Posts Tagged ‘Transfiguration’

Shine 3-3-19

In this sermon for Transfiguration Sunday, I explore this amazing and yet confusing story from Luke 9:28-36. The identity of Jesus is on display, and we are reminded of the promise that we have been made heirs of that same identity.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:
https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/shine-3-3-19

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here:

May the grace and peace of our Triune God be yours, now and forever. Amen

It is good to be back to normal.  After cancellation of all services the past 2 weeks, not to mention education canceling and worship being a bit more on-the-fly than normal the week before that…I think its safe to say that we’ve had our share of winter weather lately haven’t we?

I’ve lost track of the number of storms we’ve had…but we’ve gotten our share of ice and frost and snow haven’t we?  Its pretty crazy out there to take in the piles and the drifts…the build up on the roads and the corners…the depth in people’s yards…after several winters in a row of low key conditions…we’ve been in for this time haven’t we?

And I don’t know about you…but with the enormous amount of snow out there…its unbelievably bright isn’t it?  All that light reflecting around…its hard on the eyes…when the sun’s out its almost unbearable…I’m squinting even when its cloudy…and to be honest…its so stinking bright out there that I’m about the point of wearing my sunglasses when I go to bed at night…ok so that’s a stretch but you get my point…and you probably see where I’m going with this.

Because its not too difficult to make the jump from the blindingly bright conditions due to all of the snow outside to today’s gospel lesson and what is apparently an equally blindingly bright event known as the Transfiguration. (pause)

Its kind of hard to believe that we’ve made it around to Transfiguration Sunday again…here on the last Sunday of Epiphany before we kick off the season of Lent…and yet here we are…and as we do every year, we wrap up this season of Christ being revealed to the world with the story of Jesus taking Peter, James, and John up the mountain…where his face is somehow changed…and his clothes flash like the brightest lightning.

Honestly, this is a pretty amazing story…a moment that is perhaps, confusing to consider…I’m guessing it was pretty confusing for the 3 disciples who were along for the ride when it happened…evidenced by Peter’s impulsive words, not to mention the fact that he’s spouting off without knowing what he’s talking about.

But this is one of those times isn’t it? One of those moments in the story of the gospel when we just can’t quite put our finger on things can we…we can’t quite wrap our heads around the mystery of what’s going on. Imagine it.

Imagine that you’ve spent a pretty good chunk of time trudging up a mountain…and I can tell you it is pretty high…takes about 15-20 minutes to drive up it…now imagine walking up that…no wonder we hear the disciples were tired…they just climbed a mountain for pete’s sake. But once they get up there…and Jesus is engaged in prayer, as he often does. Suddenly things get crazy with a change in his appearance and his clothes flashing like we’ve mentioned.

Two random dudes are suddenly standing there talking to him…and I wonder if they were wearing nametags or something because it seems like the disciples immediately recognize them as Moses and Elijah…2 guys who had lived centuries before this…well apparently they’re all standing around talking about Jesus’ pending departure…ironically the original language calls it an exodus, maybe in a nod to Moses and his piece of Jewish history…

Now I wonder if maybe that particular subject caught Peter’s attention…because he and Jesus have some history on that subject. Shortly before this event happens, we have the exchange between the two men over the identity of Jesus and Peter’s declaration that he is the Messiah…an exchange that is followed up by Jesus’ words about his betrayal and arrest and death…all something that’s gonna happen in Jerusalem.

I wonder if Peter’s thinking about that…and in a wonderful and glorious moment that is blowing his mind…he thinks this might be an opportunity to side step Jesus’ earlier prediction….MASTER…it is good for us to be here.  Let us put up 3 tents…one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah…let’s do that and we’ll just stay up here on the mountain. (pause)

Now, maybe Peter had ulterior motives, or maybe he was just utterly confused…but we hear a rebuke…and its not from Elijah…and its not from Moses…its not from Jesus…its certainly not from James and John…this one comes from the top.

Out of nowhere a cloud overshadows them…and from within the cloud comes the voice of God….This is my son…the chosen one…listen to him…and the three disciples hit the floor…utterly terrified. Because not only has God shown up…but it would seem that Peter’s impulsive idea might have God a touch on the irritated side.

But then…just as suddenly as this whole deal began…its over…the extra 2 guys are gone…the cloud has disappeared…the booming voice from heaven is silent…and there’s only Jesus…and then, the moment being done, they start heading back down the mountain…and for whatever reason…the three men remain silent…perhaps feeling the sense of shame that comes with a rebuke. (pause)

That’s the story of the Transfiguration…one that is amazing…and yet is utterly beyond our ability to make heads or tails of.  And considering that point…sometimes I think that the description of a moment when the divine and the finite…the heavenly and the human are both on display in the same instant…that is so utterly beyond our human ability to describe or even comprehend…that this is the best we can do in terms of a description.

Of course, it goes without saying that countless scholars over the centuries have made attempts to explain what’s going on here…but maybe its okay just to sit in the enormity of the mystery.  A mystery that points towards an even bigger mystery…of whatever it is that God is up in constantly inviting our reality forward…and in connection to that…whatever it is that God is up to through the life and the death and the resurrection of Jesus.  (pause)

The apostle Paul talks about this mystery…saying that now we see as in a mirror dimly…but one day we will see face to face.  I’ll admit it…there are times when we call something a mystery that we can’t explain…or we answer a question with “I don’t know” and it almost seems like a copout…its frustrating…and yet…that’s the truth…that there are things about God and heaven and the kingdom and Jesus and that which is divine being found among that which is not that is simply too much.

And so maybe, just maybe as we consider this event…all we can say here is that somehow, the event of the Transfiguration is a moment that reveals something about the identity of Jesus…because we have a name that is given to him…the Son of God…the one who is chosen…but as we think about that heavenly proclamation that comes about as Jesus is in a moment of quiet prayer…maybe we’re reminded of another time when that happens.

I can’t help but think that this sounds a lot like Jesus baptism…which we hit back at the beginning of this season of Epiphany…as Jesus is praying, post baptism…the heaven’s are ripped open and that same voice declares an almost identical statement…You are my son, the beloved, with you I am well pleased.

Above all else…these two similar events point us towards a vital aspect of Jesus’ identity…the one who has been claimed as the Son of God…but as we dwell on that point…let us remember something else…though we fail to understand how it all works…we have been given a promise through the baptism that we share with Jesus…and that promise is that we have also inherited the same identity…beloved child of God.

