Friday, February 21, 2020

The Feast of the Transfiguration Year A - Matthew 17:1-9

Matthew 17:1-9
It’s only been six days since Jesus rebuked Peter, “Get behind me, Satan!” for not understanding that picking up the cross was the purpose of Jesus’ life and the only way for the disciples to follow. Now blinded by the light Peter wants to stay put and dwell permanently on the mountaintop. It’s the voice, “LISTEN TO HIM” that shuts Peter up and overcome by fear he and his companions faint dead away. It takes the touch and voice of Jesus, “get up and do not be afraid” to wake them and then sworn to secrecy they descend to the less frightening and more familiar places on the plain. It’s a strange story but then that’s the nature of a theophany. The recognizable transfigured into the mysterious as the Jesus who ate and drank with disciples in the valley glows like a nuclear reactor on the mountain top while talking to the long gone law giver and end time prophet about God knows what. So we who are comfortable with “What a friend we have in Jesus” also sing “Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise” and hold the two in tension. The familiar and friendly Jesus is the One who in the beginning was the Word and in the end will be judge and jury of all. It may be that in our end, when we come face to face with that terrifying reality, we will faint dead away, but then I’m trusting that the Lord Jesus will touch us and “Get up and do not be afraid” will be the only Word we hear.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

The Feast of Transfiguration Year A - 2 Peter 1:16-21

2 Peter 1:16-21
It is a testimony to the conviction of the first disciples that anyone believed what surely must have seemed less a cleverly devised myth and more just outright nonsense. But people did believe the eyewitness testimony of these Galilean fishermen and then with equal passion proclaimed the crucified and resurrected Jewish peasant preacher Jesus, who they had never seen, to be the Beloved of God and Savior of the world. Whenever we are tempted to despair of the statistical decline of the church we would do well to pay attention to the lamp of their prophetic message shining in the darkness of our time; not because we fear some future final judgment, but because we are convinced that the same word that captured the imagination of first century people is equally relevant in our time. Perhaps the church grew complacent for a time, satisfied with the status quo, but the prophetic word is always present and just waiting for those who believe to give it voice. So let us pray that the day will dawn and the morning star will rise in our hearts as it did theirs, and moved by the Holy Spirit we will make know the power and coming of our Lord Jesus.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

The Feast of Transfiguration Year A - Psalm 2

Psalm 2
Let me start by kissing the Lord’s feet and acknowledge that God is God and I am not, so if God wants to speak with wrath and fury to break the nations and smash the people to pieces that is God’s prerogative. But I have some trouble with this text where God laughs at and then with terrifying fury uses his servant to destroy kings who exalt themselves. That’s because people without power perish right along with princes and the king God set on Zion’s hill broke a long list of nations with an iron rod and spared no one, not even women and children. And secondly it would appear the trembling foot kissers taking happy refuge in the Lord are only doing so to avoid being destroyed themselves, for God’s wrath is quickly kindled if proper respect is not shown. So what do we do with the second psalm? We can say there is truth in these words and there are good reasons to destroy rulers of the earth who exalt themselves, Adolf Hitler being a prime example. But when it comes to the nature of God this is not the truest word. The truest word about God’s nature is that instead of kissing the Lord’s feet we nailed them to wood and “Father forgive them” was clearly not a second psalm response.

Monday, February 17, 2020

The Feast of Transfiguration Year C - Exodus 24:12-18

In some ways the ancient stories sound odd to modern ears. The glory of the Lord in thick clouds and a devouring fire on the top of the mountain sounds a lot like a Texas size storm and even though the closest strikes might warrant an “Oh my God!” I understand lightning in scientific terms. The ancients saw God’s hand at work in the timing of what we know as naturally occurring phenomenon. But then we “moderns” often do the same thing by giving extra-ordinary meaning to everyday events as when instead of turning left we turn right and a chance encounter bears blessings. So I guess I’m okay with the children of Israel camped before the mountain giving glory to the Lord for what may well have been Mt. Sinai having a little volcanic hiccup and spewing some smoke. It’s Moses entering the cloud of mountain top devouring fire that defies explanation. He was a reluctant leader in the very beginning and even though barefoot he carried on a conversation with a burning bush he was always looking for a way out. Of course the Lord provided that through signs and wonders, not the least of which was the parting of the sea, but that’s not what Moses had in mind. In some ways God has worn down his reluctant leader so that when summoned to come up to the mountain and camp Moses obeys and does not complain. Maybe a faith that follows without complaining or seeking a way out has less to do with spiritual discipline and more to do with God wearing us down so that like Moses the way out is really the only way in.

Friday, January 31, 2020

Epiphany 4 A - Matthew 5:1-12

Matthew 5:1-12
Those of us who have been forever contaminated by close contact to Monty Python’s movie “Life of Brian” are no longer able to listen to or read these verses without thinking of the line “blessed are the cheese makers.” I’ll risk an explanation for those of you who are still pure of heart as long as you agree to never ever watch the movie. (Except for the clip I’ve posted on today’s blog, of course)  In the movie those who are on the edge of the large crowd are having trouble hearing Jesus so one of them asks, “What was that?” The response is, “I think it was blessed are the cheese makers” which in turn prompts the response, “What’s so special about the cheese makers?” I don’t think many outside the church are offended by Life of Brian and probably laugh during it unless they find British humor too British. But I bet a good number of Christians think a movie that makes fun of the sacred story nothing short of blasphemy. So is it? I don’t think so and here’s the point. Satire cannot exist in a vacuum. The reason Monty Python is able to play games with these powerful words of Jesus is because those who follow Jesus have failed to live them. The movie is not a satire of Jesus but of us. To quote another British comedic saying, “It’s a fair cop.”