Satan and Jesus Liturgical Drama
2010-02-18 by David von Schlichten

This Sunday's sermon will be a drama in which I will play Satan and a thirteen year-old girl, Maddie, will play Jesus. I am hoping that the drama will help people to think anew about this famous wilderness encounter.

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator





Not About Tradition
2010-02-16 by Stephen Schuette

I have difficulty multi-tasking.  So before I get to Sunday’s texts, here’s a thought about Wednesday’s…

Did you hear about Nate Holland’s comments regarding his competitor’s choice of clothing for snowboarding at the Olympics?  The report said, “He is seeking to rid the world of what he considers the most heinous offense in the history of snowboarding. We're talking, of course, about tight pants.”  Baggy, he claims, fits the outsider’s image of snowboarding.  (Yahoo news)

That’s how quickly what is new and cutting edge becomes expected and traditional.  There are a lot of traditions around Lent, from ashes to fish to denials of various types.

But what if the real purpose of Lent is not to reinvest ourselves again in a “tradition” but to truly connect with a living God?  And what if that connection is not just a spiritual exercise but is actually about living justice in the world.

The Matthew texts for Wednesday seem to suggest that Jesus wasn’t much on following a tradition for the sake of the tradition.  It’s the 20th anniversary of Mandela’s release from prison.  Remember how transforming that event was?  Justice is never old.  It is always a break-thru.  A question the text raises for me is how God is calling me to experience this Lenten season in a way that is genuine and authentic to the call of Jesus, beyond traditional exercises.





Jack Vanderplate and Post-Sermon Reflection
2010-02-15 by David von Schlichten

Last week's guest blogger, Jack Vanderplate, posted his sermon here in the Tub, as well as accounts of transfiguring moments from his life. Scroll down to enjoy. I found luminating his highlighting of the juxtaposition of Jesus, Moses, and Elijah with Peter, John, and James.

My sermon is at the cafe. I talked about ways that God transfigures us, most notably through the mountaintop experience that is Sunday worship. I also spoke of transfiguring moments that my daughter and I had last week in Mississippi as we helped a Katrina victim rebuild part of his home. One parishioner told me that the sermon was one of my best. Thanks be to God.