That is an identity that trumps….EVERYTHING…it’s a promise that God is with us…that God has claimed us and dwells among us…even within us through the presence of the Holy Spirit.  And that’s huge…because if there’s one angle that we can pull from the entirety of scripture…its that God desires to dwell among us…and be with us…and that we are with God.  God is together with humanity in the Garden…God dwells among the Israelites in the desert…God literally comes among us in the person of Christ…and in the end…the promise of Revelation says “Behold, the dwelling of the Lord is with his people.” That’s where this is going…not limited to any single instance…or any super exiting mountain top experience…God shows us over and over again that our existence begins from a place of divine delight…and whether we feel like it or not…whether the world confirms it or not…we are the pinnacle of God’s divine creative joy…both as individuals and as a species.

And the amazing thing about this…is that we are invited into the work of bringing this to fruition…over again Jesus offers this invitation…to live our lives in a way that reflects the Kingdom of Heaven being here now…because it is.

Now I know…life doesn’t always feel like it…and to live our lives this way is scary…its daunting…and that sense of doubt loves to squawk in the back of our minds doesn’t it…that voice that tells us we aren’t good enough…we aren’t smart enough…or savvy enough…or skilled enough…that lie that tells us “You aren’t enough” so that we’ll cower in fear from the work and from the very gifts that God has given us to benefit this world. Maybe that voice of fear is even louder than the voice of doubt…that voice that asks what might happen if follow that call? (pause) The potential that lies within every single one of us…the gifts and the talents that you were born with…maybe they scare you…because who knows what might happen if you turn your God-given potential lose in this world…

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.  Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are meant to shine as children do. Its not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own lights shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” A brilliant author named Marianne Williamson wrote that…and I believe that if Jesus was standing here right now…he’d be nodding and cheering…because he said some of the very same things.

You are the light of the world…a city on a hill cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and places it under a basket…so shine.  Shine in this world that loves its darkness…be that light that reflects the perfect light that was shining through Jesus on that mountain. Shine in a way that reveals your identity as a beloved child of God.

We do that…and we’ll see some change in this world…because that’s the work that God has invited us into through the one who was shining in the first place.  Amen.

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All Y’All 2-11-18

In this sermon, based on Mark 9:2-29, I explore the confusing situation of the Transfiguration. We don’t fully grasp just what went on, but that’s okay. We just need to remember to listen to what Jesus has to say to us.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:
https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/all-yall-2-11-18

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here:

Grace and peace to you in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen

In recent years, I’ve gotten a lot of experience in dealing with young people, particularly junior high and high schoolers…not to mention the fact that I’m raising a couple of kids in that range…and in that time, I’ve observed something that has now become a bit of a motto.  Every 15 year old is a moron…just try not to be much of a moron.

Namely, yes you will make mistakes, but try to not be stupid.  (pause) Now in recent history, there has been news of this “15 year old syndrome” spreading around…apparently the hip thing was to record yourself eating a Tidepod…one of those little packets of laundry soap…and then posting the video online.

I really hope that this trend has already played itself out…but if not…and you are considering the Tidepod challenge…don’t. Its stupid. And because of this I can’t help but think that Tide has been concerned about their image and that the marketing department felt the need to do some scrambling…and what better way to go viral in the positive sense…than to take advantage of the huge viewership of the Super Bowl…and with that, we saw commercial after commercial…situation after situation, all the way through the game when a working actor named David Harbour pops up out of nowhere to tell…Tide Commercial. No stains…bright colors…Tide Commercial.

And I couldn’t help but think that if Jesus was walking around these days and not 2000 years ago…this is what the scripture would say…And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white…such as no one on earth could bleach them…No Stains…Tide Commercial. (pause)

Super Bowl marketing aside, we find ourselves here at the end of Epiphany…and one last story of how Jesus is revealed to the world…the Transfiguration. We hear story at this time every year, just before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent…and it’s a familiar one.

Jesus grabs the big 3 disciples…Peter, James, and John, and they walk up a mountain, just the 4 of them…and up on that mountain…something unexpected and amazing happens…the transfiguration. Jesus is somehow changed…even his clothes take on dazzling appearance…Old Testament big wigs pop up…Moses the giver the of the Law and Elijah the greatest of the prophets…and they’re standing there talking with the Jesus.

Now I can only imagine what the three disciples must have been thinking in this moment…I can only think that it must have been incredible to witness…this amazing transformation that Jesus undergoes, even if its momentary…and honestly…I find myself a little jealous of what they witnessed. It must have something to behold…something amazing to see…something that honestly probably goes far beyond the ability to truly describe.

Now the authors of the gospels try to clue us in…this story pops up in 3 of the 4 gospels and they’re all pretty similar so apparently whatever it was that Peter and James and John experienced that day…whatever it was that they saw…this was the best that they could explain it.

But honestly…what happened? We don’t have a whole to go on do we? Jesus is somehow changed…his clothes get super bright…and 2 random dudes who should be dead pop up out of nowhere…That’s the transfiguration…that’s all the detail we’re given before Peter starts acting like Peter and starts blabbing, apparently succeeding in putting his foot in his mouth…because his words seemingly prompt God to show up…or in the very least for a thick cloud to overshadow them and the voice of God to come booming out all around them. “This is my son, the beloved…Listen to him.” (pause)

Now as we hear…whatever it is that’s going on, even before the cloud and the voice of God show up…its terrifying…and I’ve often times found myself wondering just what it is that Peter and the other two guys are experiencing…and honestly it can get a little frustrating that we’re actually given so little to go on.

Just what actually happened up on that mountain? (pause) This is a question that scholars have pondered on for 2 millenia…with many different attempts to explain it…ways to rationalize or to consider the few small details of this epic event that we are given in the narrative.

But admittedly, I’ve never found anything that adequately revealed just what went on…every explanation that I’ve come across…and honestly even some that I’ve tried to offer in the past…they all come up short…and I can only think that our language, and not only that but our ability to understand and comprehend will always be lacking when it comes to the divine…and I can only think that this is what was somehow happening on the mountain…that in this brief instance…in this amazing and yet terrifying situation, somehow the divinity of Jesus was shining through the human.

