Last Sunday after Epiphany, Year A

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Title Sermon Date Liturgical Scripture
Pentecost 3, year A June 29, 2014 3rd Sunday after Pentecost, Year A Romans 6:12-23, Matthew 10:40-42
Pentecost 2, year A June 22, 2014 Second Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 7, Year A Psalm 69:8-20, Romans 6:1b-11, Matthew 10:24-39
Trinity Sunday, Year A June 15, 2014 Trinity Sunday, Year A Genesis 1:1-2:4a, 2 Corinthians 13:11-13, Matthew 28:16-20
Pentecost, Year A June 8, 2014 The Day of Pentecost, Year A Acts 2:1-21, I Corinthians 12:3b-13, John 20:1-23
Easter 7, Ascension Sunday, year A June 1, 2014 Seventh Sunday of Easter Acts 1:6-14
Easter 6, year A May 25, 2014 Sixth Sunday of Easter, Year A 2014 Acts 17:22-31, John 14: 15-21
Easter 5, year A May 18, 2014 Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year A 1 Peter 2:2-10, John 14:1-14
Easter 4, year A May 11, 2014 Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year A John 10:1-10, Acts 2:42-47, I Peter 2: 19-25, Psalm 23
Easter 3, year A May 4, 2014 Easter 3, Year A Luke 24:13-35
Easter 3, year A – Shrine Mont May 4, 2014 Third Sunday of Easter, Year A Luke 24: 13-35
Easter 2, year A April 27, 2014 Second Sunday of Easter, Year A John 20:19-31, Psalm 16
Easter April 20, 2014 Easter Day, Year A Jeremiah 31:1-6, Matthew 28:1-10
Good Friday April 18, 2014 Good Friday, Year A The Passion according to John
Palm Sunday 2014 reflections April 13, 2014 Palm Sunday, year A Matthew 26:14- 27:66
Fifth Sunday in Lent April 6, 2014 Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year A 2014 Ezekiel 37:1-14, Romans 8:6-11, John 11:1-45, Psalm 130

 

Last Sunday after Epiphany, Year A

Sermon Date:March 2, 2014

Scripture: Exodus 24:12-18, 2 Peter 1:16-21. Matthew 17:1-9

Liturgy Calendar: Last Sunday after Epiphany


"Transfiguration" – Raphael  (1520)

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If you had to choose the most beautiful word in the English language, what would it be?   The word with the most beautiful sound, the word whose meaning  makes your heart quiver with joy, the word that pours out of your pen onto the page and whose  letters form a tiny piece of art because of the way the shapes come together—what is that word for you?   

For me, that word is alleluia.  A liquid sound, a sound with a beat, meaning for the Hebrews, “Praise you, Yahweh,” and the shape of those letters, like that line on a heartbeat monitor when the heart beats smoothly and with strength–peaks, valleys, peaks, valleys, on and on with an unending beat. 

Alleluia.   

Alleluia seems to be one of the favorite words in this church as well.  As some of you know, the prayer book has us saying alleluia at the dismissal only during the season of Easter, and yet, this congregation insists on saying alleluia, all year long, except during Lent, of course.   

And I’ve come to love that not exactly right liturgical tradition here. 

Leaving here each Sunday with praising Yahweh as the last word to pass our lips in this service is a good thing—because the intentional praise of God in the minutes, hours and days of our lives—that praise shapes who we are always becoming in this world.

Just thinking about this word makes me want to sing alleluia, I want to write alleluia, I want to pray alleluia, to be a walking, dancing alleluia, I want become alleluia—my heartbeat a constant praise to God, and that praise to God pouring out of my life in all that I do and all that I am. 

Alleluia.   

But some days my heart loses that alleluia beat. 

The days I’m challenged by my less than perfect life, the days I fall into the trap of thinking that those around me should have my perspective, see things the way I do, the days when I don’t praise God in prayer, the days when I depend only on my own strength and power –those days without alleluia are less than joyful days.   

We are all always in danger of losing our alleluias.

