Mark 9: 2-8
The bridge between the light of dawning Epiphany and the shadows of Lent is Transfiguration. We reflect on the time when Jesus and three of his disciple go up the mountain and there Moses and Elijah appear with Jesus. The disciples are in absolute awe. They write of how Jesus, Moses, and Elijah are bathed in a radiant light. Israel’s law giver, the mighty prophet, and God’s beloved child stand together bathed in the radiance of God presence and love. How amazing!
Also, at this time we remember Moses, going up the mountain, standing before the face of God, and receiving the commandments of God, given to create a community of justice and equity of God’s people. His face glows as he comes down from that experience. Now in the story of transfiguration, these bear the light of the countenance of God and the radiance of love.
Later, God incarnate, Jesus the Christ, will walk down the mountain and bring that love to life in healing, feeding; and bringing to life people who are sick, hungry, and who have lost what it is to love life and who have even lost life in so many ways. Jesus calls us to step into the light of God’s love fearlessly. God does not turn away from humanity. God comes fully human and fully God in Christ bringing light in the darkness of our fear and the shadow places of our lives. God came to tear the veil of the temple to open a portal to heaven for humanity to come into the presence of God. A way for the world that lives in the darkness of fear and famine. An opening for a world that is so empty, and wanting, and hungry for something as simple as a break from the shadow sides of life. We need to hear the voice of God telling us to listen to God’s beloved, Jesus. We don’t need to be afraid of God. We don’t have to hide anything about us, for God is love.
So often our community has been told that we are beyond the reach of God’s love and mercy, but that is a lie that imprisons us. We flee from the faith of our childhood. What a shame to believe the lies of teaching based on human error and misunderstanding!
The late poet, Jane Kenyon wrote in her poem entitled: “Notes from the Other Side.” “I divested myself of despair and fear when I came here. Now there is no more catching one’s own eye in the mirror. There are no bad books, no plastic, no insurance premiums, and of course; no illness. And God, as promised, proves to be mercy clothed in light.”
And God, as promised, proves to be mercy clothed in light. May we, as we move from Ash Wednesday into the wilderness of the Lenten season, be clothed in the radiance of God’s love. And may we too, find some clothes of mercy to wear each day and some of the light of love to share with those who need it.Type your paragraph here.
We enter the wilderness of Lent thinking of the nature of temptation. Our gospel story takes us through Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness following his baptism. Temptation can be a devilish topic. As Jesus was tempted to mistrust or doubt, so are we tempted. The seeds of mistrust grow as we doubt who we are, who God is, and our life’s mission. Jesus was confident, but sometimes we are not so confident. Jesus knew who he was. Jesus emerged from the waters of his baptism bathed not only in water, but in the power of the Holy Spirit. The echoes of the heaven’s announcement, “This is my beloved child”, ringing in his ears. How could he not know who he was? He was certain! There was no wiggle room for a seed of mistrust there.
Yet, I think sometimes those seeds wiggle into our hearts. Could we be God’s beloved too? Some church folk would try to create mistrust and fear in that area of our minds and hearts. You have to do this or be that to be God’s beloved they say. But, wait a minute! We were baptized too! We belong to God. Yet, we listen to the lies of those tempting folk that would try to make our brothers and sisters in the GLBTQ community think they are not loved by God and not welcome in their community of faith. Ah, the temptation brought on by the seeds of fear and doubt when mistrust in who we are begins to sprout!
Jesus also knew the nature of God and the mission of God in this world and his role in that mission. Do we? Have we heard some folks lie about the nature of God. Have they forgotten that God is love. 1John 4: 7 “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” The very nature of God is love and the proof that we belong to God is that we can love others. We belong to love itself. Good news! The mission of God for us is to love our neighbors and build communities of love and inclusion. We cannot forget who we are, who God is, or our mission.
So, can we trust love. Can we trust that God loves us? Can we trust ourselves to be loving? Those are important questions. Sometimes, we question our ability to trust. So, I invite you to look in the rear-view mirror of your life and remember a time when you trusted God for something. Something like the notion that God loves you! If you could trust God’s love then, you can trust God’s now. From childhood, I have trusted God’s love. I did not have to earn it. I did not have to be someone I am not. God created me. My mission is to love and create a community of love and inclusion. We need not fear. We need not fear hate or hateful punitive prattle. Read the next passage very carefully.
1JOHN 4; 17 “This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.” Do you think that might include other family relationships and neighbors, too? Let us boldly and fearlessly go into the season of Lent. We know who we are, whose we are, who God is, and our mission!
Luke 6: 27-38
Jesus said to his disciples, “ But I say to those who will listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer them the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Jesus goes on to say “Lend without expectation of repayment. Be merciful. Do not judge. Do not condemn. And forgive.” A very difficult passage to listen to indeed. It is hard to hear, and I extremely difficult even to imagine. Yet is the response of Christ to violence in many forms. It opens a path to change, a mirror held before oppressors showing them who they are and revealing their capacity of doing violence to others. Walter Wink once shared that in ancient times and cultures when a person also gave their shirt when asked for a coat, brought shame to the person asking. When someone was struck with the right hand and then turned the other cheek would have required either a back hand hit with the right which was considered shameful for a person to do or strike with the left hand. The left had was used for bathroom hygiene and thus shameful to the person doing the striking. In responding without violence, which would have led to more violence, the person hurt demonstrated to their oppressor, the oppressor’s shameful behavior.
For people living in an oppressed culture it was wise path to life and empowerment. It was what gave little six year- old Ruby Bridges courage as she walked to walk up the sidewalk to school praying for the angry white adults screaming and spitting on her. I watched those old news clips horrified by the barbarism of folks who called themselves Christian. Yet, through her courage, U.S schools were integrated. Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. revealed to a segregated hate-filled nation their oppression and racism. He kneeled to pray for those aiming water hoses. He opened the way for civil rights.
When hundreds were massacred in India, Mahatma Ghandi practiced non-violent resistance. He noted, that if he had responded with anger and violence, the loss of lives could have been thousands. He himself once said that he would follow Christ, except for the cruel practices of Christians. The British left India, and the citizens of India were free.
Jesus doesn’t call for his disciples to be victims, but to live fully. He has called us to freedom through the power of forgiving, ourselves and others. He has called us to peace and justice through non- violent practice. He has called us to community through loving and accepting others. He has called us to learn to accept ourselves and others without condemnation and judgement. He has called us to enter the kingdom of heaven.