We don’t know what exactly that means…and apparently beyond referencing a tide commercial and the lack of human ability to produce the effect of what’s going on with Jesus…maybe that’s all we can say…that in this instance we are reminded that this man who was walking around…this man who could perform miracles…this man who possessed amazing authority was…in fact…God the son…The word made flesh…the creator of the universe and everything in it who has come among us as one of us…and for just a brief fleeting moment on top of a mountain…that divine eternal all-encompassing entity came shining through the man… (pause)

To call this moment a revelation of Jesus’ true identity perhaps goes without saying…but then we get divine confirmation when the voice of the Father booms out. This is my son. (pause) Transfiguration aside…that’s a big deal too…Jesus is only called the Son of God 3 times in Mark’s Gospel…and all three occur alongside something pretty incredible.

Jesus is baptized and we hear that the heavens are ripped open and the holy spirit lands upon him…and we hear the voice of God. You are my beloved Son…Here Jesus is transfigured, whatever that means….and we hear again, this is my son the beloved…and the third time occurs during Jesus’ crucifixion…as the sun has gone black for several hours and the curtain in the temple spontaneously rips in two…and the centurion standing there before the cross says Truly this is the son of God.

3 times…3 divinely empowered events…3 proclamations of the true identity of this man named Jesus…the beloved Son…but what makes today special…what makes the Transfiguration stand out among these 3 events…is that God also gives us a command.

Now we hear God say, this is my beloved son, listen to him…but its worth digging just a little bit…we pick up in the original language that God isn’t just talking to Peter in response to his bonehead comment about staying put and building tents to live in…God is talking to everyone…like if we were in Texas God would be talking to All ya’ll.

Like…All ya’ll listen up to what my sons got to say. (pause)
Now funny enough, Jesus doesn’t say a ton here, other than waiting until after he’s raised from the dead to talk about what has happened….but we do get a clue as to what we’re supposed to listen to…and its kicks off today’s reading.  6 days later. (pause) 6 days later than what?

If we back up in the narrative we find the exchange between Jesus and Peter when Peter calls Jesus the Messiah…and Jesus promptly lets him in on just what that means…that the messiah will be betrayed and killed but on the third day raised again…and Peter wigs out, rebuking Jesus before Jesus calls him Satan…that’s what happened 6 days before the Transfiguration.

But that’s not the only time we hear this message from Jesus. Right after this story, as they get down the mountain, Jesus cast a demon out of boy and then repeats the same message. The Messiah will be betrayed and crucified but on the third day he will be raised.

And not only that…but Jesus shares this message a third time. (pause) You’ve ever thought about the importance of repetition? That if something keeps popping up its probably worth listening to? Seems to the case with this message that Jesus proclaims…this message that he is the Messiah and that he will be betrayed and killed but that through his life and death and then his resurrection God is truly up to something new…something utterly different…something utterly beyond our ability to fully grasp and understand.

But we are given little glimpses aren’t we? Little bits in the scripture about the presence of the kingdom of heaven which has come near to us…and the promise that we have a place in it because of what has Christ has done. This is the message that he has come to proclaim…the message that he has come to embody…the message and the promise that he has come to deliver to each one us.

We are flawed broken people…utterly limited in our existence and our ability to comprehend and grasp things that are divine…utterly inadequate to fully describe moments when we encounter the divine before us…and yet, we are still recipients of God’s divine favor, shown to us simply because of God’s amazing, all encompassing, way bigger than we can fully understand, love for each one of us.

And through the life, and the death, and the resurrection of Jesus, the divine is taking action in our reality to show us that there is no length that God will not go to in order to be with us.

That’s the gospel…that’s his message to all the world…so All Ya’ll…listen to him. Amen

The Story Within the Story 2-26-17

In this sermon, based on Matthew 17:1-9, I explore the Transfiguration of Jesus, which was both thrilling and terrifying for those who witnessed it.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:
https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/the-story-within-the-story-2-26-17

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here:

Grace and Peace to you in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen

If you happen to be a movie buff as I am, then today is an exciting day for you…because today, or more specifically, this evening is…the Oscars. One of countless award shows that goes on every year, but in the movie world, this is the big one…the most important.

Now my only complaint with the Oscars…is that it is really long…the typical runtime is usually way over 3 hours. Its long for different reasons…but one of them is the number of awards that are given out. There are a lot of them…and they are aimed a lot of different directions…but if I’m perfectly honest…I don’t really care about most of them…the only ones that I’m really excited about are Best Picture…which makes sense as that’s sorta the big one…and then the acting categories. Best Actor and Actress as well as Best Supporting Actor and Actress.

I think both sides are pretty important. In the lead category, you are looking at the actor or actress that carries the story…they are absolutely central…the supporting categories are aimed at performances that occur more in the background…important for the story…but not absolutely central…but that being said…I’ve often found that for those supporting characters…we could describe their role within the movie as “the story within the story.” (pause)
As I was working with this week’s text for the Transfiguration…and honestly as I was pondering on the gospel as a whole…I recognized that this idea of a story within the story seems to apply.  (pause) Now I don’t think any of us would argue that Jesus would fall in the leading actor category when it comes to the gospels.  Its kinda hard to have a Gospel of Jesus Christ without Jesus in it…and understandably, as we work our way through the different gospels…doesn’t matter which one…Jesus is at the center…and if the New Testament had its own Oscars ceremony, I think Jesus would take Best Actor every single year.

And maybe, just maybe, today’s story would win for best visual effects…because here at the Transfiguration some pretty amazing things happen. You’re likely familiar with it…we hear it every year at this time, just before the season of Lent kicks off.  Jesus decides to hike up a mountain…he takes the Big Three disciples, Peter and James and John and up they go…and while they are there…Jesus is transfigured.

Now just what that means, we don’t really know. All we hear within the different gospel accounts is that his face starts to glow like the sun, and his clothes become dazzling white…honestly that’s not a lot to go on…but as I’ve pondered on this event over the years I’ve come to the conclusion that somehow, someway…the Big Three were given a glimpse at the truth that Jesus is both fully human and fully divine…and this man that they’ve known…this man that they’ve followed around without too much in the way of problems…somehow the divine nature comes blasting through the human.

Now this is not to say that in this moment he became fully divine…I think its safe to say that the divine had been there all along. By this point in the gospel he’s performed countless miracles…but for what ever reason…it is in this moment that the divinity of Christ…the God-ness if that’s what you want to call it…becomes visible for a brief moment.

