2010-02-19 by Stephen Schuette
Barbara Brown Taylor once suggested this was Jesus’ “Outward Bound” experience. And it clearly parallels the wilderness journey of development of Israel as a nation as it comes into consciousness of itself and on whom it relies – only in the case of Jesus it’s for 40 days rather than 40 years. In both cases it’s clearly identity-forming, or at least identity confirming.
I don’t what to make a case (or even prompt a discussion) about original sin. But I do want to honor what acute observers affirm about humans. We are born without any differentiation between ourselves and others and the world around us. It’s all “us” and “for” us. Maturity, then, involves the differentiation of the self from others and the world and opening the possibility of giving rather than receiving, of living for a purpose beyond the self. God gives us insight into that maturity in God’s mission…. “For God so loved the world…” Fulfilling our God-purpose is to change the direction of our life from inward to outward.
When tempted repeatedly whether he might use this opportunity for himself Jesus turns to a larger purpose and calling.
As a society are we maturing and supporting that maturation for individuals? In faith terms, are we maturing as disciples of Jesus Christ? Most experts think we’re in a process of regression. Strauss and Howe suggest it’s “unraveling” (The Fourth Turning). It could be that this text and the message that might go along with it are crucial for out time.
Gee, God, did I sign up to be the hinge upon which people either grow or regress? Are you depending on me to speak an uncomfortable but grace-filled Word? OK. I trust you know what you’re doing. Maybe that trust is finally what it’s about.
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
2010-02-13 by Jack VanderPlate
GLORY IS STILL SHINING
2 Kings 2:1-12, Mark 9:2-9, 2 Corinthians 4:3-6
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!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.
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