Saturday, February 14, 2015

The Masked Man

Transfiguration Sunday I told the children..
It was so cold 2 weeks ago when we went skiing, that we had to wear our face masks. I pondered about the strange sport of skiing where all these masked people, with boards strapped to their feet, hurl themselves down the mountain…sometimes right at you! …

What if I preached every week wearing a mask? 

How would that effect your experience of the message?
What if I stood up there in the baptistry and had a set of sheer curtains between us. How would you feel about our separation?

In many ways, Jesus was operating behind a mask.. at least until this story of the Transfiguration. 
We are told many things about Jesus here - about his true identity. Yet the story is even deeper. 
  • It sits mid-point in Mark’s narrative, as a key message of turning and revelation preparing us for the rest of the story.
  • Several specifics of the story serve to relate Jesus to Moses, the greatest servant of God, the one who spoke personally to God. 
    • And to Elijah 2nd only to Moses in prophetic stature. He suffered for his faith and commitment and was vindicated by God at the end of his life by not dying, but by being ‘taken up’. 
  • The ‘cloud of presence’ is the place that held God’s presence in OT times and when it is lifted in this story and sight is clear again, only Jesus remains to be seen leading us to make the transition from the OT Messengers & prophets to Jesus as the revealer of God’s love for the world. (as one of our baptismal vows says)

But these and other references to the rest of the story are those you already know, or have likely heard before since this scripture (or the Matt or Luke text) come around in the lectionary every year, just before Lent.

As always our question for the text, is what meaning do we find for our living today?

Action - small pew groups
Turn to your neighbor and answer, for you personally,  “What is the most remarkable part of Jesus’ nature.”
What about him, touches you the most?

answers are shared.

In Corinthians 2nd letter (a compilation of several letters to that church) Paul writes about a ‘veiled gospel’ and Christ, as the image of God. Two of our favorite commentators, Eugene Boring and Fred Craddock wrote, “When Paul says “God” he does not have in mind an abstract force or principle, or even a supreme being, but the ONE who has personified himself and is met personally in Christ. It is God who was and is at work in Christ; Christ is the human face of God.”

For Paul, the most remarkable part of Jesus is this “human face of God”. Paul is a good Jew so he wouldn’t dream of applying an image to God that would break the 2nd commandment. 
But Paul has seen Jesus, not in person - remember Paul is called after the death of Stephen, an early disciple or follower. Paul himself had a vision - an EXPERIENCE OF GOD, that left him blind for several days and changed his life forever.

Such an experience is too strong to deny, even under extreme punishment that Paul also experienced.
Paul’s revelation from God came in the form of Jesus’ presence, years after Jesus’ death and resurrection.

The revelation of God, when it comes, is a cherished experience that puts us in touch with the source of all life, the power behind human breath, the creator, redeemer, caretaker of all the universe.
. . .

You may have had an experience of God, perhaps not as dramatic as Paul’s but most likely it was that dramatic for you. 
I’M NOT GOING TO ASK YOU TO SHARE IT. You may tell me about it some other time.
My question for you today, is what keeps that experience, or any future experience of God, VEILED for YOU?
. . .

What do you allow to come between you and the experience of the Holy Other, the Divine, 
what we call God, and Christians call Christ, the human face of God?
. . .

It is always God’s choice as to when and how God reveals the Divine Presence to us. . . Once in a great while, we get a moment of clarity.. a mountaintop experience.
… the unbelievable happens, but it is clear and real to you.
Perhaps it is a moment in silent prayer where you are blessed with feeling the presence of God.

We might spend the rest of our lives trying to recapture that moment. We might even build monuments to it, like Peter wanted to do.. 
Certainly thru out history, Christians have done so, maybe we now call those shrines, churches. . .

A moment of clarity can carry you thru years of doubt. Doubt is certainly an important part of our journey of faith.
A faith journey isn’t about never doubting. Faith isn’t even about following a certain path to remove doubt. 
It is about opening ourselves to the Holy and waiting for God to reveal Godself to us.

One writer said, “Faith is the touching of a mystery, it is to perceive another dimension to absolutely everything in the world. In faith, the mysterious meaning of life comes alive. . . . in the simplest terms, faith sees, knows, senses, ..the presence of God in the world.”
. . .
are you ready for the day that occurs for you?
will you “Believe it”
will you have TIME for it?

We can’t make such revelation happen. 
All we can do is be ready for the moment it does.

LENT is a time to prepare ourselves for those moments of revelation.
LENTEN disciplines, giving up food, taking on a devotional practice (books available in narthex) are ways to prepare US for the mountain top.

The Season of Lent begins on Wednesday. We will be right here, singing simple choruses, listening to traditional scriptures, sitting in silence, and candlelight. 
That will be our entry into this season.

What you do after that is up to you. 
. . .
You might Set aside time each day,  
you might give up or take on,
or even join the centering prayer group we are going to begin the week after next.

There are many paths to God. 
Will you be ready to receive the Holy Presence when it comes?
Will your eyes be open when God makes the Holy visible to you?

Will you commit to travel this JOURNEY OF LENT walking by faith, in an attitude of welcome? 

..staying open to the God who comes and unmasks the mystery for us.. ?

1 comment:

Monica said...

I like the "it's God's choice when to lift the veil." I think our deepest spiritual experiences are tough to put into words, and this is a way of explaining why. Well done! And I hope you feel well enough to preach tomorrow.