Now that in itself is amazing enough…but to add fuel to the fire…we also hear that Moses and Elijah show up here on the mountain and they are hanging out jabbering with Jesus as well. Admittedly I don’t quite know how Peter James and John would have known that this was Moses and Elijah…as both of them lived centuries before Jesus and the disciples were walking around…who knows, maybe they were wearing nametags.

But what we do know is that this moment is so amazing…it is so GOOD…that Peter wants to capture it.  If it had happened today…he’d probably want to take a selfie and post it all over Instagram and Twitter and Facebook…and if he did, he’d probably end up with millions of likes. (pause) But truly, Peter wants to stay put doesn’t he? Lord…it is good that we are here…how about I build three tents, one for you and Moses and Elijah…and we can just stay here for a while.

Peter wants to stay in this amazing moment…he wants to stay in the good…to capture it…because I think Peter realizes the truth…that it won’t last…because Peter knows that there’s more coming…that there’s some stuff right around the corner that will be a polar opposite of the glory that he’s witnessing here on the mountain. (pause)
And that brings me around the point that I started off with…the story within the story…because if there was a New Testament Oscar for supporting actor…I think it would go to Peter…at least here in the gospels.

I don’t know about you…but I’ve always related to Peter. He’s present for much of what goes on throughout the gospel…and maybe this is intentional on the part of the authors of the gospels…but he seems to be portrayed as the MOST human out of any of them. He sees incredible things…and he marvels at them. He makes incredibly Spirit filled proclamations about the true identity of Jesus as the Messiah….but he’s also impulsive…and he’s a blabbermouth.  He doesn’t think things through.  He walked on water with Jesus, but then promptly sank.  He expressed faith, and then when Jesus revealed that he would be killed, Peter rebukes him and promptly gets called Satan.

Later on he’ll swear up one side and down the other that he’ll stay with Jesus even into death, only to wimp out and swear up one side and down the other that he doesn’t even know Jesus.

Maybe its just me…but I often think that we are supposed to see this stuff through the eyes of one that we can relate to…because this stuff all happened…and real people witnessed it…real people who lack the ability to describe these amazing things that occurred…and for Peter…right on the tail of this amazing moment that he is seeing…Jesus transfigured on the mountain…just as Peter makes the statement that he wants to hang out here where its good…where he’s happy and comfortable…things take a turn.

Suddenly out of nowhere, a bright cloud envelops them…cutting off their vision…and the voice of God booms out “THIS IS MY SON THE BELOVED. LISTEN TO HIM.” (pause) It’s not quite a “no” in response to Peter’s question of “should we stay here.” But in the very least, it reveals, once again…just who Jesus really is.

And Peter, along with James and John…all three of them freak out…because they have now realized that GOD…IS…HERE. And they are on the ground, flat on their faces because they are terrified….scared out of their wits…or to use a phrase made popular by Luke’s gospel in the King James Version…they are sore afraid, just like the Shepherds who hear about the birth of Jesus…not to mention the women who will experience the empty tomb at Easter and a couple of angels addressing them…they’re absolutely terrified as well…not to mention when the resurrected Jesus shows up and starts talking to them.

It seems, that when God shows up…that when something truly DIVINE happens…it is simply too much for us.  I don’t why…and even if I did I don’t know if I could articulate it.  The only conclusion that I can reach from these different moments in scripture…including this one at the Transfiguration…is that whatever God is…whatever the DIVINE is…words cannot adequately express it…we cannot truly describe it.

That’s why we only hear that Jesus starting glowing…that’s why Moses was unable to actually look at God back there on Mount Sinai but couldn’t look at the place where God had just been. Because God is simply too much. God is in someway bigger…or stronger…or greater than we are…and to be in the presence of the divine must make the individual feel every aspect of being smaller…of being less…of being inadequate.

When I think about the attempt to describe God, I can only realize that our language is insufficient, just as our human limitations are insufficient…however “big” we might describe God, its not enough…and the only thing that I have ever experienced that might just give me a glimpse of this is when I stand next to the ocean…because as I have stood there on a few different beaches over the years looking out at this endless expanse of water, it makes me feel very small…but admittedly that’s not the right word either. Language fails me both in that description as well as in trying to define God.

So no wonder Peter freaked out…because God showed up…and if I was there, I’d say it’s a fair assumption to say I’d be facedown groveling in the dirt right next to him. (pause) But here’s the thing…this isn’t the end for Peter…and even though there’s still some dark junk that he’s going to experience between now and the cross of Christ…the message that he receives is one that we need to hear as well.

Listen to Jesus…and the next words that Jesus speaks are “Be risen and fear not.” Get up, and don’t be afraid because I am with you. (pause)  I love Peter’s story, especially today…because today his example shows us that we will experience the good and the terrifying.  Perhaps you’ve heard me say that the point of the sermon is to bring comfort to the afflicted and the bring affliction to the comfortable…and often times there are people on both sides of that coin sitting out there. But Peter’s example reminds us today that we will experience both in our lives…and sometimes we can go from one to the other just like that.

Peter went from absolute joy and wanting to bask in it, to absolute terror…and our lives reflect the same…but just as Peter was reminded to listen to Christ…we do the same…When we are comfortable and thinking that things are going well, let us look to Christ.  (pause) When we are terrified because what we are experiencing is simply too much for us…let us look to Christ.

Because if we are all doing that…regardless of the division that might be going on that separates the comfortable from the afflicted…well then maybe we can all begin to see what we have in common…a shared humanity redeemed by the one who allows us to approach the divine and not experience the holy terror that comes when our smallness butts up against the Lord’s bigness. (pause)
Truly, Peter’s journey through the gospel is a smaller story within the story…but if he shows us anything…its that he’s human, just like we are…and our limitations are on full display. (pause) And if today’s story of the Transfiguration shows us anything…its that we can’t really describe or understand just what it means when the divinity of Christ shines through the human…and you know what, that’s okay. Maybe we don’t need to know what it looked like…but we can be encouraged to know what the transfiguration means. That Christ bridges the gap…somehow, someway…and that he has assured us that we don’t have to be afraid. Amen.

