Saturday, February 25, 2012

Jesus calls us to repent and believe in the good news

Jesus calls us to repent and believe in the good news


Remember the Night Rainbow...


My aunt Virginia used to leave a whimsical small book by the lamp on the bedside table for her guests. If you were visiting her, just finished with exams, or recovering from surgery, or all-night travel, or just a long day, it was comforting.

The book was entitled, If You're Afraid of the Dark, Remember the Night Rainbow ... 

As I read it, as I turned the pages, I found whimsy - and a sense of peace. You could be - anything.

It was okay.

When we see the fierce wild scenes of the gospels, of Genesis, of the Psalms, and of the early church, we might well tremble. Their world is no less full of challenge than ours.

And yet, beyond it, beyond the simple struggles of the day, there was a hope, and a peace, in the engendering flood of creation and the irresistible pull of the grace of the gospel.

Jesus is real. God is good.

Our God is loving, steadfast, merciful, compassionate, and kind. Beyond the senseless cruelties of existence, inflicted on us in a world where there is sin as well as grace, there is a purpose and a mercy.


What does it mean to live under the mercy of God? For that is where we are. We are under the mercy – under the rainbow – living under an arc of the covenant of grace.

Noah receives the promise of God, a one-way covenant, that God will never again destroy his creation with a flood. God promises this to Noah, his family, and – all living creatures – for all of time. All creation lives under the mercy of God.

There is no assumption that God has no choice in the matter. God creates; God destroys – or may; God chooses to make peace with the world. God is merciful and compassionate; steadfast love is in the nature of God. The essential nature of God is expressed in this covenant promise – a gift, requiring no response, not even acknowledgment, from Noah.

Psalm 25 is a psalm of lament – but it is again a confession of the nature of God as merciful and compassionate. The love of God is everlasting. All the psalmist asks is, teach me your ways, show me your paths. Not even ‘so that’ – just please let me obey.

1 Peter teaches about suffering – in the context of the creedal formula, almost. Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary – and made subject to all the ills that flesh is heir to; Jesus suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried; he descended to hell; he rose again – and ascended to heaven, where he reigns with irresistible grace.

God waited patiently in the days of Noah – and eight persons were saved through water – somehow the cleansing of the flood preserved them.

And then Jesus – Jesus receives baptism, the dove descends – proclaiming him Beloved, Son; the Spirit immediately drives him out into the wilderness where he is tempted, lives among wild beasts, and angels minister to him; then he begins to proclaim the Kingdom.

The time is fulfilled; the kingdom of heaven is at hand. It is immanent: existing within or inherent in, and extending into, all parts of the created world; it is liminal: belonging to the point of conscious awareness below which something cannot be experienced or felt. It is emergent: it is appearing, arising, occurring, developing, coming into being – for the first time in its fullness, the reign of God is becoming real, more real than anything else.

And so – the gift to Noah, the first covenant between God and creation, is made more real than ever before. God will not punish – not only not punish, but redeem; God will not destroy – not only not destroy, but remake; God will not be angry – not only not angry but loving and kind. God will reveal mercy, compassion, and loving-kindness at the core of Being.

Being, at its core in the heart of God, merciful, compassionate, wise, and loving, is kind.

But what a terrible kindness it can be. From this moment forward Jesus will be on the path of downward mobility, every step he takes bringing him closer to his fate; a world- baffling road he trod, not to kingship or elevation above humankind, but identification with the way of all flesh at its most humbling. Jesus will take on all our sins – as the letter of Peter reminds us – and in the cross will be his glory. Then only – but with inevitable majesty – the resurrection comes.

Show me your ways, O Lord: 
 and teach me your paths.
Lead me in the ways of your truth, and teach me: 
 for you are the God of my salvation.

We pray this; we recite it, anyway; it is in the response to the first lesson of 1 Lent.

What are we asking for? We are asking to join Jesus on his pilgrimage. It is a long road, farther than Santiago from France. It is a hard road; harder than the Oregon Trail. It is a weary road, sometimes; sometimes a joyous way; it is a path through the wilderness – through desert places; and we have sometimes only the solace of fierce landscapes to comfort us on the way; but it leads us – he leads us – beside quiet refreshing waters, and he is with us – his staff only there to guide and protect us. It is a way that leads to joy.

