Sermons

May 12,2019

Posted by on May 16, 2019 in Sermons | 0 comments

Easter 4 May 12, 2019   Ps 145, 2 John 1-5,12-13; John 19:25-27, John 2:1-12 ************************************************************ The mother of Jesus makes only two appearances in John’s gospel…We only get to hear her speak in our last reading today. But even these brief moments are enough to let us know… how powerfully-strong-a-place she has in the heart of her son. And… What a challenge it must have been – bringing up Jesus – truly God and truly human. I can’t imagine all that Mary must have gone through. Though I do remember how, quite often, over in Luke’s gospel, she pauses and ponders… Ponders the angel’s announcement of her coming pregnancy by the Holy Spirit. Ponders the testimony of shepherds, telling of angels singing to them of his birth. Ponders the words the prophets Anna and Simeon speak to her when she and Joseph present baby Jesus in the temple. Ponders again the words her son speaks to her as a twelve-year-old– when he’s finally found on the third day apart from his family – discussing bible interpretation with bible scholars in the temple while his parents have been searching frantically for him…. Mary has been through quite a lot even before Jesus becomes a teenager… So it’s a blessing here, to see, in our last reading today – Jesus doing a Mother’s Day thing – making something like 150 gallons of wine from water, when friends of his mother run out of wine at a wedding party. (To run out of wine was a disgrace at a Jewish wedding – which typically included the whole village – so everyone would be talking about this running out of wine forever and a day.) So it’s a blessing Jesus is there to help. But – at first glance Jesus sounds a bit less-divine, a bit-more-human today – maybe over-tired or having a bad-hair day – as he replies to his mother’s mentioning of the dilemma of no wine – saying “so what’s that got to do with you or me? My time hasn’t come.” Which sounds like a “no” to me… But what do I know? As his mother, who knows much better than me how to interpret Jesus – tells the steward of the wedding party – “Do whatever he says.” Which the steward does – and good wine flows abundantly… The party is blessed. And we remember this story at weddings ever since. And I think the story works for Mother’s Day also… As we think about the roles of biblical mothers, our mothers, and all who have been as mothers for us… Remembering… Neither I nor anyone I know has ever been able to turn water into wine – even if it’s Mother’s day and mom’s telling us the wedding party’s running on empty. Sorry mom, that’s way above my pay grade. But even I have learned to honor my mother…. Learned, as I’m sure most of us have – to honor all the women of faith who have helped shape our lives in more ways than we can ever adequately say “thank you” for… and… Even I have learned to honor the biblical mothers of old…Starting with Eve, first mother of the bible… Sarah, mother of Isaac, child of promise… Hagar, mother of Ishmael, child of another promise…...

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May 5, 2019

Posted by on May 9, 2019 in Sermons | 0 comments

Easter 3 May 5, 2019 (Psalm 30, Revelation 5:11-14, Acts 9:1-6) John 21 ************************************************************ I still love this last chapter of John’s gospel… Even though over the years I’ve had to gradually, grudgingly, admit… it’s probably really not entirely about fishing. Even so, it’s one of greatest-fishing-stories of all time… A story most fisher-folk can relate to. A story of fishing a long time without catching fish… Only to start catching fish like crazy… when we fish differently… And do what Jesus says… Fish-less fishing doesn’t have to happen at night… I’ve fished all day without catching more times than I like to remember. But night fishing is normal in warm climates. Fish are harder to find in the heat of the day. And night fishing goes best with St John’s theology – with it’s frequent contrasts of dark and light, night and day… and… Life imitates the gospel – as so often we see these same kinds of night- and-day contrasts in our every day life with Jesus… As he teaches us to recognize, usually gradually, occasionally suddenly… the presence of God… Seeing – and believing – (with or without seeing) – the presence of God – has usually come only gradually for me, a slow learner…(better than not learning at all, I tell myself)… As I recall how, as a younger man I used to go where I wanted and do what I wanted to do. Fishing almost every day five days a week after work, and all weekend except for church Sunday mornings. My fishing habits only changed when I was called into ministry and there was no longer time to fish more than once a week…But even then, still… As a beginning preacher I tended to go pretty much wherever I wanted to go with any sermon touching on anything to do with fish (like today’s gospel story). I used to fasten my own metaphoric wader-belt-and-suspenders, as I vicariously revisited my old fishing haunts… Retelling many a fishing story set in the rivers and lakes of Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine and the Adirondacks (later including the salt water estuaries and beaches here on the Cape). Now as a little bit older pastor I consider myself fortunate-fishing-wise if I get to choose when and where to fish even half a day a week in season – (once in awhile maybe a whole day) – when my wife and daughter say yes, you can buckle your waders and go fishing. Other times they buckle me now into the seat belt of the car and tell me where to drive… (If I’m exaggerating a little… fishermen, by tradition, on occasion stretch a fish… or a fish story… just a little… to make a theological point…) Did I mention – I’ve been gradually learning to hear this story as not entirely about fishing? On the other hand, I’m certainly not about to join the chorus of those who claim Peter and other disciples are sinning by going fishing. On the far-end of the anti-fishing theological spectrum, a few name-brand bible scholars (whose names I won’t mention) have actually called Peter and the other fishermen apostate – a church word meaning “denier of the faith.” I’m with Dorothy Day, co-founder of the Catholic Worker, who said the fishermen were the...

