The following homily was delivered by Patti LaCross at Sunday Assembly on March 6, 2011. The readings from the lectionary schedule that day were Exodus 24:12-18, 2 Peter 1:16-21, and Matthew 17:1-9.
It is good to be here, up on the hill, savoring moments of silence too rare in this “state of siege” and all the political activity accompanying it that intensifies our already busy lives.
It is good, and it is right to be here with all of you, my companions, hearing the Word and breaking bread together in the name and memory of Jesus of Nazareth.
Today that Word speaks to the discipline of listening in prayer and solitude; and of extraordinary, transforming encounters with a living God through that prayer. The God of Moses, the God of Jesus: Presente! Present! in the history of people struggling for freedom, justice, and the dignity that is our shared birthright. Present! In the hearts and minds of the disciples as they grappled with the teaching, healing, and prophesying of Jesus who walked beside them.
In today’s readings we hear of Moses and Jesus each heading for the hills with a few trusted friends.
Moses was concerned for the survival of the weary and mutinous band of refugees with whom he roamed the desert. After he had climbed the mountain and fasted 6 days, Moses encountered God’s love for those exiles in a profound personal experience that opened the heavens for him. He remained up there for 40 days, that is, a long time, in contemplation, and maybe some stonework?
When he descended, he carried a basic code of conduct meant to focus the identity of the Israelites – and keep them from killing each other! Those who saw Moses come down the mountain from this vision quest saw their leader as radiant, transformed, and renewed in his mission.
Peter, James and John accompanied Jesus to pray, soon after he first began to speak of his passion – and the rising cost of their discipleship. Together they shared a vision in which Jesus was revealed in his glory, He stood before them with Moses and Elijah, personification of the law and the prophets. Their teacher and beloved friend shone before them as the Chosen one of God, the Messiah of Judaism, radiating the love that rang out from a voice in a bright cloud: “this is my beloved child, in whom I am well pleased. Listen to him!” After he had calmed their fear, Jesus continued to teach the disciples until they began to understand, only then returning to the crowds and their demands.
We could have stayed in bed with coffee and read these Scriptures alone if that were enough – But it’s not. For “We are called to be attentive to the power and coming of Jesus Christ, as to a lamp shining in a dark place until the day dawns and the morning star arises in our hearts.”
– a reveille for believers from 2 Peter.
As followers of Jesus we must take time to sit in the quiet and listen for the voice of God; To read and meditate on the Scriptures throughout our days. That said, it is also true that we can only come to interpret and understand These Scriptures as a community of believers. In shared silence, in our meditation upon the icons that are your faces and lives, in breaking and sharing the bread that makes us the Body of Christ, in hospitality, praise, fellowship, and action. This whole contributes to our being eyewitness to the majesty of God. And this experience of church sharpens our vision to recognize God present in the world, In the people around us, so manifested from the Epiphany until today.
We didn’t come up the hill today to see the earth shake and the skies open any more than we go to the Capitol for free pizza. We come to stand together in the living presence of Jesus; to understand; and so to stand in solidarity with our fellows in Christ around the world.
How else would we have the courage to make life and love, beauty and joy in a world often given over to greed and chaos? How else would we true our course as followers, curb our ambitions, our righteousness, our egos? How else would we practice the listening that creates space for dialogue between those who don’t share our views?
And as my father would say, how the hell else are we going to avoid killing each other in the end???? This epiphany season that ends today has helped us savor the revelation of God in our midst…from the baptism of Jesus through the Beatitudes to this Transfiguration, the voice of God echoes with the words “this is my beloved child, in whom I am well pleased.” And it continues to echo Until we understand that these words apply to each of us as well as to each child, woman and man that populate our lives and prayer.
This week Wednesday we will begin our 40 days of Lent. Some will enter this as a sort of vision quest, with time for lengthy reflection and great efforts at fasting. For others, focused reading and prayer will be woven into the days. Some may struggle with negative memories of the season, or take on new programs of meditation or self discovery. Some will meet regularly for prayer and soup. And with many emotions I realize that for some, this Lenten journey will coincide with their final journey into the full embrace of God’s deep love. I pray that however you enter this season, you will leave it transformed and radiant with the love of God encountered in this sacred time.
This historical moment, when the weary of the world have begun to rise up despite tremendous risk, to claim their dignity and freedom is unprecedented. And this is the moment we live in.
Millions who have lived as powerless exiles in their own homelands are inspiring millions more to claim their rights. Blood is being poured out all around the globe, and none of us can know what the political or humanitarian future will look like. In the proposed state and federal budgets we see the further erosion of justice in our own communities and feel a more personal and urgent bond with our sisters and brothers around the world.
We are called as members of one human family to help create a world that affords all dignity, treats them justly, and supports their freedom from anything that would enslave. How will it unfold? What roles need we take?
Watching the world’s revolutions unfold I have been thinking about walking in solidarity as perhaps the 21st century’s newest sacrament: the act of walking, the presence of fellow believers, the Biblical mandate for Justice! Chanted as the Word: Jesus truly alive and present with us as we march on behalf of the poor and oppressed precious to God around the world. (How will that fly with the hierarchy?)
So little we can predict. Except that there will be millions of new refugees in the predictable places, more unemployed, homeless and disenfranchised everywhere. A small but powerful number of wealthy persons will yet hold power around the globe. There will be ever increasing urgency to feed them all without destroying the earth itself.
We ourselves will likely be somewhat poorer, hopefully no less committed to engaging for justice,
WHAT we know most certainly is that we will all be daily lavished with an unimaginable abundance of love from a Creator who calls us -each of us -My Beloved CHILD. In our Lenten journey, let us lean into that love, as Jim Findley says, lean into that infinite oceanic love, without fear. And let us listen daily for what that love calls us next to do and be.