Thursday, February 07, 2008

Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday readings are here.

Is such the fast that I choose,
a day to humble oneself?
Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush,
and to lie in sackcloth and ashes?
Will you call this a fast,
a day acceptable to the LORD?
Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of injustice,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up quickly;
your vindicator shall go before you,
the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer;
you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am. Isaiah 58

Remember you are stardust
and to stardust you will return

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Last Epiphany

A somewhat finalized version of my sermon thoughts:

Mountains are a key theme in our readings today – throughout the world going to the mountains is symbolic of seeking a closer relationship with God and experiencing transformation of life. Those of us who live in the shadow of the Rockies know the holiness we find there: the wildness, the dangers, the adventure, the silence, the apart-ness. Often in the mountains we find out who we really are, our strengths and weaknesses. Revelation of the reality that we can do things that we never thought possible occurs when we go to the wilderness. When we reach the mountaintop we can see farther than when down in the valleys in the midst of the every day.

One weekend in my much younger days when I was a camp counselor – several of us decided we should climb Mount Hood, the highest peak in Oregon. We consulted with a guide and rented equipment. We camped near where we would begin. Early, long before dawn we began our climb. Halfway up the sun rose casting the shadow of the mountain across to the west. Making our way up the icy slopes, and gravely scree, we took a break near a place warmed by both the sun and the magma beneath us. Instantly we all fell asleep – a mix of lack of sleep the night before, the exertion of climbing and the grandeur of the mountain. With a brief lunch refueling our bodies – we made our way to the top. To see the world spread out below us – to have made it to the top – we could only stand in silence. I tucked a small stone into my pack – a sign to myself of something I had accomplished.

The Bible has many stories of the revelation of God on the mountains. The lesson from Exodus tells how Moses met God on the mountain to receive the commandments by which the community was to live. On the mountain with the glory of God all around him he could see more clearly the things that were needed to make their life together as a community better.

The psalm is written in a time of war – when a clear God-view of life and relationships is more needed than ever and we find ourselves in an uproar of chaos, actions and reactions seem to lead nowhere. The psalmist thinks the solution is in the hands of God – and believes only a violent intervention will help. The writer of the psalm cannot see beyond the violence – he needs a mountain top God’s eye view.

The Epistle is a reflection of the story in the gospel – how Peter remembers that glorious day of the Transfiguration when they experienced the revelation of Christ’s true being. He tells us to allow the star that is Christ to rise in our hearts so that we too can experience the fullness of the Christ light in our lives.

In the Gospel Jesus takes Peter, James and John with him --- climbing the mountain, experiencing the fullness of the revelation of who Jesus is. Until then they knew Jesus – the man who taught and healed. – now they see him in the fullness of his eternal self. This self of Jesus is always present but not seen. Like our trek up Mt Hood they learned things about the holiness of all life that they never knew before. They wanted to stay and worship the experience. Like me carrying my little stone – it was so amazing they wanted to hold on to it.

Our readings from the Gospel have moved in these short weeks from infant in a manger, to the escape to Egypt, to Jesus baptism by John and the calling of those who would follow him. The trajectory of these stories move Jesus like a small star appearing in Bethlehem to a super nova at the Mount of Transfiguration - enflaming the hearts of all who encounter him – now bursting in pure light --- as we enter into our Lenten journey with Christ can we feel him pulling us into his orbit? First let us take Peter’s advice and allow that small star to be born in our hearts and give ourselves over to Lent as a time of discovery of who Jesus can be in our lives. Take time to pray, take time to wonder, take time to love.

Tiny star of morning
born in the smallest of stables
spreading from manger to shepherd
to magi to beloved to teacher.
Expanding out into the universe,
calling everyone and everything home to the heart of Love.
Transfiguration reveals what was always there:
a supernova exploding into our hearts and minds.
Now we feel the black hole of gravity that remains
tugging pulling dragging us into the heart of the universe
as we journey through Lent to the fullness of Easter.

Star of morning be born in us this day.