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April 28, 2019

Posted by on May 2, 2019 in Sermons | 0 comments

Easter 2   April 28, 2019 (Ps 150, Revelation 1:4-8, Acts 5:27-32) John 20:19-31 Peace be with you **************************************************************** Later on that first day of resurrection… followers of Jesus are gathered together behind locked doors…. They’ve heard the amazing story told by Mary Magdalene, the first eyewitness… Heard about the stone, rolled away – the tomb, empty – the grave clothes, empty and rolled up… Heard about angels in white, asking Mary “why are you weeping?”  Heard about the man who Mary first thinks must be the gardener – who, like the angels, asks, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?”… They’ve heard Mary tell how she recognized him, finally – alive! – as he called her name, and said, ‘go, tell the others – I’m ascending to my Father and your Father, my God and your God’… The disciples have all heard the story. And they’re still afraid… The powers-that-be of church and state have laid Jesus in the tomb… The disciples figure they may be next… But now Jesus passes through their locked doors, and greets them –  “Peace be with you.” Giving the same ordinary-greeting everyone in those days gave and received…every day… Except now this everyday greeting – Peace be with you – is the voice of new life, risen from the dead… As Jesus shows disciples the marks of the nails imprinted in his hands – the mark of the spear that pierced his side… Still carrying the death of the world in his body of resurrection life.*** In the beginning was the Word,  and the Word was with God, and the word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life– and the life was the light of all people. …And the Word became flesh and lived among us – and we have seen his glory – the glory as of a Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth…. These verses from the beginning of John’s gospel remind us – Jesus coming into the world is cosmic – effecting everyone – everything – everywhere. And the new creation in Christ is every bit as awesome – beautiful – and hard to get our heads around… as the first creation that sets everything in motion… John’s gospel, from the beginning, tells us the mystery of God-in-human-flesh- living-among-us – changes everything. Now all the world’s sorrow and joy, pain and blessing, are all bound together in one body. Love’s body. Christ’s body. *** And Jesus says “Peace be with you” now a second time. Adding “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” I wonder how would that sound to his first followers? Imagine– Jesus telling us he’s sending us – as he’s been sent by God the Father – showing us, as he speaks – the fresh scars of the wounds on his hands and side. But – he breathes the breath of resurrection-life – like God, breathing first-life, first-breath, into Adam, in the garden, in the beginning… (And Jesus is the Gardener… Mary wasn’t wrong last week.) Jesus says“Receive the Holy Spirit.” The same word in Hebrew (ruah) and in Greek (pneuma) means...