What kind of joy is this? What kind of kingdom is this? What kind of land is this, the land of promise, the way of salvation, the joy of the presence of God? It is the way of life.

Ever been in a flood? Ever squished around in a rainstorm, waded waist-deep in floodwaters, crossed a river with a current so strong that it pushed you aside and down?

The engendering flood of creation, of the new creation in Christ, is an irresistible movement of living water. What Noah knew, cleansing as it was, complete as it was and terrifying, was only a foretaste, a shadow, of the creative energy released in the baptism of Christ. What it brings into existence is the kingdom of heaven, the reign of God.

What was from the beginning, what was from before the beginning, was the will of God for the world: that it would become a place of joy, of peace, of happiness, of completion.

This is what we are striving for this Lent – this is what we are stripping away the non-essentials for: to reveal what is underneath, what underlies all our smaller causes and comforts and efforts and excesses; the knowledge of our dependence on, and our living under the mercy of, God.

Nothing else matters, nothing else can get in the way; our God reigns, and our God loves, and our God holds us in the palm of his hand.

May the peace of God, that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God. Amen.

JRL+













Sunday, February 19, 2012

Transfiguration


in a new light

Loving Lord, let your light shine in our lives,
let its brightness fill our hearts and transfigure us;
that, seeing your glory,
we may come to you in awe and wonder,
and gazing upon you may be changed into your likeness,
moving from glory to glory;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who with the Father and the Holy Spirit
is in eternal glory for ever and ever. Amen.

What happens when you see someone in a new light?
Have they changed?
Have you?

When we visit a friend at her home there she is in sweats and slippers, serving tea and talking about books. We settle into comfy chairs and a sofa, and the afternoon passes.

When we see her, keys in hand, ready to go out, she looks different, ready to face the world.

When I went to the bus stop one day in college, to get a ride down to my house, I saw a guy from my class standing there. Oh. He looked like a woolly-headed surfer to me. And so I expected no more. Then he spoke. “I am reading the greatest book and I cannot put it down!” Oh? What is it? “War and Peace. Oh, man! I just can’t put it down….”

D’oh! My mind was changed. My perception had been all wrong. And I’d lost out on two counts. I’d avoided reading War and Peace myself (any book that long must be hard). And I’d misjudged him – there was lot more to this guy than I had assumed there was.

My eyes were opened.

But rather than judgment what I experienced was transformation.

He may not have looked different but I saw him differently – and thanks to him, I saw other things differently too.

Jesus – did he look any different than he had before?

Certainly Peter and James and John saw him differently.

What the disciples witnessed was a theophany, a manifestation of the holy; and they saw it in their friend. Jesus had befriended them by the lakeshore, these three; and now he brought them on a hike up a high mountain. Heaven and earth were close together that day. At the top they experienced what they could not foresee, and could not talk about, until the resurrection made sense of what they saw.

What the disciples witnessed was like what the three elders of Israel saw on Mount Sinai. They had gone up with Moses to receive the life-giving Law. In a cloud for six days they waited. And then God was revealed, to Moses, I suppose: for when he emerged from the cloud his face was radiant. He shone like Jesus would shine.

What Elisha witnessed as he journeyed with his spiritual father, Elijah, from place to sacred place on his way to departure from this world was a theophany, God’s showing, of himself this time in chariots of fire, and horses of fire, as God swept up Elijah into a cloud of glory.

Jesus – did he look any different than he had before?

Certainly Peter and James and John saw him differently.

They saw him so differently that Peter could see him as the culmination and fulfillment of the long line of prophets to the people of Israel. There was Moses, the liberation leader, who brought the people through the desert to the edge of the Promised Land. There was Elijah, steadfast forerunner of the holy One, who met God on the mountain. And there was Jesus, right up there with them. This meant the end of Ordinary Time; it means this is the harvest-time of God, and Peter reacted appropriately.

Let’s build three booths, for the feast of booths, the grain festival at harvest time: let’s celebrate the beginning of the time when God will gather all his people to himself.

Boom! “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!”

God spoke from the cloud –

That is what Peter saw and heard.

