(Almost a Sermon)

 

(This is the sermon written for today. The sermon preached had a lot more LOVE in it, thanks to the Holy Spirit and a wonderful Saturday.)

Exodus 24:12-18 | Psalm 99 | 2 Peter 1:16-21 | Matthew 17:1-9


As guilty as I am of it, I’m still amazed of how often these days more and more people are busy looking at their phones instead of at each other or looking through their phones to take pictures to capture the moment so it can be shared broadly through the social media venues. Again, I’m guilty, too, because I benefit by seeing the experiences of others, seeing what brings you joy, knowing when you are hurting (if you post it), and generally having a sense of what is going on. Unless we bump into each other at the grocery store or call each other on the phone (yes, phones are still good for phone calls), online is the way many people connect these days.

If he’d had a phone, don’t you know that Peter already had photos taken, had tagged Jesus, James, and John and had marked the location complete with new hashtags for Moses, Elijah, and the three new booths he was going to set up when he was saying, “Jesus, this is going to be so good!”

Only, it wasn’t.

Really, how many times are you able to capture a picture of the amazing sunrise or sunset, one that gets all the shades of purple, blue, pink, and orange spread all across the horizon? How many full moons and moonlit landscapes have you photographed and felt that the lunar beauty was adequately portrayed?

Peter thought he caught was what going on and was ready to mark the place and spread the news, but it wasn’t time. He didn’t have it right just yet, but what didn’t he have? What about Jesus being transfigured into full glory before them isn’t enough to verify his status as Son of God?

Because God already spoke from above when Jesus was baptized. Peter already said Jesus is the Messiah, and Jesus shushed him then, too. Jesus has been performing works giving witness to his authority and to the glory of God. Surely this mountaintop transfiguration is just the thing to bring around all those on the fence about believing. Now we’ve even got Moses and Elijah for certain on our team. We’re ready to hit “send” on this press release now.

But in this account of the transfiguration according to Matthew, the apostles heard the voice from the cloud, repeating the baptismal approval and adding what I’m sure had to be a booming “listen to him!”, and they hit the ground. Well, it says, “they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear,” but if you’re covered in a cloud and hearing the voice of God, you’re most likely going to hit the ground because your time has come. The apostles were afraid.

In Mark’s gospel, Jesus doesn’t know what to say to their fear. In Luke, they all keep silent. Here, in Matthew, Jesus comes to them, touches them, and says, “Get up and do not be afraid.”

The apostles look around and see that the moment of transfiguration has passed, along with Moses and Elijah. It’s only Jesus with them now. As they make the trek down the mountain, Jesus orders them not to tell about what they’ve seen until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead–basically until what he’s already told them will happen has actually happened. He’s going to be captured, and he’s going to die and rise again.

Why wait? Jesus continues to perform miracles. Crowds still seek him out. He’s working as one with authority. Why wait? Because there’s more. Epiphany is a season of light, focusing on Jesus’s ministry in the world, how God manifests Light in our world through the Incarnation, but that’s not all of Jesus’ story. The Light of Christ gets overshadowed not by the cloud of God but by our brokenness, not just the nonbelievers and traitors of Jesus’ day, but by our brokenness, too. Jesus’s story continues to be our story because the gospels don’t end with the transfiguration or even the crucifixion.

Jesus’s story is our story because he goes through suffering and death yet rises again. His friends betray him, but he comes back to them, allowing them to profess their love and ascertain their faith. Jesus’s story is our story because he sent those first apostles out to make more disciples, and people’s lives have been touched by God throughout our history, giving testimony to the many ways we suffer, fail, and rise again. Jesus’s story is our story because He continues to be revealed to us, showing up as “a lamp shining in a dark place.”

And I don’t like it, but sometimes we have to wait. We have to wait on God’s time. We have to wait while we discern the next best move, and by “best move” I mean move in accord with God’s will, not mine, and most of the time that’s hard to understand or to have a concept of a bigger picture. Sometimes we wait because we’re afraid, and our first response is not one of compassion or respect, let alone love. The voice from the cloud told the apostles to listen to Jesus. Jesus tells them to “Get up and … not be afraid.”

In an interview, civil rights activist and Congressman John Lewis, reflected on his childhood and young adult life. Listening to him talk, it’s hard to believe that his man was at the front of the march on Bloody Sunday in March of 1965. This man who admitted that he probably cried too much and lamented that we don’t tell one another “I love you” enough, led a nonviolent protest straight into the mouth of hell, where it seemed if one wave of violence didn’t kill them, another one waited at the other side of the bridge.

He didn’t wake up one day and decide to protest. He grew up wanting to be a preacher. He grew up asking questions. He grew up with an unshakeable faith and  persistent love. He believed that things could be better, that we could be better people.

He and the many others who joined Dr. King studied nonviolence. They studied Gandhi’s nonviolent efforts and read Thoreau’s civil disobedience. They dramatized situations, taking turns assaulting each other with horrible insults, learning how to fall and protect the head, practicing maintaining eye contact so that they could show that their spirit was not broken. But they would not retaliate with violence. They would resist the urge to strike back and lash out, knowing that something bigger than themselves was at stake. They studied and practiced nonviolence until they were ready to go out and do when discussion, when civil discourse failed. Being ready meant that they were also willing to face death for what they believed.

And he thought he was going to die that Bloody Sunday of March 7th, 1965. More than worrying about his death, he feared for those who were behind him in the march. But he didn’t die. He lived. He lived to see the day when he could meet the children of the man who beat him and meet the police department that had carried out orders to stop them, all of whom were now seeking forgiveness, seeking reconciliation, seeking freedom from a past that haunted them. Lewis met them in peace, with love. As Christians, we know that the story doesn’t end when one good thing happens, when something bad happens, or when we get scared. In fact, we know the story hasn’t ended yet because we’re still waiting for the Son of Man to come again in full glory.