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April 21, 2019

Posted by on Apr 25, 2019 in Sermons | 0 comments

Easter Sunday   April 21, 2019   Psalm 116, Isaiah 25:6-9, 2 Corinthians 5:13-19, John 20:1-18        The new creation ***************************************************************** Christ has risen – Alleluia! Christ – risen from the dead – marks the beginning of a new creation – in which everything is made new. Yet – Probably we’ve noticed… so often most of the world doesn’t seem to have received the message. Life on earth still features so much of the same-old-same-old… same-as-it-ever-was patterns of death, denial and dysfunction… It’s not just the obvious dog-eat-dog, nation against nation, neighbor against neighbor symptoms. It’s also even when we’re conscientiously trying to do the right thing – but still see death-sin-evil-wickedness often seeming to have the upper hand. Life on earth continuing as-it-always-was – except speeding faster… How then, are we to hear – this strange report of Jesus risen from the dead? *** Sometimes it helps to revisit and review… from more than one angle of vision… Mary Magdalene comes to the tomb while it’s still dark… Only to find the stone that sealed the tomb rolled away… She runs to find two other disciples – probably wondering – could this empty tomb be the work of grave robbers – who might still be lurking in the tomb? Or could this be the Roman empire – disappearing the body of Jesus to try to make it harder for his followers to make him into a martyr who inspires rebellion? Or – could this possibly be something else… altogether…  too mysterious…for words? Mary runs – gets Simon Peter and the other disciple – who run together to the tomb. One at a time they enter, look into the empty tomb – and now are persuaded by the linen wrappings removed – by the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, now carefully rolled up – persuaded this is not the work of grave robbers or the empire. The “other disciple” (who many assume is John the gospel writer) now believes…. But disciples don’t yet understand the scriptures like the passage we’ve read from Isaiah – that prophesies God overcoming the power of death. We don’t know exactly what they believed or were thinking… We just know now the two male disciples head home for breakfast… Leaving only Mary Magdalene, alone… at the tomb, weeping… A pair of angels appears now, sitting in the tomb – striking up a conversation almost casually as if we do this everyday– asking Woman, why are you weeping? She tells them she’s looking for the body of Jesus… Either not noticing who they are – or not impressed by these angel visitors… So intently looking only for the body of Jesus… Even when she now sees Jesus standing close by – hears him echo the angel’s question – Woman, why are you weeping? adding Whom are you looking for? – still, not knowing it is Jesus – still thinking he’s the gardener – telling him, Sir, if you know where his body is let me know! I will take him away… It’s only as she hears him call her name – Mary!– that she recognizes Jesus. Alive! And replies and rushes to him…and… Jesus sends her now to tell the other disciples – he is risen – he will be ascending to God the Father… And...

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April 14, 2019

Posted by on Apr 25, 2019 in Sermons | 0 comments

Palm-Passion Sunday  April 14, 2019   Psalm 118, Luke 19:29-40, 22:14-34,39-23:49 *********************************************************** I’ve often found joy in Lent… any time I manage to spend even a little more time in prayer and other spiritual practices… But I need to confess… Sometimes even in holy week…even in Jesus’ last week with disciples in the flesh… I’ve been caught up in hurrying and busyness… as if Holy Week – even Holy Week – is a list of things to do and check off… on the way to Easter… Now to be sure – without Easter and resurrection from the dead – there’s nothing good about Good Friday. Nothing good about Christ’s cross. But because Jesus has risen from the dead – Holy Week – starting with Palm-Passion Sunday today – including Maundy Thursday, Good Friday,  Saturday Easter vigil – Holy Week is virtually as important as Easter – at least for those who are believers… Because resurrection life, yes, is our destination. But unless we can identify with Jesus in his sorrows, suffering, rejection, and death… it’s almost impossible to know and recognize Jesus… risen from the dead…(and…) I’m pretty sure I understand the importance of Holy Week theoretically. But it’s hard to remember all the theory…when life’s feeling like systems overload. So I can identify with the first disciples…Who seem to be getting very anxious, sensing something terrible is about to happen. Which has them now acting rather clueless. Arguing with each other – at-of-all-places, the Last Supper – talk about bad table manners! Arguing about which of them should be considered the greatest. Then, as Jesus is arrested, asking him ‘should we strike with the sword?’Not waiting for his answer – cutting off the ear of a poor slave of the high priest – before Jesus can complete his sentence saying “No more of that!” Then promising solemnly to follow Jesus all the way to prison and death… Not hearing well, as Jesus replies – “tonight you will deny you even know me three times before the cock crows morning…” In order to not be too harsh on these first disciples… remember – life has been a blur for them lately…As they’ve followed Jesus as he parades into Jerusalem on a donkey’s colt (– the same way kings paraded to their inaugurations in Israel of old). Crowds are shouting “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord…” Covering the streets with cloaks… (other gospels mention palm branches…) And remember – Jerusalem is headquarters for the religious establishment who have been out to get Jesus for a long time now.  We’ve heard Jesus tell disciples three times that he must go up to Jerusalem, where he’ll be rejected, suffer, and be killed… before rising from the dead… So far none of his disciples  seem to have heard or believed Jesus on this one. And at first, everything seems to be going really well… As crowds gather early every morning, listening attentively to his every word… as Jesus teaches in the temple courtyards…And the authorities are afraid to arrest Jesus in public, fearing the crowds… Till Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples, betrays Jesus… Who then is arrested in the dark of night – kept prisoner first at the house of the high priest – then taken early...