Whooping it up before Ash Wednesday, I am

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator





Sermon -
2010-02-13 by Jack VanderPlate

GLORY IS STILL SHINING

2 Kings 2:1-12, Mark 9:2-9, 2 Corinthians 4:3-6

Transfiguration Sunday 

Three events this week—the New Orleans Saints Super Bowl victory, Valentine's Day and Transfiguration Sunday—all have a common denominator.  Do you know what that might be? The New Orleans Saints earned their bragging rights as Super Bowl champions.  There's glory there!  And today, Transfiguration Sunday, calls us to witness the glory of our Lord with his disciples on the mount.  Another kind of glory.  But just how does Valentine's Day fit here? The love themes of Valentine's Day and the love God shows us in Jesus do fit together.  Okay, but how does love fit with glory?  Pay attention!  If you don't see it by the end of this message, then I will have failed ingloriously!  Because the fit is obvious once you see it. When our Lord was transfigured on the mountaintop there was no thronging multitude of adoring fans.  Just his disciples.  The transfiguration of Jesus was a "loving glory" meant by God for the encouragement of his Son whose humiliation was just ahead.  "Loving glory" was also intended to encourage the disciples, who would soon enough forget about their love and loyalty to Jesus and worry instead about saving their own backsides. Two outstanding luminaries appeared there with Jesus – Moses and Elijah.  Luke's gospel tells us they were talking with the glorified Jesus about his "departure."  Moses knew about departures.  He led the children of Israel in their great exodus out of slavery in Egypt.  As the law-giver, he unveiled the shape of freedom for the new nation in doing Yahweh's will.  In the process, the slaves become a nation "whose God is the Lord." Elijah represents "the prophets," who called the nation to do justice, to love mercy and walk humbly with God.  Elijah comes before God's Messiah, so some Jews still reserve an empty seat at the Passover Seder for Elijah today.  Elijah also prophesies resurrection.  His successor, Elisha, watched as he was taken up into heaven gloriously, without ever having to taste death. But Jesus is the focal point of glory on the mountain.  God "transfigured" his Son.  Even Jesus' clothes dazzled brilliantly.  And now here's a contrast...  Beside Moses, Elijah and Jesus, stand the disciples Peter, James and John.  Their "glory" doesn't measure up.  They don't know what to say or how to act.  They're frightened.  They look like passive participants in this glorious experience – star-struck witnesses only. You and I stand with the disciples.  Each new epoch in God's unfolding salvation is represented:  Moses and the Exodus; Elijah and God's will for his new nation to live as lights in the world; Jesus, God's Son whose "departure" would give life to the world.  And the disciples—first witnesses sent to live in a whole new way.  By faith in Jesus they, and we, are like cities on hillsides.  Our lives are on display, and the display is the glory of God's kingdom. Peter, in his usual, boneheaded way just had to blurt something out.  He had no idea what to say, so he said, "Rabbi, it is good for us to be here.  Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.:  Mark says "Then...a voice came from the cloud: 'This is my Son, whom I love.  Listen to him!'" Fact of the matter is, the disciples had not been listening to Jesus.  St. Mark bookends the transfiguration with three occasions in which Jesus spoke clearly to his disciples about what was going to happen next.  In 8:31, 9:31 and 10:33 Jesus tells them that he is going to suffer, be rejected by the teachers of the law, be killed and then rise from death after three days.   The first time Jesus reveals their future, Peter pulls Jesus aside and basically tells him "We're not going to listen to any more of this nonsense."  After the transfiguration Jesus again speaks of what lies ahead, but the disciples don’t understand and are afraid to ask him what he means.  The third time James and John respond by asking to sit at his right and left hand in his glory.  Clearly, the disciples weren't listening.  They just don't get it.  Do we "get it?" God speaks from heaven: "This is my Son, whom I love.  Listen to him!"  What is there in us—questions, ideas about what God should care about, our own fears, our own agendas, our own ignorance—that allows us to hear all the words without listening?  There's a T-shirt that says, "My wife says I don't listen to her – at least that's what I think she said."  Peter could relate!  Me too! Our world nurtures so much brutality and ugliness, so much callousness and disregard for each other that we retreat from it.  We live in the "time between the times" and don't get to see many of the oohs and aahs of glory.  But that doesn't mean we should harden ourselves to make due with the ordinary.  The trans-figuration helps us to know that God sees glory where we do not:  on the road to the cross.  If we are willing to walk in the footprints of Jesus, to cultivate a spirit that is willing to give something of ourselves away so that another can benefit, then we will reflect a part of the savior's glory. I like to look for those stories of grace and redemption, because when you start adding them up, God's glory shines! 