What happened to Jesus? He was revealed – as who he truly was, in his glory. A glimpse of eternity, a glimpse of divinity: a glimpse of him as he always was, now shining forth.

How Peter sees Jesus is transformed.

He saw him in a new light. There was more to Jesus – and to Peter – than he’s expecting.

And so he responded, as best he knew how.

Peter led with faith. This is a faith seeking understanding, seeking meaning, seeking direction. Peter leads with faith seeking to comprehend what he sees in Christ, through action, active response to the revelation, through the act of following Jesus. He puts his trust in Jesus and so he willingly submits to the transformation that discipleship requires.

When we accept Jesus as Lord and Savior, when we know he is light to the world…

How we see Jesus is transformed.

How we see each other changes in light of what we have seen, in him. But—

How do we see our selves and others differently in the light of Christ?

What changes does transfiguration call for from us? As a result of seeing Christ in a new light, and seeing others in the light of Christ, how are we to live, differently from before?

What the disciples did after they saw Jesus transfigured, what Elisha did after he saw the chariots of fire, what the elders of the people did after Moses returned from the mountain, was to follow – to live differently, in light of what they had seen.

And to bring the news to the people.

Everybody everywhere must hear of this change of being.

What they saw made everything new.

We have got to tell people about it. And we have got to live differently because of it.

Jesus calls us into a new way of being. He calls us to be transfigured, transformed.

He calls us to change our lives.

How does he call us?



  • Jesus calls us to repent and believe in the good news.
  • Jesus invites us to take up the cross.
  • Jesus calls us to true worship.
  • Jesus is lifted up for our salvation.
  • Jesus invites us to follow and serve.


Jesus calls us to the pilgrim way of Lent, the journey up to Jerusalem, to the Cross, and beyond, to Glory - glory glimpsed on the mountain, one day to be revealed in all our lives.

So – let us give up gloom for Lent. Let’s let the light shine in – to our lives, our church. And let’s let the light shine out – from our lives, our church – to the world God loves.

May we bring the light of Christ – the light of the knowledge of the glory of God revealed in Jesus Christ – to our world. May it illumine us, and shine from our faces, not that we may be glorified, but that we might see more clearly, love more dearly, follow more nearly, the Lord that is revealed in the face of the people he loves, the world he made.

May we bring the light of Christ to the world; that his glory may be revealed.

Come, Lord of light, transfigure us, increase our vision and reveal to us your glory.

Lord, touch us and transfigure us…. in the name of God, source of all being, eternal Word, and Holy Spirit.

THE PEACE
Let the Lord touch you and transform you.
Let the Lord surround you with peace.
May the peace of the Lord be always with you.

THE BLESSING
May the Lord open your eyes to his presence,
surround you with his love,
fill your days with his glory,
and the blessing of God Almighty,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
be among you and remain with you always. Amen.

Prayer, Peace, and Blessing from David Adam, Traces of Glory (SPCK, 1999).

  • Themes from Bread for the World: Lenten Prayers for Hungry People (http://www.bread.org/).

in a new light

Loving Lord, let your light shine in our lives,
let its brightness fill our hearts and transfigure us;
that, seeing your glory,
we may come to you in awe and wonder,
and gazing upon you may be changed into your likeness,
moving from glory to glory;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who with the Father and the Holy Spirit
is in eternal glory for ever and ever. Amen.


What happens when you see someone in a new light?
Have they changed?
Have you?

When we visit a friend at her home there she is in sweats and slippers, serving tea and talking about books. We settle into comfy chairs and a sofa, and the afternoon passes.

When we see her, keys in hand, ready to go out, she looks different, ready to face the world.

When I went to the bus stop one day in college, to get a ride down to my house, I saw a guy from my class standing there. Oh. He looked like a woolly-headed surfer to me. And so I expected no more. Then he spoke. “I am reading the greatest book and I cannot put it down!” Oh? What is it? “War and Peace. Oh, man! I just can’t put it down….”

D’oh! My mind was changed. My perception had been all wrong. And I’d lost out on two counts. I’d avoided reading War and Peace myself (any book that long must be hard). And I’d misjudged him – there was lot more to this guy than I had assumed there was.

My eyes were opened.

But rather than judgment what I experienced was transformation.