What Are We Sleeping Through 2-7-16

This sermon is based on Luke 9:28-36, the story of Jesus’ transfiguration on the mountaintop.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:
https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/what-are-you-sleeping-through-2-7-16

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen

One of my most vivid memories of my time working at Bible Camp back in my college days was when lightning hit a tree on site. I was in a building about 100 yards away when the strike occurred…and in a split second, a lot of different things happened. The tree that was hit literally exploded, sending off wooden shrapnel in every direction as far as 3 or 4 football fields. Also, the enormous surge in electrical power blew out the light bulb in the room I was standing in. The boom of thunder was deafening and instantaneous…but most striking was how bright it was…unbelievable and words can’t even describe it.

The power in a bolt of lightning is beyond my ability to comprehend. Some estimate that a bolt carries upwards of 10 BILLION watts…and reaches temperatures roughly 9 times hotter than the sun…and while I can’t really wrap my head around the reality of those values, having witnessed the awesome power first hand, I certainly believe it…but the thing I remember the most about that instance was the unbelievably bright flash…and that’s where I connect into today’s gospel.

Today is Transfiguration Sunday…and as such our gospel features the story when Jesus is somehow changed…transfigured…and we hear of the unbelievable brightness of his clothing…so much so that the translation is literally that his clothes became white like a flash of lightning.

There is so much to love about this story…and yet, just as we lack the ability to really wrap our heads around the true amount of power found in a bolt of lightning…the transfiguration is one of those instances in scripture that is amazingly huge…so much so, that perhaps we lack the ability to comprehend just what has really occurred.

Perhaps part of the problem stems from the lack of detail that the different gospels give us regarding the transfiguration itself. This story appears in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, so we get a different accounting each respective year…but overall the details about the change that comes upon Jesus in this moment…well they are pretty lacking. We hear that the appearance of his face changes…and his clothes become uber-bright…and that’s about it.

But fortunately…Jesus must have had a little bit of foresight about this…and lucky for us…he brought along some witnesses…Peter, James, and John…3 out of 4 of Jesus first disciples…the Big 3 as I like to call them…the 3 guys who for whatever reason…always seem to be the ones that Jesus chooses to witness the really big events. All throughout the gospels we hear of different situations that Jesus head’s off to deal with…and he separates off the big 3 to come along with him. We don’t know why its these three and not some of the others…but time and time again we see it…and this time, is no exception.

And wow…what a thing to witness this time around…beyond the obvious, if ambiguous situation of the transfiguration itself…amazing though that must have been for them…there’s a whole lot else that they are privy to in this instance…Jesus invites them to come away…on up the mountain…for some private prayer time…then Jesus’ divine nature comes blazing through his human form…and low and behold…Moses and Elijah show up talking with Jesus…and then Peter decides that this is worthy of a long term camping trip, so he suggests building some shelters for the Messiah, the representative of the Law, and the Representative of the prophets…3 pretty important aspects of scripture mind you…but then as he’s uttering this, for lack of anything better to say…a giant cloud comes rolling in, scaring the pants off the big 3…and then the voice of God booms down around them…reminding them of what they’ve heard before…that THIS is God’s Son…the one he has chosen and they better listen up…and as soon as they receive this divine instruction to pay attention…the cloud disappears…Moses and Elijah are gone…and there’s only Jesus, standing there along with the three of them…and because they are so confused…and probably still scared…and most likely overwhelmed by this entire experience…they traipse back down the mountain in silence, and didn’t tell anyone what had happened for a good long while. (pause)

That’s the story…that’s the transfiguration…this moment that we feature each and every year, here in the last week of Epiphany, just before the start of Lent…just before we begin that dark journey together…a season that grows steadily darker until we reach holy week…and it culminates with the death of Jesus…in a time when it is both figuratively as dark as it can get, as well as a moment when it literally grows dark.

Now often times, people think of the transfiguration as the ultimate “mountain top experience.” A time when God’s glory literally shines and its literally on top of a mountain…but to limit this story to just a feel good experience that we compare with the high notes in our own spiritual lives…to do this misses the point…but it is good to recognize that this is simply the first mountain top…for on the other side of the dark valley of Lent, Jesus is found on another mountaintop…this time just outside of Jerusalem…as he hangs on a cross…dying in the literal and figurative darkness.

That’s what we are kicking off today…as we join Jesus and the big 3 on top of this mountain, before traveling back down with them into the valley that lies before the next mountain…and the cross that marks the fulfillment of Jesus’ true work on Earth…the fulfillment that Moses and Elijah are discussing with him when they appear.

I love Luke’s account of the transfiguration because he includes a few little details that are lacking in Matthew and Mark…and this is one of them…the subject of the conversation that is going on between these 3 vital Biblical figures…Jesus, Moses, and Elijah…talking about his departure from this world…both in his death, but also in his ascension back to heaven following his resurrection…and interestingly enough…another little detail here in Luke is revealed when we remember the Father’s words. This is my son…listen to him. (pause)
Now when I think of that command…I’m reminded of when I tell my kids to listen up…it usually happens for 1 of two reasons…either I’ve just said something important that they missed…or on the flip side I’m about to say something that they need to hear…and in the case of God saying this to the Big 3…both sides of the coin are in effect.

If we look backwards…the last thing that Jesus has talked about was the fact that the Son of Man must undergo suffering and rejection and he will be killed before being raised 3 days later…some pretty healthy foreshadowing…and on the flip side, if we look ahead…his next words are “how much longer must I be with you?” (pause) God tells them to listen up and in both instances Jesus is talking about his departure from this world…something that will happen in Jerusalem…the very conversation that Peter, James, and John have just witnessed at the top of this mountain.

Now this is all big stuff…but there’s one more little detail that Luke includes here that really catches my attention…and that is the fact that Peter, James, and John…almost sleep right through this whole episode…did you catch that…they were weighed down with sleep…and perhaps understandably so…they’d just climbed a mountain after all…and that’s hard work…I’ve done that and it wipes you out…and their weariness…their desire to rest and sleep is simple evidence of the weak state of our frail human bodies…we have needs…we need rest, we need nourishment…and these needs often command out attention…so much so, that for these three guys…their need to rest almost caused them to sleep through this amazing situation…they almost missed it…and funny enough…this isn’t the only time that happens.

Because there’s another time when Jesus brings the disciples along…and then invites the big 3 to remain close to him…and this time its not on a mountain…its in a garden…just before Jesus is betrayed…and he’s praying to his father that the cup will pass from his lips…and when he turns around to face Peter, James, and John…having literally been sweating blood from his intense anxiety…he finds them asleep…because it’s the middle of the night…and they’ve been celebrating the Passover all week…and their bodies, their frail weak bodies…require the rest.

