Sunday, February 18, 2007

It will be different when you get down off the mountain...

Transfiguration 2007
(The Last Sunday of Epiphany)

Exodus 34:29-35, Psalm 99, 2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2, Luke 9:28-36 (37-43a)

Yesterday at the cathedral I overheard some retreat leaders practicing the
traditional sendoff for the end of the weekend, a warning:

It will be different when you get down off the mountain. It will be different
when you get home and this peak experience becomes a memory. How will you carry
it with you?

On the Sunday of Labor Day weekend in 1977, three men from an office in San
Francisco set out to climb Mount Darwin, on the crest of the High Sierra. We
came close. We climbed the peak just south of it, a mountain 12,125 feet high
that went unnamed in Starr's guidebook: we called it Three Musketeers Peak.

We musketeers had toiled all day to climb that mountain. We hugged boulders,
climbed talus slopes. Just short of the top, which proved to be one last too-big
boulder, we paused. An eagle alighted on a rock just above my head.

Jim said, look. I turned, and the eagle exploded into motion. Three images
burned into my brain (well, four, if you count Jim): the eagle at rest, the
eagle all pinfeathers and wings bursting into the air wheeling at once, and the
bird soaring in the air suddenly far above the ground.

We began to trudge back down the mountain. Then, listen: a flute. Looking up to
the left, to the side ridge sloping eastward away from the summit and the crest,
we saw a hippie (this was 1977) strolling along below the ridge top, in shorts
and boots, playing a flute and enjoying the summery day.

Doggone it! This was our mountain! And don't you realize this is supposed to be

Well, it was a fine summery day after all, just before the fall. So you couldn't
really blame the guy. You could just - enjoy him.

We clambered on down and found our way to camp alongside Hungry Packer Lake.

You cannot stay on the peak forever. It gets cold up there. Imagine it now,
today, in the middle of February. Maybe with Alpine expedition gear you could
stay up there for a few hours; with Sherpas to re-supply you, maybe for a few
days. But no, you cannot live up there for long.

No point in building three booths, Peter. We have to come down off the mountain.
Go back to work. Up betimes and to the office. Or, in Jesus' case, back to
healing, and on to Jerusalem, where the real hard cold mountain climb awaits.
Jesus warns the disciples, the son of man will be put in the hands of sinners,
but they don't get it. They do follow him, but they just don't get it. Not yet.

Perhaps that is why they said nothing at the time about what they saw on the
mountain. There is Jesus, on the mountain, transfigured - with two other figures
shining just as bright, whom they somehow know to be his kin in prophet-hood.
They recognize Moses and Elijah, each of whom made his own way out of the
familiar human condition into God's own country.

Jesus is to follow them there: he is preparing to make, to accomplish, his own
departure. And yet, he is greater than these: "This is my Son, my Chosen one,"
the voice from within the cloud proclaims: "Listen to his voice."

As Herbert O'Driscoll has pointed out, Andrew must have seen something in his
brother's face when Peter came down from that mountain. That is often how we
perceive the holy: God's light reflected in another's face.

Paul reminds us we see now the glory of the Lord reflected as in a mirror - and
that we, in turn, are changed into that same likeness, the living icons of the
glory of God.

It may be that we are not the ones on the mountaintop - like Andrew, brother of
Peter, we may see the light shining in another's face.

* * * * *

Where do you experience the presence, and the glory, of God?

Where do you find the mountain? Where do you hear the voice?

Do you see the shining face of Our Lord in a moment of conversion, a sacramental

Do you recognize him in an unexpected moment, person, or event?

Have you seen the glory of God reflected in another's face, in familiar,
ordinary people, and even, unexpectedly, in ordinary things?

Has someone surprised you with kindness, kindness shown to another that you
could not yourself have shown such kindness?

Have you seen his grace reflected in forgiveness, in a moment of reconciliation-
and found yourself changed?

The encounter with God really changes you!

In this coming season, this Lent, seek the Lord where he wills to be found:

-- Seek Christ in others, in sacraments, in ordinary days and ordinary ways.