The fact is that the Transfiguration was a spiritual epiphany, a moment that was as much about what was communicated by God spiritually and mentally as what was taken in through the disciples’ eyeballs. It’s less what they saw and more what they heard that counted. That’s why God’s tag-line announcement, “Listen to him!” is likewise a key to this entire incident. This event was principally for Jesus’ sake, as was noted above. But it happened in no small measure because the disciples would not, could not, and flat out were not listening to Jesus. Jesus spoke of death and suffering, they pondered visions of pomp and circumstance in some political kingdom to come. Jesus spoke of betrayal and sacrifice, and the disciples mentally measured up drapes for the cabinet room where they would serve as Jesus’ powerful advisors in the new order.It’s a curious question, as we prepare soon to enter the Lenten Season again, whether the Church even today is willing really to listen to Jesus or whether we, too, get so often distracted by a welter of other dreams and visions as to who the Church is, could be, should be, or one day may become. In a day when some powerful evangelical leaders and pastors on the national stage can (and do) threaten politicians along the lines of “If you don’t come through for us, we’ll move our voting bloc elsewhere so behave or else!”—in a day like this, it’s well to ponder anew how well we are able to LISTEN to our Lord.Do we LISTEN? Or are we, like Peter, more interested in bottling the razzle and dazzle of it all because we think it’s a better way to go?The fact is that the Transfiguration was a spiritual epiphany, a moment that was as much about what was communicated by God spiritually and mentally as what was taken in through the disciples’ eyeballs. It’s less what they saw and more what they heard that counted. That’s why God’s tag-line announcement, “Listen to him!” is likewise a key to this entire incident. This event was principally for Jesus’ sake, as was noted above. But it happened in no small measure because the disciples would not, could not, and flat out were not listening to Jesus. Jesus spoke of death and suffering, they pondered visions of pomp and circumstance in some political kingdom to come. Jesus spoke of betrayal and sacrifice, and the disciples mentally measured up drapes for the cabinet room where they would serve as Jesus’ powerful advisors in the new order.It’s a curious question, as we prepare soon to enter the Lenten Season again, whether the Church even today is willing really to listen to Jesus or whether we, too, get so often distracted by a welter of other dreams and visions as to who the Church is, could be, should be, or one day may become. In a day when some powerful evangelical leaders and pastors on the national stage can (and do) threaten politicians along the lines of “If you don’t come through for us, we’ll move our voting bloc elsewhere so behave or else!”—in a day like this, it’s well to ponder anew how well we are able to LISTEN to our Lord.Do we LISTEN? Or are we, like Peter, more interested in bottling the razzle and dazzle of it all because we think it’s a better way to go?The fact is that the Transfiguration was a spiritual epiphany, a moment that was as much about what was communicated by God spiritually and mentally as what was taken in through the disciples’ eyeballs. It’s less what they saw and more what they heard that counted. That’s why God’s tag-line announcement, “Listen to him!” is likewise a key to this entire incident. This event was principally for Jesus’ sake, as was noted above. But it happened in no small measure because the disciples would not, could not, and flat out were not listening to Jesus. Jesus spoke of death and suffering, they pondered visions of pomp and circumstance in some political kingdom to come. Jesus spoke of betrayal and sacrifice, and the disciples mentally measured up drapes for the cabinet room where they would serve as Jesus’ powerful advisors in the new order.It’s a curious question, as we prepare soon to enter the Lenten Season again, whether the Church even today is willing really to listen to Jesus or whether we, too, get so often distracted by a welter of other dreams and visions as to who the Church is, could be, should be, or one day may become. In a day when some powerful evangelical leaders and pastors on the national stage can (and do) threaten politicians along the lines of “If you don’t come through for us, we’ll move our voting bloc elsewhere so behave or else!”—in a day like this, it’s well to ponder anew how well we are able to LISTEN to our Lord.Do we LISTEN? Or are we, like Peter, more interested in bottling the razzle and dazzle of it all because we think it’s a better way to go?