What else have these guys slept through…they’ve walked around with Jesus for 3 years…all this time while Jesus has performed countless miracles…when unbelievable moments of the divine have occurred and I wonder just how many they missed.

And I also wonder…how many, do WE…miss…what are…WE…sleeping through…what is God up to over here (hand up behind me) while our weakness has our attention over here (hand up in front me of)? There can be little doubt that God is up to something in the world…and just like the big 3, we are invited to experience it…to witness it…and then to go on share that experience…but I fear that all too often we miss it because something else is going on.

Because life happens it…sometimes the good things…but often times it’s the hard things…diseases…accidents…the phone call that rocks your world with bad news…death…pain…sadness caused by countless different sources…all of these things can get in the way…all of these things remind us of the dark valleys that we walk through…those dark valleys just like the one that we are about to entire…this dark of season of Lent…with the brightness of the transfiguration behind us…and the utter despair of the cross before us.

We live in this valley don’t we? This place of life with all its unpredictable nature…but the good news is that we don’t walk that valley alone. You all know Psalm 23…the one that we hear at pretty much every funeral…Even though I walk through the darkest valley…YOU..ARE…WITH ME. (pause) Jesus walked down that mountain of the transfiguration along with the disciples…he was there as they went on to Jerusalem…and then he walked the road to the cross alone…he took those steps that we are unable to walk…He braved the darkness so that we don’t have to do it on our own.

And perhaps the good news of all this…is that in those moments when our weakness…when our frailty…when those things command our attention over here…the amazing “God-thing” that we are missing back here is simply that He is still here beside us in that weakness…and that he will help us bear that burden…and that one day…somehow, someway, we will walk out the other side of this dark valley, and into the glorious light that God has intended for us. Amen

God WILL Be Seen 2-15-15

This sermon is based on Mark 9:2-9, which is the story of the Transfiguration of Jesus. In the sermon I explore the confusing nature of this story, and go on to talk about how God will be revealed to humanity just not in the way that we might expect.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:
https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/god-will-be-seen-2-15-15

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here:
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
For any of you sitting out there today that have spent more than about 5 minutes with me…it will come as no great shock that I’m extraordinarily extraverted. I love people…I love interacting with people on many different levels…but on the flip side, there are moments when I also need to be by myself…just to sit and be.
Some of you have heard me talk about this as well…how my daily ritual involves taking the kids over to school and then before crossing the parking lot to the office I grab a cup of coffee and sit in the living room for a few moments. Now over the course of the past couple of months, with the days shorter and the sun far to the south, my spot in the chair has been pretty dim. But just the other day, I sat down in my chair and discovered to my delight…that as we inch towards spring, the sun is moving back into my line of sight.
As I sat down in my chair…I looked out the big picture window that faces east…and got the full blast of the sun in my face…and it…was…glorious. I instantly felt my face warm up…and I just felt content…but…I couldn’t see anything. Because as wonderful as it felt…I was blinded by the light…that life giving light from the sun. (pause)
And in that moment, as I was basking in the blinding glory of the sun…I felt like Peter…basking in the life giving glory of God’s son in today’s story. (pause) Today’s story features the transfiguration…a moment in the gospel when three of the disciples catch a glimpse of the divine within the man. (pause)
Now our story starts off with a bit of a strange comment…that its 6 days later…ummm okay…well 6 days later than what? And actually, this is a really important question to ask…because if we shift backwards in the story, we find an important exchange between Jesus and Peter…Jesus has asked who the disciples think that he is…they’ve been together for a long time at this point…and in a Spirit-inspired moment…Peter makes the ultimate confession…Jesus…you are the Messiah…but up to this point…all anyone knows about Jesus is that he’s human…truly he’s got some remarkable God-given abilities…but he’s human. (pause)
And now 6 days later…Jesus heads up the mountain…and he brings Peter along with James and John…and in this unique moment…they discover the ultimate truth about Jesus…about the one that Peter has called the Messiah…when Jesus is transfigured before them. (pause)
Now here’s the thing…the transfiguration is kinda hard to figure out….what does it really mean anyway…when Jesus is transfigured? Honestly we don’t get a ton of detail…the original languages gives us just a tiny bit of insight…as we hear the word metamorthey…or metamorphosis as we commonly know it…Now metamorphosis indicates change…a new form…a new appearance…and anyone who has seen the change of a caterpillar into a butterfly knows that this is a permanent change…but just what it is that changes about Jesus’ appearance we don’t know…we don’t hear…and really the only other notion of just what’s happening that we hear about is that his clothes become dazzling white…such as no launderer on Earth could make them. Umm…okay…so apparently this is a white that goes far beyond our comprehension of bright….but that’s all the detail we get.