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April 7, 2019

Posted by on Apr 25, 2019 in Sermons | 0 comments

Lent 5  April 7, 2019   Psalm 126, Isaiah 43:16-21, John 12:1-8, Philippians 3:4b-14       We press on *********************************************************** Paul has traded in all his prestigious credentials, honors, and accomplishments… for a share in the lowliness, suffering and death of Jesus. Forgetting what lies behind, the apostle says –  I press on…for the prize of the resurrection life in Jesus Christ… The guy who once took pride in persecuting the Christian movement has met Jesus – and been transformed… Now even his knowledge of scripture – his zeal for tradition – his pride in his tribal heritage in Israel – his scrupulous living according to the religious law (interpreted by the sect most passionate for keeping all the letter of all the law, the Pharisees, of whom he’s been a proud member) – all this, he now counts as rubbish in the words of our translation – literally as poop in the original Greek words of the New Testament… What’s going on? All he once considered ultimate’s now been left behind… Now he’s pressing on for the goal of the heavenly calling… and… Everything has become new now, the old has passed away, as the apostle wrote to us last week in 2nd Corinthians (5). Now if anyone’s in Christ there is a new creation. Yet as we read on in Philippians and all his letters, it’s also clear… Paul never forgets all the scripture he’s patiently studied… His letters are filled with quotes and allusions from Israel’s scriptures. Scriptures now fulfilled in Christ, he believes, in ways he hadn’t previously imagined…. but – His study of scripture’s never wasted… as now it’s applied in serving Christ. *** I’m no St Paul… But I can identify a little with the changes he’s been going through… I too am no longer the person I once was… All I once knew as an activist, lobbyist, organizer and party-hearty guy’s all in the past. Now like Paul, I press on and try to not look back… Still… some of what I’ve learned in the past is probably still useful. Some of my past perhaps equips me to serve Jesus better…As I press on… to become all Christ calls me to become… Knowing – I’m nowhere near all the way there yet… But I press on to the prize of the fullness of life in God’s kingdom of grace. No longer who I was… because Christ has made me his own… *** As we celebrate and commemorate our church history this year – in Cataumet 250 years as a local church, 211 as a Methodist church – in Bourne 225 years as a Methodist church – this is a good time to consider God’s peculiar ways of holding our history and our future in creative tension…As… God speaks a word through Isaiah saying:  Don’t remember the things of old – I’m about to do a new thing… I’m making a way in the wilderness, making rivers flow in the desert… and… God doing a new thing – paradoxically – is not a new thing. On one hand, what God’s doing is always truly new every morning… On the other hand, God’s been doing a new thing forever… Making new from the first verses of Genesis through the last verses of Revelation… Sometimes God creates...

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March 31, 2019

Posted by on Apr 2, 2019 in Sermons | 0 comments

Lent 4 March 31, 2019   Psalm 32, 2nd Corinthians 5:14-20, Luke 15:1-10, 11-32 Come home *************************************************************** Religious leaders are complaining (not for the first time) about Jesus welcoming sinners and eating with them. In response Jesus tells a four-part lost-and-found parable.  (I’ve heard the story in the past as a string of three-related parables. But this time I’m noticing Luke calls it all one parable.) And as a song sounds different depending on how fast or slow and what key and rhythm we sing it… (When the band’s in three-four time our feet want to dance a waltz… When the band’s playing with a boogie beat we dance differently…) So also with interpretation of scripture – whichever parts of the word of God get extra accents in our interpretation – wherever we hear the divine cymbals clang and trumpet calls…always influences profoundly our hearing of the word… Which I mention because… Many of us have heard this parable of the so-called prodigal son many times. (Prodigal isn’t a word the gospel writer uses – though it probably works – prodigal  means wasteful or extravagant.) We may even know this story so well we perhaps glaze over just a little, hearing it yet again…. But not everyone has heard the story. Last week I found an art blog post where one teacher said he taught college students art interpretation twenty years, always featuring Rembrandt’s painting titled “the prodigal son.” He’d always ask his students “do you recognize this story of the prodigal son? Do you know where it comes from?’ And he said no more than 20 students in 20 years knew the story, or knew it’s from the bible. In that famous Rembrandt picture, the younger son is seen kneeling at the feet of his father, whose hands embrace the son… Those who study the painting notice…Rembrandt paints one hand of the father as soft and vulnerable, like a woman’s hand… The other hand is strong and masculine, symbolizing different sides of the father-figure… To the right in the picture, standing upright, on slightly higher ground, stands the older son, looking on…. Art scholars point out many details of the picture I hadn’t noticed – like  the younger son’s shoes, falling apart, worn out, from traveling to and from a distant land… There’s much we can learn from artists who have spent much time considering a biblical theme from many angles of vision… As we consider again the parable of a prodigal family… In part one of the parable a shepherd has 100 sheep and loses one. He leaves the 99, goes looking for the one that’s lost. When he finds the lost sheep he brings it home on his shoulders, and calls friends and neighbors to join in rejoicing. And Jesus says “there’s joy in heaven over one sinner who repents – more than over 99 righteous persons who don’t need repentance.” Then in part two of our parable, a woman has ten coins and loses one. She turns on all the lights and sweeps till she finds that coin. Then she calls her friends and neighbors to join her in rejoicing… And again Jesus says “there’s joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Which sounds more than a little strange,...