In the meantime, we’ve got work to do. We’ve got to train on God’s Word. We’ve got to study and practice being in relationship with one another in true love and reconciliation. Sometimes we’ve got to wait because we don’t understand fully, and we may not be ready to give up our egos or even our lives for a greater Good. If we keep seeking God’s will and keep looking for God to show up in our lives, chances are we’ll recognize the glimpses of God’s glory when we see it. Our hearts, minds, and lives are the only thing created to capture and reflect God’s glory, so it’s okay to put down the electronics and turn to one another in love. It may just be that God’s waiting for us.

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Water in the Desert

“Forty days and forty nights, thou wast fasting in the wild . . .”

This song keeps playing in my head this morning.  (The fact that my kindergartner sings it through the house probably contributes to the fact.)  But a journey through the desert isn’t necessarily without reward.  When the oasis is on the horizon, a renewed sense of hope and goodness floods throughout one’s body.   We take nothing for granted.  Every gift has with it a new appreciation.  Sometimes just a trickle works, too, to sustain us until we reach the oasis, giving us enough — enough of whatever it is we need to make it.

Hopefully you, too, are among the fortunate to have a sense of what your purpose in life is.  We know what our gifts are.  We know how we might help others.  Often before the call is realized, however, circumstances would have it that we have to be patient.  We have to learn more, grow and wait.  We have to live and love through good times and bad, and we have to wait.  When a wisdom beyond ourselves knows that we are ripe for our call, circumstances pave the way for us to do what we are meant to do.  But there is lots of waiting, exercises in patience and persistence.

In the desert this year, I didn’t realize I was seeking clarity of purpose, but while sitting in the quiet, focusing on mental clarity, a clear sense of purpose spoke to me.  While the waiting might be dehydrating, testing one’s endurance, questioning that which is thought to be known, a moment’s clarity is that trickle of water in the desert, enough to sustain us for the rest of the journey.

Parker Palmer speaks of the soul as a wild animal that cannot be coaxed into the open by force.  One has to be still, quiet, and open.  Only in the silence and stillness can the animal feel safe enough to make itself known, seen and heard.  If we are still and present enough, we can catch a glimpse of its beauty, its nature, its needs and desires.  I would like to think that this is what I heard stirring in the stillness.  Rather than my ego speaking, it was my Self declaring that “I am called.”

Knowing this within, I continue on my way, listening to circumstances, watching my path unfold not by force but as it should be. And I know that all is well.  May all be well with you, too.

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Try, Try, Try . . . and Try Again

The proverb says if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again, right?  Well, I did, and I wasted at least two pounds of clay.

With the kids out of town and the littlest one sleeping, I decided to revisit the ol’ pottery wheel.  It’s an electric, so I feel like it’s just a machine.  The clay, on the other hand, comes from the earth, so I feel like it can have a mind of its own.  At least, that’s what I’m going with.  I tried with at least three helpings of clay and at least a dozen times to get it centered today so I could make a vase or even just a small bowl.  It wasn’t happening, and I could feel my temperament sinking, even with my now awake daughter watching me.

Thoughts going through my mind:  Perhaps I am not a potter.  Of course I’m not a potter; I’m a writer.  But everyone can write.  Can’t everyone wield some clay?  I’d just like to make something nice for someone.

Why won’t this center?  Am I not centered?  Are my arms that weak? My husband says that it’s not about your upper body strength.  You don’t have to strong-arm this.  Then why the hell is it knocking me around???

I’m not a quitter, but I know when I need to stop and get a new perspective.  I cleaned everything so that it will be nice for my husband when he decides to use our last bit of clay.

How many times do you not succeed before you give yourself permission not to do something?  (I’m trying to keep this as optimistic as possible; pardon the double negative.)  My thinking is that the answer is not simple.

Rather than try to make a concrete decision as to whether or not I’ll accept my fate as a non-potter, I’ll take the lesson that I have more to learn and more practice to do.  It’s a hard lesson to take, but our number of practices is determined by how well we can accept the current moment for what it is, no matter what we are doing or want to do.

I need to exercise my patience better.  I’ll stop by the clay studio and ask for a reminder lesson.  And I’ll practice more, if I can make myself take the time.  Some lessons take a while to sink in.  I am grateful for my time to grow.  No, really, I am!

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Expect the Unexpected

I’m convinced tables in the living room are meant for cutting open little boys’ faces, no matter how rounded the corners are or how chubby the little boys’ faces!

All in a day’s time, we might see a cut by the eye, a pitcher of sweet tea spilled in the fridge, an unhealthy lunch of PB&J, Fritos and root beer, a hefty library fine, too much t.v. and to top it all off, a sincere moment of creative energy while making snowball cookies.  (Yes, this is from experience.)

Actually, the day wasn’t all bad; it just fell during a busy time of year.  But when do we not have all sorts of projects running, ideas brimming and multiple things to be doing?  What I sense, though, is that if we pause and feel deeply (even with hands covered in oily cookie dough), we can give sincere acknowledgment to the kids, answer a question politely and laugh heartily at any given moment.

Children are wonderful reflections of ourselves.  Mine have done a great job of showing me how short I’ve been when talking with them.  How many weeks will it take to undo that example?

In the midst of near chaos, why sudden creative inspiration?  Perhaps it’s my idea that’s relevant to my current situation, but I do believe that it is a divine message to enjoy where I am right now as a mother.  While doing so, I should have fun, set a good, positive example for my kids and possibly a good example for other mothers, too.

autumn_highchair.jpgYou just never know what’s going to come your way, whether it be seen as good or bad.  No matter what it is, if you’re a parent, there are little eyes watching you to see how they should react when it’s their turn.

I need more practice.

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