Last Sunday after the Epiphany

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Title Sermon Date Liturgical Scripture
Trinity Sunday, Year B May 27, 2018 Trinity Sunday, Year B John 3:1-17; Romans 8:12-17; Canticle 13
Pentecost, Year B May 20, 2018 Day of Pentecost, Year B Acts 2:1-21, Ezekiel 37:1-14, Romans 8:22-27, Psalm 104:25-35, 37, John 15:26-27;16:4b-15
Easter 7, Year B May 13, 2018 The Seventh Sunday in Easter, Year B John 17:6-19
Easter 4, Year B April 22, 2018 The Fourth Sunday in Easter, Year B Psalm 23, Acts 4:5-12, 1 John 3:16-24, John 10:11-18
Easter 5, Year B April 22, 2018 The Fifth Sunday in Easter, Year B John 15:1-8
Easter 2, Commemoration of Dr Martin Luther King, Jr, 2018 April 8, 2018 Easter 2, Commemoration of the Life of Dr. Martin Luther King Luke 6:27-36, Ephesians 6:10-20
Easter Sunday April 1, 2018 Easter, Year B John 20:1-18
Sunrise service, 2018 – “The Road to Emmaus” April 1, 2018 Easter Luke 24:13-35
Good Friday March 30, 2018 Good Friday, Year B John 18:1-19:42
Maundy Thursday, 2018 March 29, 2018 Maundy Thursday, March 29, 2018 John 13:1-17, 31b-35
Palm Sunday, Year B March 25, 2018 Palm Sunday, Year B Mark 15:1-39, [40-47]
Lent 5, Year B March 18, 2018 The Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year B Psalm 51:1-13, John 12:20-33
Lent 4, Year B March 11, 2018 The Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year B John 3:16
Lent 3, Year B March 4, 2018 Third Sunday in Lent, Year B Exodus 20:1-17; 1 Corinthians 1:18-25; John 2:13-22; Psalm 19
Lent 2, Year B February 25, 2018 Second Sunday in Lent, Year B Genesis17:1-7, 15-16; Psalm 22:22-30, Romans 4:13-25; Mark 8:31-38


Last Sunday after the Epiphany

Sermon Date:February 11, 2018

Scripture: Mark 9:2-9

Liturgy Calendar: Last Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B

"Transfiguration icon”

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When Peter, James and John go up a high mountain with Jesus and see with their own eyes their beloved friend transformed, in dazzling white clothes, and two titans of their faith right there with them, Peter says, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here.  Let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”

I’ve heard so many transfiguration sermons about poor old Peter, there he goes again, impetuously rushing in and saying or doing the wrong thing, being ridiculous.  I’ve probably preached a sermon like that myself at some point.   

But today I say, “Hey, way to go, Peter!”

What better way to honor Jesus, Elijah and Moses than to make three dwellings to shelter them, to provide a comfortable place for them to continue their conversation—on Peter’s part, this impetuous and audacious offer of architecture that could actually hold heaven was one of well meant and heart felt hospitality.

And then, in perfect and dramatic timing, God’s dwelling becomes visible to them in the form of the cloud that overshadows them.

The cloud reverberates with God’s voice.  God says, “This is my Son, the beloved; listen to him!” And then the cloud, Moses, and Elijah are gone and no one is with them any more, but only Jesus. 

And they go back down the mountain.  

I guess the idea of building those three dwellings got left behind on the mountain.  And since Moses and Elijah vanished with the cloud, two of the dwellings were no longer needed. 

And Jesus and the disciples are constantly on the move as they carry out the good news that the kingdom of God has drawn near. 

So I wonder if Peter ever thought again about saying to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here, let us make a dwelling for you.”  Maybe he did,

Because that offer is deeply profound. 

In fact, to make a dwelling place for Jesus sums up the Christian job description that extends through our entire lifetimes, and Jesus, God’s son, God’s beloved, the one God tells us to listen to, gives us clear instructions about how to construct this dwelling place for him. 

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind.  This is the first and the greatest commandment.  And the second is like unto it.  You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

In Lift every Voice and Sing is a spiritual that sums up the single minded love of God that Jesus had in mind when he said that we are to love the Lord with all our hearts—Give me Jesus, LEVAS 91. 

The spiritual goes like this. 

In the morning when I rise, in the morning when I rise, in the morning when I rise, give me Jesus.  Give me Jesus, give me Jesus. You may have all this world, give me Jesus. 

The rich paradox of this hymn is that when the only thing I want or desire in this life is Jesus, I want to dwell in Jesus.  And at the same time, I’m inviting Jesus to dwell in me.  I, myself, become a dwelling place for Jesus.

In The Book of Common Prayer, there’s a section in the Rite One Eucharistic Prayer that directly talks about us being the dwelling place of Jesus. 

You can find this part of the prayer at the top of page 336.

“And here we offer and present unto thee, O Lord, ourselves, our souls and bodies, to be a reasonable, holy, and living sacrifice unto thee; humbly beseeching thee that we, and all others who shall be partakers of this Holy Communion, may worthily receive the most precious body and blood of thy Son Jesus Christ, be filled with thy grace and heavenly benediction, and made one body with him, that he may dwell in us and we in him.”

Notice that the prayer book points out that for this dwelling to be complete, others must be there as well—"all others who shall be partakers of this Holy Communion”—and Jesus tells us, even more expansively, to include all our neighbors, whom we are to love as ourselves and welcome into our dwellings as we would welcome Jesus himself.  We are to welcome them with sacrificial love. 

The cross, the symbol of Jesus’ sacrificial love for us,  provides us with some design details of these dwellings that we are building for Jesus.  The vertical beams are the ones that slip into place when love flows between us and God.  The horizontal boards are made from the love that flows between us and our neighbors.  And constantly pouring out the sustaining love that holds everything together at every intersection of the vertical and horizontal pieces of building material is the heart of Jesus. 

The Ten Commandments offer the same sort of building details—the first four commandments being about how we are to love God, and the rest being about how we are to love our neighbors. 

You’ve heard me talk many times about the fact that we live in the time of “now and not yet,” another rich paradox of our Christian faith.  Jesus, in his life and work, and in his death and resurrection, brought the kingdom of God near.  In the gospel according to Luke, Jesus tells the Pharisees that the kingdom of God is among them already.  The kingdom of God is here and now every time we love God and love our neighbors as Jesus asks us to do. 

But because our love is imperfect and incomplete, the kingdom is also not yet complete—but it will be, when Jesus comes again in glory to finish perfecting us all, and redeeming creation, and  his kingdom will have no end. 

Meanwhile, as we continue to shape ourselves into Jesus’ dwelling places on this earth, Jesus is going before us to prepare a dwelling place for each one of us with God, because as Jesus tells the disciples, “in my Father’s house there are many dwelling places….and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.”

These dwelling places that Jesus prepares for us with God will be the perfected dwelling places that we have lovingly labored to build here during our lifetimes.  If we have been Jesus’ dwelling place on earth, then the dwelling places in which we will live for eternity will seem strangely and wonderfully familiar, while being even more magnificently full of light and love and glory than we could have ever imagined.

So yes, Peter, I’m with you. 

“Lord, it is good for us to be here.  Let us make a dwelling place for you.”


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