Saturday, March 05, 2011

Last Sunday after Epiphany


Readings are here.

Today is the last Sunday of the season of Epiphany – a season of revelation and revealing. Beginning with the Baptism of Jesus by John to the revelation of transformation on the mountain – transfiguration. The question behind each reading in this season of Epiphany seems to be – how are we to reveal Christ in this world as he reveals himself to us? In the baptism – he plunges into the waters of our life – the one without sin immerses himself fully in the world showing us eternal life – not in the hereafter but in the here and now. In the absolution after the confession we pray, “keep us in eternal life”

Once again in the gospel today Jesus urges us to enter fully into life – go down from the mountaintop of encounter with the Holy One, don’t stay in the wonderful memory – live.

Peter, James and John accompany Jesus to the high mountain where they experience the fullness of Christ. With Moses and Isaiah at his sides, Jesus seems transfigured – the Greek is metamorphoomai – like a larva becoming a butterfly. He revealed his true self – and the reaction was typically of the “disciples are clueless” variety. Peter babbles on about building booths – probably like Jews do to celebrate the Exodus – the feast of Booths – Sukkot, a remembrance of living in a fragile tent or lean-to in the desert. It is a natural reaction – coming out of his culture. Trying to make sense of something completely new and mind blowing by connecting it to something we know. But in the midst of this – a voice speaks from a cloud – repeating the words heard at Jesus’ baptism, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him.” Stop talking – listen.

The disciples fall down in terror. Jesus comes to them and touches them – reassuring them and they move down into the valley – the valley where life goes on in all its wonder and messiness. You would think they might be changed by this experience but no – it takes more events and encounters and revelations until they are ready to go out into the world with the message of the revelation of God in Jesus.

One of the key phrases in this reading is “listen” – we can’t really capture the word in English -- (akouete) is a present imperative, implying continual or repeated actions: "Keep on listening to him" or "Continue to listen to him. It will take more than one retreat, one encounter, one sermon, one reflection – keep listening is the message. It is why I like to begin all meetings with a Bible study – so we can listen before we talk, listen to what God might have to say about the issues before us. And I like to just use whatever is the lesson for the day – not pick one that “I think” has something to say. It is why I like the Lectionary – it makes me wrestle and listen instead of allowing me to just pick a comfortable passage. It is why I like the Daily Office as a daily discipline – though I have been a slacker lately – it sets the day in the context of something to think about as I go about my days. It is why I wrote Streams of Mercy – collecting those bits into one place for contemplation each day.

This Wednesday, after our festive feeding frenzy of the Pancake Supper, we enter into Lent – with the imposition of ashes on Ash Wednesday. Lent is a good time to enter into listening. St. Catherine’s will offer a variety of opportunities for you to keep Lent and listen for where God is calling you next in your journey. Instead of giving up chocolate – think about taking on a spiritual discipline, or attending one of our extra events, or just reading the Daily Office each day at home. Slow down, take a break from the constant barrage of “news” or anything that makes you anxious. Walk on the beach, do some gardening, tend your soul, tend your mind, tend your body.

Jesus was transformed in the eyes of the disciples – they saw him in a new way. He did not really change but showed them how he has always and will always be. Their ability to see was changed. The transformation for us is to join this metamorphosis – to gradually become the hands and feet of Christ in this world. To become that which God has seen from the beginning. Listen.