloved.

Hold onto them, because now my brothers and sisters we must leave this mountain.  Soon we will be headed to the desert with Jesus as we begin our Lenten journey to the cross, through the crucifixion, to the grave, and beyond.

We want to focus at what comes at the end of this desert season, yet if we spend this time in that place of seeming barrenness, our journey will be so much richer, deeper, and life giving.

So I commend the season to you and challenge each of you to journey with Jesus off the mountain and through the desert.  Come to services, to Shrove Tuesday as we eat too many pancakes, enjoy some laughs and entertainment, burn our palms and those things we need to let go of.  Come to soup and study as we dig in to the Gospel of John and our healing savior as he walks with us through this time.  Come on Sundays as we make that journey through this time of reflection and examination.  Begin to think about those things that need to die in your hearts and in your lives.

And remember you can see further in the desert.  It brings those things distant closer and we find fewer distractions in that place of seeming barrenness.
Let us walk with Jesus through this time of struggle and temptation, so that we too can know a time of overcoming.  Let us leave the mountain rejoicing that we will return to it again after being transformed yet again.

Let us pray,

O God,
We open our eyes and we see Jesus,
the months of ministry transfigured to a beam of light,
the light of the world,
your light.
May your light shine upon us.
We open our eyes and we see Moses and Elijah,
your word restoring us, showing us the way,
telling a story,
your story, his story, our story.
May your word speak to us.
We open our eyes and we see mist,
the cloud of your presence
which assures us of all we do not know
and that we do not need to fear that.
Teach us to trust.
We open our eyes and we see Peter’s constructions,
his best plans, our best plans,
our missing the point,
our missing the way.
Forgive our foolishness and sin
We open our eyes and we see Jesus,
not casting us off,
but leading us down, leading us out -
to ministry, to people.
Your love endures forever.
We open our ears and we hear your voice,
‘This is my beloved Son, listen to him!’
And we give you thanks. (prepared by William Loader 2/2001)

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