And so, if you’re anything like me…and you try to wrap your head around just what it is that the three disciples actually witnessed that day…perhaps you find it a bit of a head scratcher…this moment when the divine shines through the human. (pause)
Now I’ve heard a lot of different sermons on the transfiguration…I’ve even preached a few myself…and often times preachers will try to explain it away…they’ll try to help people understand just what’s happening…just what’s being revealed…but you know what…maybe…just maybe we aren’t supposed to understand just what’s going on here…the three disciples sure didn’t…and they were the ones who saw it…maybe what they saw goes far beyond our human ability to comprehend…because not only was Jesus changed…and his divine spotlight turns on….but in the same moment Moses and Elijah show up…the two men that tradition tells us represent the law and the prophets…the guiding principles of Jewish life and tradition are standing here in conversation with the messiah who’s ultimate nature is blinding the very people that he brought with him to see it. (pause)
Crazy huh? That Jesus had actually invited these three guys to come along…and witness this event…this event which did nothing but confuse them…and we know it confused them…because Peter…the very person who had made the ultimate confession of Jesus’ identity, calling him messiah…is now unable to comprehend just what the heck is going on…and promptly puts his foot in his mouth. (pause)
But as Peter makes this statement…Lord its good to be here…let me throw up some tents for you and Moses and Elijah and we’ll all just camp out here for awhile…he’s simply trying to allow himself the time to figure out what’s happening…I’m guessing James and John were probably thinking the same sort of thing…but they don’t get that chance do they…because the instant that Peter starts blabbing…God interrupts…with a cloud that envelops them…that utterly surrounds them…what I can only imagine to be the thickest fog that any person has ever experienced…and their vision is cut off…and the blinding nature of Jesus’ divinity shining through…is cut off…and only then, does God reveal the truth of Jesus identity. This is my Son, the Beloved.” (pause)
And in that instant…when the truth of his identity is revealed by God, the vision is over, but Jesus remains. (pause) Now we don’t know if the transfiguration…the change…the metamorphosis is permanent or not…does he still look different? Are his clothes still blindingly white? (pause) We don’t know…the gospels don’t tell us…and so we come back around to the confusion of the transfiguration…and so maybe, just maybe its okay if we give up on trying to explain it…to understand it…and simply accept that it happened. (pause)
But if we’re gonna do that, then we have to ask the question of just where do we go from here…and perhaps the best answer to that question is to follow the direction that God gave us…This is my son…listen to him. (pause) And what does Jesus say? (pause) Don’t tell anyone about this until the Son of Man has risen from the dead. (pause)
Weird huh? These three guys have just seen something amazing…something that they can’t comprehend…that they can’t understand…you’d think that the first thing they would do would be to talk about it…to try and makes heads or tails of what they have just experienced…but they can’t (pause)
And they can’t…because God hasn’t really been revealed yet…yes it seems as if the divine nature was shining through the human…but we can’t comprehend it…its too much for us…we’re blinded by it just like I was blinded by the sun the other morning as I sat with my coffee cup…the divinity of the Son is blinding to our limited human understanding. (pause)
But if the story of the transfiguration teaches us anything today…its that God WILL…be seen by us. God WILL be revealed to humanity…and the truth of Jesus’ identity…of Jesus’ divinity will also be revealed…but not by sight…because its too much for us.
Peter James and John learned the truth…once the fog rolled in and their sight was cut off…because we don’t see the identity of Jesus…we don’t see God in plain site…its too much for us. (pause) But God will be revealed through Jesus…just not quite yet. (pause)
Today is the last Sunday of Epiphany…three days from now is Ash Wednesday…the beginning of Lent…as we embrace the darkness and begin the dark journey towards the cross…and that is where we find Jesus…that is where we discover God.
Jesus told the 3 disciples not to talk about this experience until he had been raised from the dead…because the truth of God…this God who WILL be seen…is revealed in the darkness that fell as Jesus was hanging on that cross…the darkness that fell as he died. (pause)
This God…our God…this God who WILL be seen is not revealed in plain site…our God is revealed when he shows us that there is no length that he will not go to for us…even to the point of death…and even beyond it. (pause)
So today remember this…we have a God who chose to set aside all traces of divinity and take on flesh as one of us…and there were moments when that divine nature came blasting through in ways that blind us…that go far beyond our ability to understand. So don’t look for the divine to be revealed in plain site…rather, we find the divine…we find the presence of our God in the midst of the darkness…in the midst of pain…in the midst of suffering…and in the midst of death…because our God chooses to enter into it to in order to reveal himself to us.
And we need only to look back at our story today to confirm this…because in the midst of all that happened on the mountain…every confusing bit of it…every blinding instant…Jesus was with them…and when it was over…and they were trying to make heads or tails of what just happened…Jesus was still them…and when they journeyed towards the cross…Jesus was with them…and then after he died, he rose again…and he did this to show them that in the midst of everything, even death and whatever lies beyond it…that Jesus…that God…is with them…and we hear it today so that we know the same truth…that God…is with us. Amen.

