Friday, February 29, 2008

The Fourth Sunday in Lent; March 2, 2008

The Fourth Sunday in Lent March 2, 2008
Texts: John 9:1-41

Our Gospel lesson is a long story with many twists and turns; which is why I let you sit down while I read it to you.

It is a story that requires us to pay close attention to the double meaning of words.

It is also a story that reminds us that God looks at the world very differently than we do.

The story follows a fairly simple outline:

1- 1-7 – Jesus heals a man born blind

2– 8-12 – The neighbors are puzzled and ask questions.

3– 13–17 - The Pharisees are puzzled and ask questions.

4- 18-23 – The parents are puzzled and are asked questions and bail on their son.

5-24-34- The Pharisees ask more questions, the man gives the best answers he can.
The Pharisees get mad.

6- 35-41- The man and Jesus talk. Jesus gives answers. Sort of.

In the midst of this simple story, lots of questions are raised, questions about the ways of God, questions about sin and punishment, questions about Good and Evil.

Mostly questions about Jesus; Who is he? Is he Good? Is he Evil? Is he the Devil?
Is he the Messiah?

The story starts with Jesus seeing a man born blind and the disciples asking a, well, a stupid question.

At least it seems stupid to us, but it made perfect sense to them. They believed in a first century version of instant Karma, of direct punishment for sins. As the saying goes, “Somebody’s gotta pay!

The man was born blind, so it’s obvious his blindness is God’s punishment for some sin. But whose? Did the parents get a blind son as punishment for some sin of their own? Or is the man being punished for some cosmic sin committed in the spirit world?

This was a common belief at the time of Jesus. It is the result of a belief in a completely and totally fair and just God. And we fall victim to this sort of thinking all the time.“What did I do to deserve this?” we whine when something inconvenient happens to us; as if God sits in heaven with a sin-o-meter, keeping track of our misdeeds and meting out demerits for Sacred Honor Code violations.

But, it doesn’t work that way, which is a good thing for us. Because if we really were directly punished for our sins, we’d all be a lot worse off than we are; me especially.

Jesus says that neither the man nor his parents are to blame, then he heals him; with mud and spit and a wash in the spring, all the while talking about being the light of the world and being about God’s work.

Then the cycle of questioning begins.

First the neighbors. And we have to admit, we’d be as amazed and confused and puzzled as they. He looks like the man born blind, but, but, this guy can see; how could that happen?

I’ve cleared this illustration with Norman. We’re all used to seeing Norman Whitesell rambling around here in his electric wheel chair, doing the children’s sermon, taking communion, singing with the trio, chairing committee meetings etc.

His being in the wheelchair has become normal for us. What if Norman just walked in here one day? We would be all kinds of shocked wouldn’t we? Who is this? What happened? It can’t be?

The Blind man kept saying. “It’s me. It’s really me.”And they kept saying, but HOW?

And the man told the simple unvarnished truth, without interpretation;

“This man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ Then I went and washed and received my sight.”

Next it was the Pharisees turn, the religious right wing, those who were so certain they were right that they couldn’t see the forest for the trees, those who had created a strict understanding of how God works in the world, and no little miracle was going to change their understanding of God.

They were convinced that God had set up the world so that:
1) sinners can not do miracles.
2) working on the Sabbath is a sin.
3) healing is work.
4) Jesus healed/worked on the Sabbath.
5) Therefore Jesus was a sinner, and
6) Therefore, Jesus could not work a miracle.

The whole discussion with the Pharisees and his parents and the Pharisees again, from verse 13 to verse 34, revolves around these issues; and I do mean revolves.

The discussion goes around in circles as the man who once was blind sticks to his straight story about his healing; no interpretation, no elaboration. In the old TV show Dragnet style, he gives, “just the facts.”

I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.

And the Pharisees can’t take it. What has happened has broken their model for how God works.

Jesus does things that they consider sin, and sinners can’t work miracles and yet this man claims Jesus healed him. Does not Compute! Does not compute!

In a recent issue of Ministry magazine, Margaret Shuster, a professor at Fuller Seminary in California say, “Some of us, . . .know too little about the seeming contrariness of God . . .” (Ministry, March 2008, p.11) I like that, “the seeming contrariness of God.”