He may not have looked different but I saw him differently – and thanks to him, I saw other things differently too.

Jesus – did he look any different than he had before?

Certainly Peter and James and John saw him differently.

They saw him so differently that Peter could see him as the culmination and fulfillment of the long line of prophets to the people of Israel. There was Moses, the liberation leader, who brought the people through the desert to the edge of the Promised Land. There was Elijah, steadfast forerunner of the holy One, who met God on the mountain. And there was Jesus, right up there with them. This meant the end of Ordinary Time; it means this is the harvest-time of God, and Peter reacted appropriately.

Let’s build three booths, for the feast of booths, the grain festival at harvest time: let’s celebrate the beginning of the time when God will gather all his people to himself.

Boom! “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!”

God spoke from the cloud –

That is what Peter saw and heard.

What happened to Jesus? He was revealed – as who he truly was, in his glory. A glimpse of eternity, a glimpse of divinity: a glimpse of him as he always was, now shining forth.

How Peter sees Jesus is transformed.

He saw him in a new light. There was more to Jesus – and to Peter – than he’s expecting.

And so he responded, as best he knew how.

Peter led with faith. This is a faith seeking understanding, seeking meaning, seeking direction. Peter leads with faith seeking to comprehend what he sees in Christ, through action, active response to the revelation, through the act of following Jesus. He puts his trust in Jesus and so he willingly submits to the transformation that discipleship requires.

When we accept Jesus as Lord and Savior, when we know he is light to the world…

How we see Jesus is transformed.

How we see each other changes in light of what we have seen, in him. But—

How do we see our selves and others differently in the light of Christ?

What changes does transfiguration call for from us? As a result of seeing Christ in a new light, and seeing others in the light of Christ, how are we to live, differently from before?

What the disciples witnessed was a theophany, a manifestation of the holy; and they saw it in their friend. Jesus had befriended them by the lakeshore, these three; and now he brought them on a hike up a high mountain. Heaven and earth were close together that day. At the top they experienced what they could not foresee, and could not talk about, until the resurrection made sense of what they saw.

What the disciples witnessed was like what the three elders of Israel saw on Mount Sinai. They had gone up with Moses to receive the life-giving Law. In a cloud for six days they waited. And then God was revealed, to Moses, I suppose: for when he emerged from the cloud his face was radiant. He shone like Jesus would shine.

What Elisha witnessed as he journeyed with his spiritual father, Elijah, from place to sacred place on his way to departure from this world was a theophany, God’s showing, of himself this time in chariots of fire, and horses of fire, as God swept up Elijah into a cloud of glory.

What the disciples did after they saw Jesus transfigured, what Elisha did after he saw the chariots of fire, what the elders of the people did after Moses returned from the mountain, was to follow – to live differently, in light of what they had seen.

And to bring the news to the people.

Everybody everywhere must hear of this change of being.

What they saw made everything new.

We have got to tell people about it. And we have got to live differently because of it.

May we bring the light of Christ to our world. May it illumine us, and shine from our faces, not that we may be glorified, but that we might see more clearly, love more dearly, follow more nearly, the Lord that is revealed in the face of the people he loves, the world he made.

May we bring the light of Christ to the world; that his glory may be revealed.

Come, Lord of light, transfigure us, increase our vision and reveal to us your glory.

May your church seek to transform our darkest places with your light. May we seek out the lost and the deprived, the poor and rejected, and bring them home to you and your love. We pray for the mission and outreach of the whole church.

Transfigure, Lord, our towns and cities, our homes, hospitals and nursing homes, and transform them into outposts of your kingdom. Transfigure our public squares and hidden places, that they may be radiant with the glory of the knowledge of the love of God. Take our lives, as they are, and reveal through them the love you have shown for the world.

Lord, touch us and transfigure us…. in the name of God, source of all being, eternal Word, and Holy Spirit.

*

But down the mountain, how are we to live? What's next?

How does he call us?

Jesus calls us to repent and believe in the good news

Jesus invites us to take up the cross

Jesus calls us to true worship

Jesus is lifted up for our salvation

Jesus invites us to follow and serve


Jesus calls us to the pilgrim way of Lent, the Cross-ward path of Christ, up to Jerusalem, to the Cross, and beyond, to Glory - glory glimpsed on the mountain, one day to be revealed in all our lives.