I was a blogger last week for GoodPreacher.com.  In writing that blog I encouraged us all to watch for the stories of grace and redemption that go on all around us.  So maybe I was especially sensitive.  Let me tell you about the glory I saw first-hand three times on Thursday. The first "glory" moment happened as I met with Nathan, my Kid's Hope USA kid.  This is my second year with Nathan, and I have come to love him.  We were going to go through the spelling list – with which Nathan struggles.  As we went through the list, though, Nathan was nailing them.  With each new correctly-spelled word spelled his eyes got brighter and wider.  When he finished his list without missing a single word his ear to ear grin, bright shining face (transfigured?), and obvious pride of accomplishment all came together in a grand, library-awakening "Oh yeah!" complete with a mighty high-five.  Glory! Lots of kids at Lincoln School spelled their lists correctly that day.  But I'll never forget Nathan's triumph.  Not because he spelled them quicker, or with less guesses.  It's because I care so deeply for this boy.  Seeing even small steps of achievement and self-confidence is one of the many things I so much want for him. The second "glory" moment was with Brad and Heather – and their newborn Isabelle.  We talked about all kinds of things related to the little one's birth, and then Isabelle stirred.  Brad picked her up and asked me if I wanted to hold her.  Isabelle snuggled into my arms, took one look up at me, crossed her tiny arms with those perfect miniature fingers across her chest, closed her eyes and went right off to sleep. Two of Brad and Heather's friends came in to visit.  As they talked together, I had time to marvel at the miracle of life once again.  This little one will grow up knowing that her Creator has given her a loving family, and church that will care for her and guide and teach her, a community where she will find her place complete with friends and activities unique to her endowments.  Glory weighing in so very serenely at just over seven pounds! On the way home from the hospital, I was waiting by the red light on 32nd Street where five roads meet.  The old woman driving her Buick in the "odd" lane pulled right out in front of someone and got so flustered she mashed the brakes and stopped in the middle of traffic.  The young man who had the right of way had to mash his brakes even harder.  Cars slanted off in different directions.  Fortunately there was no pile-up, though there easily could have been.   As the cars began to unwind the jam, I saw the young guy roll his window down and ask, "Are you okay?"  The old woman who had her hands on either side of her head nodded meekly and mouthed the words, "I'm sorry."  The young guy made a signal to one of the cars blocking him, pulled out enough so the woman could drive through, and waved her on with a smile. It could have been so different.  Maybe I'm a cynic – I expect those things to end badly with honking horns, cussing, flipping fingers and worse.  But no, the third "glory" moment of the day shone through at that intersection in a wonderful act of human courtesy.  The more glorious, I suppose, because I really wasn't expecting to see it.   Our leader is Jesus.  His glory is demonstrating God's love for the world by offering his life for our sakes.  Our glory is in following Jesus wherever he leads us by his Spirit – and likely we'll have to follow into some really difficult situations (Joel, Angie, Ken & Alma's work with Katrina victims, and the struggles of people in Haiti come right to mind).  But that's where glory happens.  That's where the stories of grace and redemption are lived out—each one, another glimpse of God's glory.  Noticing them, rejoicing in them, giving thanks to God for them strengthens us for another day. John Witvliet commented somewhere about the novel, Flatland," in which creatures living in a two-dimensional world are confronted by a creature from a three-dimensional world.  The discovery of a three-dimensional world was both confusing and inspiring to the Flatlanders.  But once they understood the third dimension, they couldn’t imagine a world without it.   Once you have met Jesus, and seen the shape of glory that loves by self-giving, you likewise, cannot imagine living without him. Prayer Thank you, Father, for opening my dull eyes to notice some of the glory that surrounds us all each day, and for showing me another part of yourself through those visions. How very beautiful, and right, and the way things ought to be that loving you and loving our neighbors shines with glory.  Help us to remember that when following Jesus brings us to hard choices that make us doubt whether we're really up to it or not.  We're not—except in your power, and by your grace, and resting in your love. As your people worship this Lord's Day, be present with us.  Bring us your peace.  Make your inviting graces cordial and welcoming to those who may be hesitant.  Bring healing to those who are hurting.  May we glimpse and taste your glory as worship moves out into our daily living. Bless us all.  Keep us.  Make your face shine on us.  Give us the light of the knowledge of God in the face of Christ. Praise to you Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Amen. 



