2010-02-10 by Jack Vanderplate

Towards February 14, 2010;


Sunday of the Transfiguration /

 Last Sunday of Epiphany 

Wednesday "Hot Tub" February 10, 2010 

There's something important in the gospel reading we haven't looked at yet.  Peter, in his usual, boneheaded way just had to blurt something out.  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.' (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.)"  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. 

So, in the face of the followers of Jesus not hearing him, God speaks from heaven: "This is my Son, whom I love.  Listen to him!"  Was there exasperating in God's voice?  Had Jesus not repeated himself enough for the dull disciples?  Or were the disciples listening for something else, and so not hearing what Jesus actually said?   

What is there in us—questions of our own, 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."  One of the most common complaints from teenagers is "My parents don't listen to me."  Nor is this an unknown complaint from parents about their children.  If you've been preaching for any length of time it's happened to you—someone quotes you as having said this or that, when in fact you said the opposite! 

God's word as he revealed a glimpse of his beloved Son's glory was "Listen to him!"  May we have ears to hear. 


2010-02-09 by Jack Vanderplate

Towards February 14, 2010;

Sunday of the Transfiguration

/Last Sunday of Epiphany  

Tuesday "Hot Tub" February 9, 2010  

One of yesterday's blog readers mentioned that some of the Super Bowl ads were fun to watch.  He mentioned the Bud ad in which an individual claimed to be able to solve the problem but instead the people went for a suggestion that, "We're gonna be alright." 

 Indeed, the great "cloud of witnesses" to God's glory from Hebrews 12 will be alright.  

Mark 9:2-9

 Two outstanding luminaries in that great "cloud of witnesses" appeared with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration – Moses and Elijah.  Both of these monumental figures appear in the gospel for Transfiguration Sunday in connection with glory.  In other words, they themselves participated in the glory that was revealed for a moment on the mountain.  By contrast, it seems that the disciples—Peter, James and John—do not participate personally in Jesus' glory, but only experienced it.  Or is that all there was to it?  

What if we look at all the participants on that mountaintop experience as archetypal symbols of the kingdom of God—each a formative leader of a new epoch in the successive unfolding of God's kingdom?  So Moses' glory is the glory of God in leading the Hebrews out of slavery and into a new freedom defined by doing Yahweh's will—lights in a dark world.  In the process, they become a nation "whose God is the Lord."  

2 Kings 2:1-12

Elijah's glory is more complicated.  He is more than just a representative of "the prophets."  He is the greatest of those prophets; so great that an empty seat at the Passover Seder is reserved for him.  One of the teachings about the coming of Messiah was that Elijah would come first.  (The disciples asked Jesus a question about this point of theology:  "Why do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?"  —Matt 17:10 NIV).  Elijah's glory prophesies resurrection.  His successor, Elisha, watched as the prophet was taken up into heaven gloriously, without ever having to taste death.


Jesus himself is the focal point of glory on the mountain.  He is the transformative leader par excellence.  Moses led Israel from slavery to landed nationhood.  Elijah led a spiritual revival that confronted kings and even mocked death.  Jesus will extend the blessings of God to every nation of earth, and transform even death into "life to the full," eternal life.  His resurrection would be the first-fruits of many to follow (1 Cor. 15).  


There's another archetypal symbol of formative leadership in the successive unfolding of kingdom epochs on that mountainside.  Beside Moses, Elijah and Jesus, stand the disciples Peter, James and John.  Their "glory" doesn't seem to measure up.  They don't really know what to say or how to act in the presence of Moses, Elijah and Jesus.  They're frightened.  It might seem that they are merely passive participants in this glorious experience – star-struck witnesses only.  

But the disciples were destined to spearhead the evangel.  They would turn the world upside down, uneducated and "simple" as they were, because they had been transformed by Jesus.  "Frightened" on the Mount of Transfiguration; they would be described as "bold" in stepping out to proclaim new life in Jesus' name.  The turning point came after Jesus' resurrection (the glory predicted in the prophet, Elijah) and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (the transnational kingdom superseding even the glory of Moses).  

The disciples are archetypal representatives of the body of Christ – the new epoch in God's unfolding salvation – blessing every nation, and pointing to our only lasting hope in the Prince of Peace.  You and I participate in that new epoch today.  In Jesus name we form a glorious, transnational community that cares for, tends to, suffers with and blesses those who suffer, are powerless, without voice, or marginalized.  In Jesus' name we point to the glory God created us for.  Read on - David von Schlichten reports from Mississippi that witnesses are seeing that glory even today!