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March 24, 2019

Posted by on Mar 26, 2019 in Sermons | 0 comments

Lent 3 March 24, 2019  Psalm 63, Isaiah 55, Luke 13:6-19   **************************************************************** We’re in the season of Lent, a time, according to ancient tradition, for repentance. Repentance, meaning literally turning. Turning to God – turning from whatever distracts us from the love of God… and loving our neighbor as our self… And lent means literally Spring. The word lent comes from an old English word lencten, meaning lengthen – which was also an old English word for Spring, as in lengthening days that come with Spring. Spring has sprung. Thanks be to God. Happy Spring… But… as anyone who’s lived in New England any length of time knows – Spring is unpredictable. One minute it can be sunny and warm – half an hour later, a snow squall. Sunny again – then rain or hail… New England weather is notoriously ever-changing, especially in this season we call Spring… Yet, in spite of all the un-predictability of our seasonal weather… Most of us look forward to Spring – as among other things, a time when baseball starts up again. Song birds are back in big numbers, nesting in trees, singing their songs.. Fishing begins… .and it’s time for preparing and planting gardens. Our garden seeds just arrived this past week… Linda and Tom already have flowers blooming. Near the end of Lent Jesus prays in the garden of Gethsemane… Then on the third day, Easter begins… With Mary Magdalene searching for the body of Jesus in the garden, at the tomb in which he has been buried… Only to meet him… speaking with her in that same garden – Risen from the dead. So – perhaps it’s no coincidence – the prophet Isaiah and Jesus our Lord are both speaking in gardening language today… I picture them each out in a garden, in their gardening clothes…Shovels in hand. Isaiah comparing God’s word with the fertility of seed planted in soil, bearing fruit…Jesus comparing the turning over of garden soil… with turning to God… Using earthy language, as he talks about turning a load of manure under, mixing it well with all the dirt around this proverbial fig tree that hasn’t yet given a fig… for the owner of the vineyard in which its planted… It’s a parable – God is never explicitly named the owner of this vineyard – though vineyard and fig tree are familiar metaphors for Israel in scripture… Jesus doesn’t explicitly name himself as the gardener… The word repentance is never used….Though Jesus has been talking directly about repentance just before start of today’s gospel reading. So its not a stretch to guess… we are expected to be thinking repentance – as we hear this fig tree’s going to be cut down next year if it still hasn’t produced fruit for its owner. Which makes this a serious (even a life-or-death-kind-of-a-parable)… for this season of Spring…. Season of Lent… Meanwhile… *** Isaiah the prophet tells us up-front directly – we need to practice repentance – saying: Seek the Lord while he may be found – call upon him while he’s near – Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts – Let them return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on them – and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon....