We don’t like it when God gets contrary, do we? We like God to color between the lines, to follow the speed limit and stay in the right lane.

And the Bible shows us a God who likes to speed, who can sometimes barely keep it between the ditches, who not only does not color between the lines; it sometimes appears that God doesn’t even know that the lines are there.

If we try to see God and God’s activity in the world as limited by our ability to figure out how God could or should behave, we have created, in the words of bible translator JB Phillips, a “God who is too small.”

If you think you have God figured out, you are like the poster my wife used to have up over her desk when we were in college. It showed a grumpy looking Gorilla with its hands over its ears and its eyes closed. The caption read,

That was the Pharisees, they had already made up their minds. Though the neighbors and the parents swore that this man had been born blind, though it was obvious that he could now see, though it testified over and over that Jesus had done it, they couldn’t accept it; it did not fit their preconceived and thought out plan of how God works in the world. And so, they got mad and threw the man out.

Now we turn to the last paragraph, where John shows us the man born blind having a conversation with Jesus. Jesus reveals his identity as the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of Man. And the man born blind confesses his faith saying, “Lord, I believe!” Then John shows Jesus explaining what has just happened. Listen carefully:

I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.

John is using the two meaning of sight and blindness here. Physical sight and spiritual awareness, and is making it clear to the Pharisees that they are the truly blind people in the story.

When my boys were little, I taught myself a phrase to say when they goofed up, as kids are always going to do. Instead of yelling or fussing when they made a mess or broke something or got into a fight, I tried to always say, "Okay, what have we learned from this?"

It’s a good question to ask about this story, what have we learned from this?

1) We have learned that life is not exactly fair. We are not directly punished for our sins and we are not directly rewarded for our good deeds; which, for most of us, is a good deal; since our sins generally outweigh our good deeds.

2) We have learned that, in the words of the old Ray Stevens song, Everything Is Beautiful: "There is none so blind as he who will not see."
The Pharisees refused to recognize that Jesus was a good man, a healer, perhaps a prophet, maybe the Messiah; because he did not fit their system. The question for us is simple: what truth about God have we failed to see because it does not fit with the way we want to see the world.

3) We have learned that the Bible teaches Jesus as more than a good man, a teacher of moral truth, an insightful interpreter of human nature. We have learned that the Bible teaches that Jesus is The Son of Man, the Christ, the Messiah, the Light of the world. That he came into this world to open our eyes to the truth about God and love and sin and forgiveness.

4) And we have learned that our calling is to be like the man born blind. We are called to tell the simple, clear unvarnished truth about how Jesus has touched and changed our lives. Nothing More and nothing Less.

We are called to say, One thing I know, that though I was blind,now I see.

Amen and Amen.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Third Sunday in Lent

February 24, 2008

Text: John 4:5-42

It was in 1978, 30 years ago, that the Lutheran Book of Worship, the LBW, the infamous “Green Book,” was published and introduced into Lutheran congregations.

One of the “new things” that the Green Book introduced was the passing of the peace. This was not met with, um, universal enthusiasm shall we say, amongst traditionally stoic and reserved German Lutherans in the South.

While I was in seminary in SC in the early 1980’s, I remember reading in the Synod’s Newsletter about one pastor’s experience teaching his congregation about passing the peace.

He had written a newsletter article about it, preached a sermon about it, finally the fateful day came when he turned from the Altar and said to the congregation, in what he hoped was a warm and encouraging voice,
“The Lord be with you!” “And also with you.” came the mumbled, almost hushed, reply.

Stepping bravely out of his appointed place in the chancel, the pastor went forward to the front row to shake the hand of the woman there and greet her with words of peace.

She was someone he barely knew, who only came at Christmas and Easter and who always slipped out during the last hymn.

The moment his hand touched the hand the elderly woman tentatively held out, her face crumbled, her eyes flowed with tears and she fled the building by a side door.

It was all the pastor could do to finish the service, and as soon as possible he drove to her house to check on her.

She politely ushered him into the “front room,” and told him, “I’m so sorry I made such a scene. It’s hard to explain. You see pastor, since my husband died 5 years ago; you’re the first person who has touched me.”