Life without praise to God can lack joy, and be a burden and heartache.  Jesus told us to take up our crosses—put up with the negativity of others, deal with pain, try to do everything perfectly–our crosses are unique to each one of us, and carrying these crosses can be tiresome, frustrating and downright miserable, when we lack alleluia.

When we struggle to carry our crosses all by ourselves, our crosses get almost too heavy to bear, and we break under their weight because we take our crosses so seriously.

And here’s the flip side of that coin —we can also tell ourselves that our crosses really are light, and that we can take our alleluias for granted.  Our praise to God is only lip service when we tell ourselves that God will carry our crosses, and that God never gives us things we can’t handle—all the while excusing ourselves from doing our parts in straightening out the messes that we’ve made of our lives. 

And that’s a danger of saying alleluia Sunday after Sunday–Lip service to alleluia rather than having alleluia as our heartbeat.

In the season of Lent, we actually lose the word Alleluia in our liturgy.  But why? 

The holy season of Lent, with its focus on “self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and reading and meditating on God’s holy Word,” as The Book of Common Prayer reminds us, seems to me the season where we most need Alleluia to help us along. 

So much of our liturgy is sheer counterintuitive genius, and this loss of the alleluia is an example.

As Jesus reminds us, we have to lose our lives to gain them.  This is the same liturgical idea– we must lose our alleluias in order to get those alleluias back into our lives.

Self-examination –where does my life lack praise to God–repentance for lack of praise to God, fasting –the alleluia fast is a stark reminder of the barren lives we would lead without any praise or gratitude in it– and the reading and meditating on God’s holy word—our holy scripture is the place where we find, over and over, people struggling to live without their alleluias, people searching for alleluia,  and people who ARE alleluia, people who are transfigured by being alleluias and living lives of praise to God. 

I love the fact that we always have the story of the transfiguration on the Last Sunday of Epiphany, right before entering into Lent, because this gospel lesson focuses on Jesus as Alleluia—no wonder light pours from his face as brilliant as bright sunlight glinting off of snow, almost blinding.  No wonder his clothes are dazzling white—when your body is on fire with love for God, clothes just transmit that light rather than covering it.

And the air there on that mountaintop echoes with Alleluia—God’s voice, praising and telling all with ears to hear—“This is my Son the Beloved, with him I am well pleased; listen to him!”  “People, listen to this man who is alleluia in his very being, in his very heart beating, whose words are unending alleluias—listen to him.”

In praying over this scripture, I’ve become convinced that this event did not happen just to prove to the disciples that Jesus was truly the Son of God.  They had heard this news already from God’s mouth at the baptism of Jesus.   This moment is a powerful reminder and that’s important for us as disciples, here at the end of Epiphany—the season of light, the season of scripture after scripture and story after story that reveals the identity of Jesus as the Son of God.

But I think this transfiguration is most of all God’s gift, God’s Alleluia to Jesus. 

Jesus has set his face toward Jerusalem.  He knows that this journey is going to end in suffering and death and at last in resurrection.  But just think how hard this road ahead will be.  I know very few human beings who are going to walk down a road of suffering with an alleluia heartbeat—even with an alleluia end in sight.

So God gives Jesus a reminder.  Beyond the suffering and death will be resurrection, blinding, shining light, transfiguration, transformation, Jesus entering into an eternity of alleluias.  “This is my beloved Son.”  This moment is the alleluia Jesus needs for the next part of his journey, and Jesus, does, we know, enter into the grimmest times of his suffering with a heart that beats with praise to God.

Today, when we leave this service, we’ll say our alleluias one last time and then lay them down for Lent, to enter into a season of contemplation and cleansing, a season of journeying with Jesus through temptation, through the painful events of Holy week, to the foot of the cross, to the grave, and at last to the empty tomb, where God will resurrect this beloved Son into an eternity of dazzling and shining light and infinite alleluias. 

And Jesus will be journeying with us as we go through our own hard journeys of temptation, journeys of pain and suffering, journeys in which we look death in the face,

And the light of this transfiguration is the cleansing fire that rids our hearts of disease, the bright and shining lamp that guides us into the way that we must travel to become the people God longs for us to be, God’s beloved children, full of praise to God, whose very lives are

Alleluia. 

Amen. 

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