THE PEACE
Let the Lord touch you and transform you.
Let the Lord surround you with peace.
May the peace of the Lord be always with you.

THE BLESSING
May the Lord open your eyes to his presence,
surround you with his love,
fill your days with his glory,
and the blessing of God Almighty,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
be among you and remain with you always. Amen.


Prayer, Peace, and Blessing from David Adam, Traces of Glory (SPCK, 1999).

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Lectionary Themes, February - June 2012

Feb. 5 - Proclaiming the Message Mark 1:29-39
Feb. 12 - Spreading the Word Mark 1:40-45
Feb. 19 -  The Transfiguration Mark 9:2-9
Feb. 22 - Ash Wednesday: Matthew 6:1-6,16-21
Feb. 26 - Jesus calls us to repent and believe in the good news Mark 1:9-15

Mar. 4 - Jesus invites us to take up the cross Mark 8:31-38
Mar. 11 - Jesus calls us to true worship John 2:13-22
Mar. 18 - Jesus is lifted up for our salvation John 3:14-21
Mar. 25 - Jesus invites us to follow and serve John 12:20-33

April 1 - Palm Sunday: Mark 11:1-11 & Mark 14:1-15:47
April 5 - Maundy Thursday: John 13:1-17, 31b-35
April 6 - Good Friday: John 18:1-19:42
April 8 - Easter Day: Mark 16:1-8
April 15 - Jesus and Thomas John 20:19-31
April 22 - Jesus Appears to His Disciples Luke 24:36b-48
April 29 - ‘I am the Good Shepherd’ John 10:11-18

May 6 -‘I am the True Vine’ John 15:1-8
May 13 - ‘Love one another as I have loved you.’ John 15:9-17
May 20 - The Ascension of Jesus Luke 24:44-53
May 27 - The Coming of the Holy Spirit John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15

June 3  - Trinity Sunday: John 3:1-17
June 10 - The True Kindred of Jesus Mark 3:20-35
June 17 - The Mustard Seed Mark 4:26-34
June 24 - Feast of Saint Alban, First Martyr of Britain Matthew 10:34-42

JRL+

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Marked for Life

Marked on the forehead. That is what we see Ash Wednesday on fellow parishioners – and some people on the street. They are marked with a cross, made of ashes, drawn with a thumb, by a priest or minister. As they were marked they heard words like these:

Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

The imposition of ashes serves as a reminder of mortality – and a reminder of eternal life, for at death, to God’s faithful people, life is changed, not ended.

How can this be?

In Baptism you are sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked as Christ’s own for ever.

You are marked as Christ’s own forever. You are no longer your own; you are bought with a price. (1 Cor. 6:19-20)

The life we live now we live no longer for our selves or of our selves, but we live in Christ, for Christ, as Christ’s own people, as the ones of his own fold whom he protects – and whom he guides – and whom he calls.

And he calls us not only into safety and refuge but also into a life that is fully alive – with threats, joys, sorrows, sheer boredom, hard days and soft hours, excitement and pain, and ultimate delight. For ultimately we delight in him and we are his own, brought into his company and welcomed home.

This home is ours – not at the end of time but now, ours from the moment of our baptism. At baptism we are welcomed into the home of faith, received into the household of God.

This household is God’s domain, the Kingdom of Christ. How to see it? How to live it? How to carry it out among ourselves? How to carry it out and make it real in our lives – and the lives of our neighbors?

Who is my neighbor? (Just checking.)

Hmm… maybe a demographic profile of my community will help. Maybe… a parable? (Substitute some stereotype unsavory and challenging for “Samaritan.”)

Or it may be that we encounter our neighbor when we find ourselves helping someone in need, or rejoice with someone in celebration, or simply share a meal.

And it may be that in encountering our neighbors we encounter something of ourselves. It may be something familiar and comfortable – or something familiar and uncomfortable!

And yet somehow Jesus welcomes us all – so that, at the last, and in the first instance, Jesus is able to say to us, with conviction, you are my own, singled out, marked for life.


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For the Gospel Grapevine (February 2012), newsletter of Saint Alban's Parish, Edmonds, Wash. http://stalbansedmonds.org

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