(Perhaps my Lenten discipline this year will be as simple as the ordinary acts
of ordinary days - but with a difference... a difference in how I approach these
ordinary acts: to see in them an opportunity to see God reflected.)

-- Seek Christ in mountains, too. If we look at you funny, don't be surprised.

John Leech+
Saint James of Jerusalem, Yuba City
February 18, 2007.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Thomas Bray

Thomas Bray
Priest and Missionary, 1730
February 15

Isaiah 52:7-10, Luke 10:1-9, Psalm 102:15-22 or Psalm 85:8-13

O God of compassion, you opened the eyes of your servant Thomas Bray to see the
needs of the Church in the New World, and led him to found societies to meet
those needs: Make the Church in this land diligent at all times to propagate the
Gospel among those who have not received it, and to promote the spread of
Christian knowledge; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with
you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Appointed missionary visitor [Commissary] to the Maryland colony, Bray visited
it once, for two-and-a-half months, around 1699. During that visit, he founded
lending libraries and schools, providing for the instruction of children and the
advancement of education. He was concerned for native and African Americans –
the latter Black slaves. Returning to England, he encouraged English clergy to
go to serve in America. He was an early founder of voluntary associations – that
characteristically American social institution later described by another
visitor to these shores, Alexis de Tocqueville – notably the SPCK and SPG both
of which are still going strong. Learning of the plight of prisoners in English
jails he instituted "Beef and Beer" dinners on Sundays in prisons. His proposals
for prison reform included the initial suggestion to Gen. Oglethorpe to
establish a colony for the relief of "honest debtors" – which resulted in the
foundation of Georgia. He seems to have seen missions as a partnership – his
compassionate, pragmatical, and immediate response to human need – what do we
have on hand? – as well as his vocation as evangelist and idea man, prompt for
us the question, how can we respond to the needs of the world in our own day?

Sunday, February 4, 2007


guystuff - notes for a sermon

Judges 6:11-24a

The angel greets Gideon, "The Lord is with you, you mighty warrior!"
He replies, "WHO, ME?"
"Go in this might of yours," the angel says, "I hereby commission you!"
Gideon protests: "But I am the last and least of my little people."
"But I will be with you," says the Lord.
"SHOW ME A SIGN!" Gideon pleads. And boy does he get one.
"Help me, Lord!" he cries. "For I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face."
And the Lord says, "Peace. Do not fear." The Lord is peace.

1 Corinthians 15:1-11

In Paul's letter to the Corinthians, he tells of the tradition he has passed
down to them - and thence to us, the good news that, in accordance with the
Scriptures, Christ died for our sins, he was buried, and he was raised on the
third day. Now Paul puts himself into the story - as the last of those who saw
the resurrected Jesus, and the least of his messengers. Yet God used him, by the
grace of God, to bring the message, the good news. God's grace we proclaim; you
have come to believe in God's grace, and to put your faith in the Messiah.

Luke 5:1-11

Peter shows us an early example of that faith at work, as he goes ahead, taking
Jesus at his word, into his boat, out a little ways, then farther into deep
water. And then, on land, he embarks on a riskier journey yet - taking on a new
way of living, of being. No longer is he the captain of his fate, the pilot of
his own boat: he has turned the helm over to Jesus.

And now - he will follow him; From now on - he will be catching people:
And the nets he will haul in - or others for him - will be full of joy.

What we experience when we take on the new way of being, the new life in Christ,
is no less radical. It may come to us in familiar, gentle, ways, in the course
of our daily livelihood - and we pass it on others there as well - but it takes
us on a new adventure, like fishermen out of water.