There are many people in the world today who are yearning to be touched, looking for someone to reach out to them, to make contact with them.

Ours is a world full of hurting, lonely, scared and scarred folk, needing to be touched and healed.

In our Gospel lesson today, we read the story of a time when Jesus touched a life.

It is a story that calls us to the ministry of touching the lives of others with the love and concern of Christ.

It was not easy for Jesus to touch the Samaritan woman’s life. He had to overcome, or simply ignore, many societal and cultural barriers to do it.

He was a Jew – she was a Samaritan.

He was a man – she was a woman.

He was a Rabbi – she was a woman of suspect moral character.

Yet, here was Jesus,
a religious leader,
alone in a lonely place;
not only speaking to her
but holding a long conversation with her, someone he was not supposed
to even make contact with.

And yet, Jesus found a way to touch
and transform her life.

Jews considered Samaritans to be racially impure,
a mongrel race, half Jew and half Barbarian.

The Samaritans were the descendants of the lower class people left behind when the rich and educated and powerful leaders of Israel had been carted off in bondage to Babylon.

The ancestors of the Samaritans had inter-married with the non-Jews living in the area and had tried to keep the faith alive the best way they could without a temple or priesthood, passing on the Torah in oral fashion and worshipping at outdoor altars on mountaintops.

When the Jews returned from Babylon years later, they wouldn’t let the Samaritans help with the rebuilding of the Temple, indeed wouldn’t have anything to do with the Samaritans at all.

So the Samaritans built their own temple on Mount Girizim. Eventually, tensions between the groups erupted and an Israeli army destroyed the Samaritan temple, leaving them to worship on the lonely mountaintop.

Jesus was a Jew – she was a Samaritan;
they should ignore each other. But there’s more.

Even if she had been Jewish, the encounter would have been suspect, because many Jews believed that men should not speak to women in public.

The most strict Rabbis advised that men should not speak to their own wives in public.

There was even a group of devout Pharisees who were nicknamed the “black-and-blues,’ because they walked around in public with their eyes closed to avoid seeing a woman and kept running into things.

BUT Jesus ignored all this, and at mid-day, while sitting alone at a well, he asked her for a drink of water.

Nothing extraordinary, nothing stupendous or profound, just a drink of water.

And she could not have been more surprised if he had asked her to fly.

What was said between them was much less important than the fact that he spoke to her, he carried on a conversation with her, he treated her like a person worth knowing.

He treated her with respect, he treated her,
like someone who was acceptable,
like someone who was touchable.

He touched her life in that conversation.

He talked to her about important things;
about God and life and worship and love.

And most importantly, he did not condemn her as others had done.

Rather, he offered her an opportunity to change her life.

He offered her the Living Water of God’s Love.

He did not argue with her about the relative merits of Jewish and Samaritan ways of worshipping the same God.

Rather he shared with her his love for that God and his certainty that without Spirit and Truth, no worship was true.

He touched her – by going where she was.

He touched her – by ignoring societal barriers that
separated them.

He touched her – by letting her know that he cared about her, he accepted her, he loved her.

There’s an interesting little note in verse 28:
“Then the woman left her water jar and went . . .”

Several years ago in Nashville I heard Dr. John Fairless, now of First Baptist Church in Gainesville, FL, preach a sermon on that one line. “She left her water jar. . . “

His point was this; The Water Jar, and carrying it to the well alone in the middle of the day when all the other women went to the well together in the early morning, was a sign of her shame, of her old life of being a nobody.

When she went back to town without it, it became a symbol that she was leaving that old life behind and starting a new direction full of new possibilities.

What is your water jar?

What is it you have been carrying around that you need to put down?

What burden do you need to lay aside and abandon in order to more fully follow Christ?
I invite you to do that today.

Why don’t you leave your burden here,
never to be picked up again?

Trade in your burden, your restriction, your limits, your fears and shames and sorrows.

Lay them on the altar, and pick up Christ.

Pick up Christ’s love,

Christ’s acceptance,

Christ’s encouragement.

Trade in your water jar, your burden, your pain, your sorrow,

trade it in for a drink of that Living Water that only Christ can give.