Saturday
2010-02-13 by Jack Vanderplate

Towards February 14, 2010;

 

Sunday of the Transfiguration /

 

Last Sunday of Epiphany

  

Saturday "Hot Tub" February 13, 2010

  A wonderful section of the GoodPreacher.com website is "Pastor, Talk To Me About..."  Peggy Dillner reflects in that forum on what it is about Moses that made people afraid.  She asks, "Are we to believe this is the same kind of experience Jesus had with Moses & Elijah as reported in Luke?  How can 21st century seekers of the Truth understand these writings?"   

There is a connection between the "glory" referenced in these readings.  Add to them other scripture references to glory, and there is indeed something mystical going on – and not only in the text, but also in our lives as followers of Jesus.  I really like the verse that follows the lectionary reading from 2 Corinthians: "But we have this treasure (God's light in our hearts that gives us knowledge of God's glory in the face of Christ from v6) in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing glory is from God and not from us."   

One of our besetting sins as western 21st century people is noticing "glory" without any reference to God.  So glory can actually look pretty amoral, and even ugly.  Whether you think CEOs are grossly overpaid and should be "clawed back," or well compensated by their shareholders because of the value they bring to the corporation doesn't matter.  Whether or not you think someone deserves mega-millions for throwing a basketball through a hoop doesn't matter.  The fact is enough people do believe that to support the system.  So "we" gladly pay handsomely for what looks glorious, whether it actually adds anything of lasting worth to our lives or not.  (Think about Tim Norton's connection, just ahead, between St. Paul's word about love at the end of 1 Corinthians 13 and any of the Christian virtues, from which glory comes.)   

But look again at God's glory in Moses, Elijah and Jesus.  Each served their people (archetypically at the beginning of new eras of grace) by giving themselves.  They saw God's glory (but seeing it was not the point)—Moses in the shekinah glory of the pillar and cloud, as well as his face to face meeting with God on the mount; Elijah in the ordeal with the prophets of Baal, as well as the experience of earthquake, wind and fire – and then the still, small voice.  They became the movers and shakers of new eras because the glory of God was with them and in them.  And their lives showed it.   

Our leader is Jesus.  His glory is demonstrating God's love for the world by offering his life for our sakes.  Our glory is in following Jesus wherever he leads us by his Spirit – and likely we'll follow into some really difficult situations (David's Mississippi trip, the struggles of people in Haiti come right to mind).  But even there the ordinary is turned into choice wedding wine.  That's where transformations occur that reveal a grace and a redemption that are God's gifts to us, and gifts to others through us.   

Peggy concludes, "Someone needs to help me pull the truth from these scriptures that (will) help me deal with my daily work issues, the homeless we shelter, the chaos in Haiti, or my personal relationship with the Ground of Being."   

I hope I am not being presumptuous, Peggy.  But keep your spiritual eyes open at work, and at the homeless shelter, and as you support people trying to help in Haiti.  In each of those, maybe especially in those places, unexpected stories of grace and redemption take shape every day—each one, another glimpse of God's glory.  Noticing them, rejoicing in them, giving thanks to God for them builds relationship with our Ground in trust and hope and confidence that strengthens us for another day.   

++++++++   

Tim Norton commented in "Pastor, Talk To Me About..." about the beauty of the Aaronic benediction, especially as this week we think about the glory of God in Jesus...   

The Lord bless you and keep you;

The Lord make his face to shine upon you;

The Lord lift up the light of his face to you,

And give you his peace.   

It’s his favorite benediction and he's always held the hope to see the glory of the Lord someday wondering, the while, "Could I handle it?" 

After some reflections about that he adds another of St. Paul's benedictions:  "Now faith, hope and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love."   

Amen, Tim.  Without love "faith" and "hope" do not matter.  May we expand that?  Without love, "glory" doesn't matter either.  As we receive the love of God through his good gifts with thanksgiving, and as we love God and neighbor by allowing ourselves to be channels of those blessings to others the glory of God's love goes on display in the world!  One day every eye will see!   

+++++++++++ 

My Abba, what a journey this blog has been with all the study, questions, discussions, thinking, reflecting, worrying and soul-searching that were a part of that process.  Thank you for opening my dull eyes to notice some of the glory that surrounds me each day, and for showing me another part of yourself through those visions. 

How very beautiful, and right, and the way things ought to be that loving you and loving our neighbors shines with glory.  Help me to remember that when following Jesus brings me to hard choices that make me doubt whether I'm really up to it or not.  I'm not—except in your power, and by your grace, and resting in your love. 

Tomorrow, our Bethel family will gather to worship.  Be present with us.  Bring us your peace.  Make your inviting graces palpable to those who may be hesitant.  Bring healing to those who are hurting.  And would you give us a glimpse and a taste of your glory while we read, sing and preach? 

Bless us all.  Keep us.  Make your face shine on us.  Give us the light of the knowledge of God in the face of Christ. 

Praise to you Father, Son and Holy Spirit.   Amen. 

+++++++++++ 





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