Be Risen 3-2-14

Today’s sermon comes from Matthew 17:1-9, which is the story of Jesus’ Transfiguration on the mountain. In the sermon I tackle the notion that Jesus invites us into many different things, and usually they end up scary…but through all of the scary situations, Jesus is always with us and lifts us up, telling us not to be afraid.

You can listen to the sermon her.http://soundcloud.com/revdalen/be-risen-3-2-14

You can also read along with the text of the sermon here. As usual, disregard the indications to pause and the odd punctuations. There are also a few spots where I went off script, but don’t worry, I come back in pretty quick.

Grace and peace to you from God our Father…and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ…Amen.
Being a farm kid, I’ve seen countless examples of some random item serving more than one purpose. Whenever something would break, my dad would rig up something to fix it…One example that really comes to mind was a time when the handle on our lawn mower broke. Dad took one look at it, walked into the shed, found a short length of iron pipe…and the next thing I knew…he had somehow fashioned that old water pipe into a connection for the handle of the lawn mower…and rather than have to go to the store and buy a new one, he pointed me back towards the lawn and said…Go on…finish up.
Have you ever seen something like that? Some random things that ends up serving more than one purpose…some random thing that ends up filling a role that you never expected or realized? (pause)
I can think of another one too…one that’s a little more current than a broken lawn mower 20 years ago…and its right across the parking lot. In the kitchen over in the parsonage, the refrigerator serves 2 important functions. The first is obvious…to keep food cold…but the second one is a little different. You see, in my house, the fridge is a communication center…It is littered with all kinds of important information. This information includes class information for the two kids, various photographs, weekly spelling lists, hand drawn masterpieces, and most recently…a wedding invitation for one of my colleagues who was just married yesterday.
There’s something special about being invited…isn’t there? It implies that the other person desires your company…they want you to be with them…to accompany them in some special experience…an experience that is so special, it needs to be shared.
There is an invitation in our Gospel for today. Jesus has invited Peter, James, and John to accompany him up the mountain. That raises the question…Did Jesus know what was about to happen? Perhaps…most likely even, but I’m guessing that the disciples were very likely unaware of what they were about to experience as they accepted the invitation and followed Jesus up the mountain that day.
Now this is a common theme within Matthew’s Gospel…particularly in terms of these three disciples. Jesus invites, they follow. For example, think back to the initial call of these three guys. Simple fishermen, just hanging out on the shores of the sea, when along comes Jesus who simply asks them “Follow me.” A simple invitation, and these three men along with Peter’s brother Andrew, accept the invitation. Do you think they really knew what they were getting into that day? (pause)
If we fast forward through Matthew, we see another situation. In this case, the disciples are in the boat in the middle of the night rowing across the sea…and we know its kind of stormy. In the midst of everything, Jesus comes towards them…walking across the water. Now, Peter…ever the excited or downright impulsive one…asks if he can come to Jesus…and Jesus, once again, extends an invitation. “Come.”
Now Peter thinks this is going to be amazing. He steps out of the boat…He’s doing it…he’s walking on the water…but all of the sudden, the truth of his situation dawns on him…fear creeps in along with doubt…the reality is terrifying and he starts to sink…but Jesus is there to lift him up again. Jesus is there.
Later on, towards the end of Matthew’s Gospel…Jesus offers an invitation to the same three disciples once again. Peter…James…John…come with me into the garden…Pray with me this night. They accept…not thinking that there will be any trouble…not realizing that Jesus has spoken of this time…that his passion is about to begin…and they follow along, so unaware of anything unexpected happening that they all three konk out…but once again…reality becomes much scarier than they had anticipated…and in the face of opposition, they run away from Jesus, who has been there with them the whole time.
Over and over again, we see examples of Jesus offering an invitation. Each and every time, the disciples accept the invitation. Now, perhaps they have expectations of what may happen each time Jesus invites them…maybe each time Peter pulls out the daily disciple itinerary and checks to see what God’s got up his sleeve…Let’s see Thursday evening…accompany Jesus to the garden for a time of prayer…encounter Judas and whole crowd of soldiers…Jesus arrested and soon to be killed…check…sounds good Jesus, let’s go.
Or perhaps not. Maybe these guys are just content to go along for the ride with Jesus. But regardless of what they may or may not expect…the reality is never what they expected. It’s a whole lot scarier.
We see this again in our lesson for today. The three men follow Jesus up the mountain and something extraordinary happens. Jesus is transfigured. Now, exactly what that means, we don’t really know, but it would seem that his divine nature is shining through the human nature. At this moment, both aspects of Jesus are visually present.
At first, the men seem to reveal in this vision. Peter, again the impulsive one, cannot hold his excitement and blurts out. “Jesus, this is wonderful…can we stay with you.” (pause) But then God…shows…up.
Peter, James, and John…good Jewish men that they were…finally recognized the significance. God is here…they are in the presence of the great I Am…like Moses did before them, they fell on their faces on the ground…terrified to the point of death.
When God shows up, it’s a scary deal. And maybe for these three guys on this day its even scarier than normal…because in this moment, having seen the divine nature of Jesus…in realizing the truth about just who he is…maybe they’re realizing that the guy they’ve been following isn’t just the son of God…but this…is…God…this is the one that Moses cowered in fear from…this is the one that drives them to ground in terror…and they’ve been casually walking around with him…joking with him…interacting with him.
And that’s a scary notion…to realize that God…the unfathomable God…this great being who is so far beyond our understanding or even capability to understand has become human…that the God who could in any moment snap his fingers and end our existence if he chose to was right here with you…as one of you…that’s a scary realization when you realize that the maker of the entire universe and everything in it is standing right next to you. (pause)
Have you ever had an experience like this? As I look around the room, I would expect some of you to say yes. Think about it…think about the time when you realized that God truly became a man…not some myth…not a burning bush…not just a voice booming out of the clouds…but that God became a person…and walked around…and not only that, but that this person…this Jesus…this tangible form of God…has invited you into something. (pause)
Now Jesus invites us into a lot of things…first of all, he’s inviting us into relationship…relationship with him…and through him, remembering that we are in relationship with God.  But the invitation of Jesus isn’t limited to that…sometimes…probably more often than we realize…Jesus invites us into some sort of specific experience…and while we might think we know what to expect…just like Peter, James, and John, we quickly discover that God’s got much bigger expectations than we do…and it often gets scary.
Now, for some of you sitting out there today…I know that you are facing some scary situations…that God is inviting you into a situation and you don’t know quite what will happen when He shows up…for some it might be the potential for a job change and the unknowns that come along with it…for others, its to walk the unknown road that follows a tough diagnosis when the ending sounds pretty bleak…and for others of you, most likely all of you…God is inviting you into something that might turn out pretty scary at times…because we all go through that.
And we don’t just go through it as individuals…but the church is going through it too…individual congregations go through it and the entire church is going through it. God is inviting the church as a whole, and our church of Underwood Lutheran to join him in becoming something new in our present reality…the church has been walking this road for a long time now…and we are here on the road as well.
Now I won’t stand up before you today pretending to know what God’s really got planned…that would incredibly arrogant for me say, but I do believe that God is leading us into becoming something new…the church is going to look different in the future…because the ways of spreading information are changing dramatically every day…but the message remains the same…
The church is the place where the gospel is proclaimed, the sacraments are shared, and absolution is offered…that’s the church…but I think we all know that old environment in which those three things were done is changing…and the audience for the gospel is changing…and the method of reaching the audience is changing…the church, contrary to popular belief…isn’t dying…like Jesus being transfigured on the mountain, its simply becoming something new.
But that’s scary to think about isn’t it?  Its scary to realize that God is inviting us to become something new…especially because we really don’t know what that looks like…we only know that we are here now…and that we have a God who is too amazing to hold onto…and that we have a God who will not be confined within these four walls…and that we have a God who is already out there…inviting us to come along on the journey.
It is my hope that we each accepted that invitation…and if you are anything like me…if your experience is anything like mine…Jesus…God… is scaring your socks off. Sometimes he leads us into places that we don’t want to go…we may think that we do, but once we are there…once we are in the midst and God shows up…the realty is terrifying for us.
But that being said…there’s one more part of our gospel story. Peter, James, and John are lying on the ground…terrified that they are about to die…but Jesus is with them. Throughout every terrifying experience that they have had…Jesus is with them…God…is with them. Perhaps this is why Matthew calls Jesus Emmanuel…God with us…because in each and every situation…terrifying though it may be…He is there…Jesus will touch you on the shoulder and tell you…Rise Up…and Do Not Fear.
And you know what…that word Rise up…Get Up…Be Resurrected…its not something that we do ourselves…Jesus lifted those three men up when he touch them…he gave them the courage to be raised from their fear…just as he himself was raised from the dead…it’s the same word…and we share it…in the midst of our fear, both the fears that we realize right now and the fear that will show up as we walk the road that God invites us on…God tells us to BE RAISED UP…resurrect as something new…We are not alone…scary though it may be to walk the unknown road into the unknown future, we have a God who has already been here…and who is still here…who lifts us up…So do not fear…Amen