Amen and Amen.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Second Sunday in Lent

The Second Sunday in Lent
Feb. 17, 2008

Texts: Genesis 12:1-4a, Romans 4:1-5, 13-17, John 3:1-17

Did you ever hear of a man named Harvey Pinick? A lot of golfers have. He wrote a best seller called Harvey Penick’s Little Red Book. There’s an interesting story about that.

Harvey Pinick was born in 1905. He started his golf career caddying at the Austin, Texas Country Club. He pretty much stayed there his whole life, moving up to golf pro and teacher.

In the 1920’s, Harvey bought a Red spiral notebook and began jotting down teaching notes, humorous stories and homespun philosophy derived from teaching and playing golf with all sorts of people. He never intended to show the book to anyone, he was going to give it to his son, someday.

In 1991, when he was 86 years old, Harvey showed the book to a writer he knew and ask him if it was worth publishing. The man took it, read it, and told him yes. The writer called Harvey’s house one day and talked to Harvey’s wife. He left a message that Simon and Schuster had agreed to an advance of $90,000.

A week or so later the writer saw Harvey at the golf course. Harvey seemed nervous and upset.After hemming and hawing a while, Harvey spit out what was bothering him. With all his medical bills and his limited income, Harvey just couldn’t see anyway he could come up with the 90 thousand to get the book published.

The writer stared at Harvey for a while and then burst out laughing. “Look Harvey, you don’t pay them, they pay YOU. You don’t give 90 thousand; you get 90 thousand.

Many of us are like Harvey Pinick. We think our relationship with God is about what we have to pay God, about what we can do to make God accept our work. But it’s really the other way around. God wants to give us the free gift of his Son, of his love. For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

We Lutherans are pretty good at saying the right words about this relationship, we learned them in Confirmation Class, we hear them over and over in good Lutheran Sermons, we do know how to say the words:

Justification by Grace through Faith,
Justification by Grace through Faith.
It’s our mantra, our slogan, our holy chant, our rallying cry.

But do we believe it? Not so much with our heads and with our words, but deep in our hearts and in our souls and in our emotions? Do we know that God has saved us because God loves us? Do we know that it’s about what God has given us; not what we have given God?

It seems to me that all too often we have higher entry level standards than God. It is the basic human condition that in every area of life that time after time we seek to prove that we are good enough or smart enough or faithful enough or diligent enough or beautiful enough or holy enough to deserve the love we receive from God.

And the reality is that none of us is any of those things enough to have even earned the love of our parents or our children or our partners of our friends; much less earning and deserving the love of the Creator of the Universe.

The most important thing that can happen in any relationship is that you figure out that the other person just loves you. You didn’t earn that, it just happened, it’s a mystery. Parents love their children, children love their parents, husbands and wives and boyfriends and girlfriends love each other just because they do.

The second most important thing that can happen in a relationship is that you figure out that love can die if it is abused or taken for granted. But, if love is embraced and nurtured, it will never die.

People do not earn each other’s love, they accept and receive and care for each other’s love and in that warm caring space, love grows stronger and more enduring.

The same is true of God’s love for us and our love for God. We do not earn God’s love. We do not merit God’s love.

We are not so lovely and good that God looks down upon the earth and says, “Oh look at that one! There’s a beautiful holy person, I’ll love her!” And none of us is so ugly and sinful that God says, “Look at that disgusting person, I’ll turn my back on him!”

God made all of us and God loves all of us. There is nothing we did to create that reality and there is nothing we can do to change it. God is love and God loves you and God loves me.

We did not create it and we cannot change it, but we can either live in God’s love or we can ignore it; we can choose to embrace God’s love or we can choose to abuse it by taking it for granted.

Our readings from Genesis and Romans refer to the story of the calling of Abram and Sarai; they were called to leave the land of their birth, Ur of the Chaldees and to go wherever God sends them.

The Bible says nothing about God seeing something special in these two people that made God pick them; God just did. We don’t know; Abram and Sarai may not have been God’s first choice. God may have been going around the Middle East calling people for years, but nobody else listened. Who knows; maybe Abram and Sarai were at the bottom of God’s list, not the top.

But, they were the ones who said yes to God’s call. They heard the promise of love and blessing and responded by placing their trust in God and following where they were led.