At the office where I worked, one Friday I asked a co-worker,

--Hey Walter, what are you going to do this weekend?
--Oh, you know, go to a bar, have a few brews, watch the game. You know,

A couple of weeks later, I asked again,

--Walter, what are you going to do this weekend?
--Oh, you know, pick up my kid, take him to the park, play with him. You know,

Walter taught me a new word - guystuff - and he taught me what it meant: stuff
guys like to do... and he taught me what that really means: not just stuff guys
like to do like watch the Super Bowl, hang out with their buddies, swap lies,
drink beer, smoke cigars... but other stuff guys like to do too, like be a
father, be a responsible, caring parent, spend time with their children, show
them some love, enjoy them. Guystuff - the stuff guys like to do - is a human
thing: like fishing all night with your friends, and turning up empty in the
morning, pulling in your nets. It's also taking a preacher out in your boat, a
little way from shore, so the people on the banks of the inlet can hear him
clearly. And, it turns out, it can also mean a bit more. It's a human thing,
guystuff - and it can be a God thing. What Jesus had in mind, to proclaim the
word of God, to let the crowd hear the good news, and let some of the good news
be caught by those on the boat as well, then to put out into the deep waters, --
requires a real act of courage, trust, faith on Peter's part - and put down the
nets once again. Something quite ordinary is no longer so ordinary after all.

God fills the boat - our lives - to over-abundance, the measure of devotion like
an ephod of grain shaken down and spilling over. God's grace comes aboard.

What will we do with it? Will we, like Peter, respond with joy, with awe, with
acceptance, dedication, a new purpose in life? Will we know when it is time to
pull the boat up onto the beach, to leave what we were doing and come follow
him? What would this look like - for you today?

If you are going to do guystuff this afternoon - drink a few brews, watch the
game, play with your kid, catch a few fish - [or] will you be ready, when the
call comes, to drop everything, become fishers catching people from now on? In
abundance, beyond promise, without measure? Are you perhaps already doing it?

Maybe unconsciously, you have begun to venture out a little farther, into the
deeper water, using the tools you have been given, the ordinary tools of your
life, to begin something extraordinary. God took the ordinary stuff of regular
guys - a bunch of guys who had been out fishing together, no less - and
transformed the ordinary stuff of their lives, showing them what was behind it -
God's hand at work - revealing to them the Messiah, present, right there, on the
lakeshore with them.

Gideon, the last and least of his people, God greets as a mighty warrior.
Knowing him better than he knew himself, God told him, "Don't be afraid."

Paul passes on the good news, that Christ died for our sins, he was buried and
he was raised on the third day. He protests that "I AM THE LEAST and last of the
Apostles," but by the grace of God, he says, "I AM WHAT I AM." It is by God's
grace that he serves, and his grace is not in vain. "Grace we proclaim; Grace
you have come to believe."

The people come to hear the WORD of GOD. Jesus coaxes Peter, "Put out a little
way...Put out into the deep..." When he sees what is going on, Peter pleads, "Go
away! I AM A SINFUL MAN." But the Lord says, again, "Do not be afraid. From now
on you will be catching people."

Right here with us, on an ordinary day, God is taking what we bring, bread and
wine and water and oil -- and ourselves, as God made us - and turning them
somehow into extraordinary stuff: the food and drink of everlasting life, the
present reality of God with us.

St. John's, Chico, California
February 4, 2007.

CEpiphany5 BCP
Judges 6:11-24a, Psalm 85 or 85:7-13, 1 Corinthians 15:1-11, Luke 5:1-11

Thursday, February 1, 2007


Notes for a homily

February 1

1 Corinthians 1:26-31, Matthew 6:25-33, Psalm 138 or Psalm 1

Everliving God, we rejoice today in the fellowship of your blessed servant
Brigid, and give you thanks for her life of devoted service. Inspire us with
life and light, and give us perseverance to serve you all our days; through
Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one
God, for ever and ever. Amen.

This is the feast of Brigid, abbess of Kildare, patroness [matron saint] of
Ireland, of poets and healers [liaigh, leech], dairymaids and blacksmiths. She
was of humble, or noble, birth. Baptised by Patrick, she founded the first Irish
religious community for women. It was a double monastery, with men too. As
abbess her authority was extraordinary, and not confined by Episcopal orders.

Baptised, as missionaries in the Roman Empire had done, was the local custom of
holding February 1st as a festival: sacred fire, god of spring, or of valor,
poetry, draftsmanship.

A compassionate healer, Brigid was generous to a fault (cf. poem "The Giveaway" by Phyllis Mcginley, 1957).

Providence, faith (Matthew 6:32-33)