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March 10, 2019

Posted by on Mar 12, 2019 in Sermons | 0 comments

Lent 1    March 10, 2019   Psalm 91, Deuteronomy 26;1-11, Romans 10:8-13, Luke 4:1-13            The Spirit Leads… *************************************************************** Lead us not into temptation – we pray every day… Yet here’s Jesus, who taught us that prayer – led into the wilderness… to be tempted… by the devil… Not led by anyone demonic. But – led by God’s Holy Spirit. What’s going on? Jesus is conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit. When He’s baptized, God’s Spirit descends on him like a dove. But now here’s Jesus, filled with the Spirit – Led by the Spirit – into the wilderness to be tested by the devil. What is going on? Well – Location is a clue. In the Wilderness is the Hebrew name for what we call the book of Numbers (fourth book of the bible)… And our gospel story makes more sense as we remember – the wilderness is where Israel put God to the test for forty years… on the way to the promised land…after God led them out from slavery in Egypt… The wilderness is where God also tests Israel… to see if any will be faithful… And almost a whole generation flunks the test… And just before today’s reading, Luke the gospel writer gives a long genealogy of the ancestry of Jesus, naming Jesus as (quote) “son (as it was thought) of Joseph, son of Heli, son of Matthat…” going back, back, backwards all the way to “son of Enos, son of Seth, son of Adam, son of God…” Helping us remember Adam, son of God, who famously flunks the whole family of humankind out of the garden… And making a thematic connection with the devil’s refrain – “if you are the Son of God…” And yes – God the Father sends God the Holy Spirit to lead Jesus, Son of God… into the wilderness… to begin revealing the mission of the Son of God… As Jesus submits to testing on behalf of all humankind…  So that we who fail so often in withstanding temptation and testing (the same Greek word means both) may look to Jesus with confidence – Jesus who has met every test – and overcome every temptation… to show us his way of salvation… as we go with him… through the wilderness… of this world… *** The testing Jesus undergoes reveals only a little of who Jesus is. But his testing can teach us a lot… about what kind of Savior… He is not… In his refusal to work miracles on demand – or accept power and glory from anyone except God the Father – Jesus lets us know – He’s not willing to play the role of Superman…Nor any comic book super-hero…He’s not a Savior who will cater to our every desire… But in his refusal of all the devil’s offers, Jesus lets us know – He is a Son who always does the will of God the Father… As he  goes to the word of God… in every test… In our recent United Methodist Special Session on The Way Forward for a divided church, Scripture was frequently interpreted in contrasting ways. I’ve been remembering a preaching commentary I read on vacation called The Great Texts: Grace…by Stephen Farris – who preaches to preachers – to look for grace in...

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Transfiguration Sunday – March 3, 2019

Posted by on Mar 7, 2019 in Sermons | 0 comments

Transfiguration Sunday    March 3, 2019   Psalm 99, Exodus 34:29-35, 2 Corinthians 3:12-18, Luke 9:28-36 ************************************************ This Wednesday we enter the season of Lent – a season intended for prayerful   un-hurried reflection… on the life and mission and passion of Jesus Christ. A season that’s all about deepening relationship with God. We need to be creative and persistent to fulfill these lenten goals – since the world has more ways than we can count… of distracting us from prayer…and being fully alive with Jesus… So just before Lent, by tradition, every year we follow Jesus as he takes us, with a few of his first disciples, up the mountain for prayer – where we see Jesus talking with Moses and Elijah, prophets of old – transfigured, now, in the bright blazing light of God… Peter, as so often… says more than he should… without really knowing what he’s saying… (Something I catch myself doing…also…) And as we glimpse disciples, weighed down with sleep, barely awake – perhaps we’re reminded of how they fall asleep again in the garden of Gethsemane… as Jesus is praying again… on the eve of Good Friday. Disciples struggle to stay awake even as God’s glory is revealed in front of their eyes… and they glimpse what Jesus brought them up the mountain to witness. Disciples have a hard time staying awake – even as Moses and Elijah appear, straight-out-of-heaven, talking with Jesus. (How these sleepy disciples recognize Moses and Elijah, we aren’t told. Artists portray Moses with tablets of the Law tucked under an arm, and Elijah with the fiery chariot that took him up into heaven parked in the background. We don’t know how, but somehow disciples do recognize these heavenly visitors.) But as Peter offers to build cabins for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah… Suddenly the cloud of God’s presence overshadows them all… and they are terrified… And they hear God’s voice speak from the cloud naming Jesus His beloved Chosen Son – saying – “Listen to him!” Now, finally, disciples… are silent… as they start the long trek back down the mountain…. *** This stunning encounter on the mountain must have had Peter, John and James recalling our reading from Exodus – where the face of Moses shines so brightly as he talks with God… that all the people are afraid to look at him… Disciples are feeling edgy, most likely, going up the mountain… because of that conversation with Jesus, eight days ago, when he told them he must suffer and die, then be raised from the dead… Quite possibly disciples are fearful also because they’ve been remembering how, when Moses first goes up Mt Sinai to receive the Law (Exodus 19) God tells everyone but Moses and Joshua to stay off the mountain – which is  covered with smoke and fire and cloud… and all the people are terrified… For sure, disciples remember when Moses came down the mountain and found Israel worshiping the golden calf, and Moses smashes the stone tablets with the Ten Commandments written on them in hot anger. It takes some difficult conversation, then, for God and Moses to persuade each other… not to give up on Israel… But, thankfully, they don’t give up… and… Moses goes back up the mountain for a second round of forty...

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