That’s what justification by grace through faith really means; hearing God’s call, feeling God’s love and embracing God’s grace and allowing our lives to be changed, altered by God’s very real presence in us.

I want to ask you something this morning. Have you allowed God to love you? Have you taken the time to sit quietly with your soul and look honestly at your life and then say to God, “This is me. This is who I am, this is what I’ve done and I know it’s not enough, but it is all I’ve got.”?

I’m not talking about the so-called sinner’s prayer, or “getting saved,” or any of that.

I’m talking about allowing God’s love to embrace you fully and completely.

I’m talking about putting aside any notions that you’re not good enough or complete enough or you don’t believe enough or do enough.

I’m talking about sitting still and looking at Jesus lifted up on the cross and realizing that the magnitude and completeness of God’s love for you is beyond belief or comprehension.

I’m talking about opening your heart to the love God has for you. Have you done it? Won’t you do it?

amen and amen.

Friday, February 08, 2008

First Sunday in Lent

February 10, 2008

Texts: Genesis 2:15-17; 3:17
Romans 5:12-19
Matthew 4:1-11

A few years ago, a young man I know found himself embroiled in a heated argument in a college biology class. Much to his surprise, everyone else in the class believed in what is called “young earth creationism;” that the earth is only 6000 years old, etc. He was arguing for what is called “intelligent design,” that God created the universe millions of years ago and is in control of the creative process, and that Genesis is a theological work, not a scientific textbook.

In the midst of the classroom discussion, with scientific and philosophical arguments being thrown up by both sides, one young woman stood up, pointed at the young man and said, indignantly, “If you believe that, how can you call yourself a Christian?” He smiled a little smile and said, “I don’t call myself a Christian. I’m a Lutheran.” His answer totally befuddled her.

“If you believe that, how can you call yourself a Christian?” “If you are the son of God . . .?” Questions of identity are important. Knowing “who you are,” as a person is the most important step in knowing how it is that you are to behave.

Several years ago someone gave me a tee-shirt that I absolutely loved. I wore it so much I wore it out. Just the other day, I was dusting the furniture and found its remnants in the rag box. It read:

“To do is to be” – PLATO
“To be is to do” – DESCARTES
“Dobedobedo” - SINATRA

What we do, how be behave, what we believe; is a large part of how others define us. Pastor, teacher, housewife, student, musician, funny, quiet, aggressive, talkative, etc.

And, how we define ourselves goes a long way toward defining how we behave. It is, at times, a chicken and the egg question. Which came first? Am I a Pastor because I do pastoral things; or do I do pastoral things because I am a Pastor?

The biblical position is that we act out of our identity; that who we believe ourselves to be is the determining factor in what we choose to do.

Have you ever noticed that when someone behaves in an outrageous, or improper or, most often, horribly RUDE manner, the first thing people say is: “Well, just who do you think you are?”

That is the right question. Who we think we are shapes our behavior.

And the Devil knows this. That is why he challenges Jesus on the point of identity in today’s Gospel lesson. The key to understanding the story of the temptations lies in THREE little words: IF YOU ARE.

In the last verse of Chapter Three, following Jesus’ baptism, a voice comes from heaven and says, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”

And here, three verses later, the devil says, “If you are the Son of God.”
Jesus is given the opportunity to make his own way as the Son of God;

He is given the opportunity to win popularity by turning stones into bread, feeding the masses and feeding his ego at the same time,

He is given the opportunity to achieve great fame by throwing himself off the temple and showing himself to be God’s Chosen One by letting the angels catch him.

He is given the opportunity to achieve great power by worshipping the devil and turning his back on trusting God to provide.

These temptations invite Jesus to imitate the Emperors in Rome who secured power by giving the people free food and free entertainment, winning their favor with bread and circuses.

The temptations with which Jesus was faced are the very ones we, you and I, fall victim to on a regular, I would almost say, a daily basis. In little subtle ways we seek popularity or power or possessions as a way of hedging our bets against the uncertainty of the world.

After all, we live in an age in which terrorists strap on bombs and blow up innocent people, stock markets plunge and housing prices fall, where wars rage and tornados strike and cars suddenly slide off the road into ditches.