The glory of Moses, Elijah, and yes even Jesus was being previewed by those three disciples.  God was pouring "the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ" into their lives and ours (2 Cor 4:6).  Even now victimes of Katrina, the people of Haiti and elsewhere are witnessing "acts of God," nothing less than glimpses of that glory.

Indeed, we'll be more than just alright!  


Wisdom in Mississippi
2010-02-08 by David von Schlichten

I am in Mississippi this week with my teen daughter helping Katrina victims rebuild their homes. Today, one of the people who runs the camp where we are staying said, "Katrina was an act of nature, but the work of people helping the victims is an act of God." Amen.

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator

2010-02-08 by Jack Vanderplate

Blogs for the week of February 8-13, 2010

Introduction – Bio 

I'm Jack VanderPlate, pastor of Bethel Church in Zeeland, MI.  I love being a Christian and a grandparent (and everything in between).  I play the piano, organ, violin and trumpet – mostly classical and jazz.  I'm an avid tennis player, runner and stock market investor.  I also enjoy golf and fishing. 

I'm from the Reformed tradition (Calvinist), but very much appreciate the way other traditions enlarge and illuminate the themes of the faith.  Our common Christian faith is far too big to live under any one roof!  Maybe that's why I enjoy the "Festival of Homiletics" so much.  So I was excited when invited me to do another "Hot Tub" blog.  I really do love hot tubs - but even more, the cross-pollination of ideas through collegial interaction around the lectionary texts.  I hope you enjoy this week's exchange too! 


Towards February 14, 2010;

Sunday of the Transfiguration /

Last Sunday of Epiphany 

Monday "Hot Tub" February 8, 2010 

This week may be one of the more interesting of the year for us preachers.  We ready ourselves to preach in the wake of the Saints having marched triumphantly in.  This coming Sunday is more popularly known as Valentine's Day than the Sunday of the Transfiguration.  It also occurs to me that most of our parishioners probably spent more time preparing for and enjoying the Super Bowl, and will spend more effort getting something sweet for their honey on Valentine's Day than preparing for, thinking about, or otherwise caring about the transfiguration of our Lord.   

So there's a challenge for this week! 

My first impulse is to see if I can find common denominators in each of these events.  There's certainly a "glory" theme in the Super Bowl just past.  Two very fine teams played a thoroughly entertaining game, and to have the underdog come out on top just adds to the excitement.  The New Orleans Saints now enjoy bragging rights for the year, proudly wear Super Bowl rings, and count fatter bank balances along with their enhanced status as gridiron warriors.  Pretty glorious stuff. 

I also see a common denominator of sorts between the love theme of Valentine's Day and the love of God seen in Jesus who came bring a new day to his people.  But the contrasts are even more compelling...  Our loves tend to be exclusive, God's love is inclusive.  Our loves contain elements self-interest, God's agape love is thoroughly creative.  We involve ourselves in the lives of those we love with appropriate boundaries, God's love is unparalleled in self-giving. 

Love even has its own glory.  Last week I saw a couple sitting together on a park bench out in the freezing Michigan cold—something this Florida boy would never do!  They were talking together, occasionally caressing, obviously "glorying" in each other's company and totally oblivious to anything else going on around them.  Anyone could see that they loved each other. 

That couple's "loving glory" did not seek any attention.  But neither did it avoid notice.  There's a powerful contrast, isn't there, between that glory and the glory of the Super Bowl champions.  Does the difference have to do with the "loving?"   

Notice that the glory of our Lord seen in his transfiguration on the mountaintop with his beloved disciples was not meant for a thronging multitude of adoring fans.  The transfiguration of Jesus was a "loving glory" meant by God for the encouragement of his Son whose humiliation was just ahead.  Perhaps that "loving glory" was even intended by the glorified Jesus to be an encouragement to the disciples who would soon enough forget about their love and loyalty to Jesus and worry instead about saving their own backsides. 

Which leads to thoughts about our own loves, our own glory, our own commitments to each other.  Can the interplay of these themes lead us to some helpful insights as we consider the texts of this week?  

Thanks; "Lectionary Homiletics" Highlight
2010-02-05 by David von Schlichten

I am grateful to Guy Kent and Stephen Schuette for providing edifying blog posts once again.

Lectionary Homiletics Highlight:

Troy Messenger, in "Lesson and the Arts," describes the paintings of Pieter Bruegel the Elder, which features common folk in a way that reveals their flaws but also their greatness. The paintings remind us of how God uses ordinary people to do great things.

I'm heading to Mississippi to spend a week helping Katrina victims. I don't know if I'll get to do postings next week. I will do my best.

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator

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