A little control over our own lives and a bit of money securely invested, what’s wrong with that?

It comes down to a matter of faith, of trust, of belief and confidence in the promises of God to love and care for us through out all of life’s trials and temptations.

The problem is that each of the things the Devil wanted Jesus to do as the Son of God was selfish, and self-serving and ultimately self-glorifying. And Jesus rejected them because being centered on self is inconsistent with being the Christ, the Beloved, the Son of God, the one sent to save others.

It was during the forty days in the wilderness that Jesus struggled with what it meant to be the Son of God. When he became clear about that identity, he came out of the wilderness, and began to preach the Kingdom of God and to perform mighty acts of healing and exorcism. In the forty days in the wilderness, Jesus found out who he was and came forth ready to behave in accord with his identity.

When Jesus knew who he was, the question of what he was to do was already answered. To be the Christ, the Son of God, laid out for him a path to follow, a way of being in the world that led to certain things to do. Preaching. Healing. Confronting Evil.

Throughout these forty days of Lent we are called to contemplate the life of Jesus, his path of service and obedience to God, his living out his identity as the Son of God.

As we do that, we must ask ourselves some identity questions, personally and congregationally. Who am I? Who am I, really? And what is God calling me to do? Who are we? Who are we, really? And what is God calling us to do?

Not too long ago I turned on the TV to watch a ballgame and caught the tail end of a court-room drama. Two lawyers, one white, one black, were sitting in a book lined office, having a drink and discussing the just ended case. The Black lawyer said, “I used to think I was a lawyer who happened to be Black. Now I feel more like a Black man who happens to be a lawyer.” A question of identity that will shape his life and work.

Who am I? Am I a lawyer, or doctor, or policeman, or office manager, or teacher, or truck-driver or nurse, or retiree who happens to be a Christian?

Or am I a Christian; who happens to be a lawyer or doctor or policeman, etc.

It is an important question, and the answer will shape your life.

Likewise, as a congregation, as a community, we struggle with identity questions. Who are we, really? Are we a gathering of like-minded people, a little Lutheran enclave in Northeast Guilford County? If so, then the things we do should be designed to take care of ourselves.

Or are we a people whom God has called together to be the Body of Christ, as Luther says in the Small Catechism: Called, gathered, empowered and sent?
Called to be a Christian, gathered around Word and Sacrament, Empowered by the Holy Spirit, Sent into the world to spread the Love of God.

If that is who we are (and I believe it is) then the things we do will be designed to care for others.

Jesus spent forty days in the Wilderness struggling with the question of identity, struggling to discover what it meant to be the Son of God.

Throughout the forty days of Lent, we are called to do the same. We must ask ourselves, If we are the beloved children of God, what is God calling us to do?

Friedens Church; just WHO do you think you are?

Amen and amen.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Transfiguration SUNDAY: February 18, 2007

Matthew 17:1-9

Peanuts Cartoon:
Linus and Charlie Brown are lying on their backs on the pitcher’s mound, staring up at the clouds in the sky.

Charlie Brown says, Linus, do you ever see anything in the clouds?”

Linus: Well, yes Charlie Brown, I do. For instance, that one over there bears a striking resemblance to Michelangelo’s depiction of the Creation on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

And that one, there over the school, looks like a map of Scandinavia, see; there’s Denmark and Sweden.

And that one there looks like a helix. Do you ever see anything Charlie Brown?

Charlie Brown: Well, I was going to say a Ducky and a horsey but I changed my mind.

Every time I am confronted with a Biblical story like the
TRANSFIGURATION, I feel a bit like Charlie Brown;

compared to the religious experiences of others,
the things I have seen are simple and plain.

My personal religious experience contains no bright flashes or red-hot emotions,

no defining moments of transcending clarity or poetic,
mystical exuberance.

No, my religious experience tends toward the mundane and the ordinary: reading the Bible, family prayers, Church on Sunday, familiar hymns.

I have no frame of reference with which to begin to try to understand what happened to Jesus and his Disciples on top of that mountain.

The experience is completely and totally foreign to me.

And yet, there is something within it that tugs at my heart, that pulls at my soul, that preys on my mind.

There are two ways to approach a story like this: one is the rational, analytical, scientific approach.

The other is as a child, with eyes attuned to seeing mystery and magic.

Soren Kirkegaard told a parable about this:

Two young people, one a German girl, the other an English boy. They met on the coast of France, they conversed in high school French.

After returning to their respective homes, the girl wrote the boy a passionate letter; in German; which he did not know.

First, he laboriously translated it, using grammar books and dictionaries and lexicons.

But, he did not stop there. He then put aside the intellectual work and read the letter for what it was;
a love letter from a girl; a love letter aimed at his heart, not at his head.

So it is with the Bible, with Holy Scripture, with the written Word of God.

While we must not turn off our brains in looking at a story like this,

we cannot stop at the rational level, we must remember to read the Bible for what it is; a love letter aimed at the human heart.

Matthew wrote this story to touch our hearts, to let us know something important about the love of God for us.

Many of us here learned to read using the Dick and Jane books. You remember:
See Dick. See Dick go. Hear Jane. Hear Jane talk. Go Dick go. Go see Jane. etc.

One way of looking at, listening to, the story of the Transfiguration is through the eyes of a child, through the simple words of See – Hear - Go.

1) What did they see?
A) We must remember that this was a vision, a thing
SEEN! So the important question is not what actually
happened, what factually occurred.

The important question is what did the Disciples
Report that they saw; what was revealed to them.

B) So, again what did they see?

i) They saw light and clouds which are ancient
symbols of God’s presence; remember the
Exodus through the desert, God lead the
Children of Israel with a Cloud by Day and
a fire, a light, by night.
They saw God’s Presence and Guidance
ON Jesus.

ii) They saw Moses and Elijah.
In Jewish tradition: Moses = Law
Elijah = Prophets

In Jewish Tradition, both Moses and
Elijah were to return before the Messiah,
this signals Jesus as the Messiah.

They give Him their blessing and then
the disciples see Jesus’ alone:
this shows that Jesus completes,
fulfills, the Law and the Prophets.

2) What did they hear?

i) They heard divine speech silencing human speech
vs. 5 – while he was still speeaking
ii) they heard a command to listen to Jesus
vs. 5 – listen to him
iii) they heard from Jesus the Gospel words:
vs. 7 - get up and do NOT be afraid!

3) Through the eyes of Peter, James and John
we have seen the vision, we have heard the voices
How are we called to respond?
Where are we to go?

i) First we are called to the mountain:
Not to blinding lights and booming voices
But to time apart with Christ,
We are called to “Take Time to be Holy,”
as the old Gospel Hymn says,
We are called to look at Christ with awe
and hope and love, we are called to listen
to his commands to love one another with
body, mind and soul.

ii) second,
we are called off the mountain and into life.
Like Peter, we want to stay on a Spiritual High
but we can’t stay, we have to go back down
to where life is lived for real.

For it is down here, and out there, in our
homes and schools and jobs and communities
in the mundane, ordinary,
“so-called” real world
that real faith is lived out.


When we lived in a suburb of Atlanta, our boys were small and Deborah was a stay at home Mom. Our home was on a cul-de-sac and we had lots of outdoor play space:
A porch all across the front, a basketball goal, a huge garage dedicated to toys, front yard baseball diamond.

We were the place to be for the 4-8 year old set.

One day, I was putting together a large wooden Jungle Gym we had ordered, Swing, slide, tree-house, climbing bars combination.

Of course the area kids were all hanging around watching, waiting for me to finish, anxiously asking, are you done yet.

I am not naturally gifted in construction. Though I can read and follow instructions, but it was a long process for me, and I messed up several times and was constantly confused and frustrated.

Many times during that long afternoon and evening I wanted to express my frustration verbally with some well-chosen Anglo-Saxon verbiage or to throw a few things about; but, my audience of children prevented me, as well it should have.

That afternoon reminded me that what I say and do in the midst of life’s dailiness is more important than what I say or do on the mountain-top of religious experience.

Don’t misunderstand me; this is not about not cussing, it’s about living your faith in the real world in which you live most of your life.

That is where we live our faith,
that is where we shine the light of Christ,

Because that is where that it is needed most,
And that is where God has sent us.

Amen and Amen.