Last Epiphany, Feb. 7, 2016

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Title:Last Epiphany, Feb. 7, 2016

February 7, 2016  (full size gallery)

Epiphany drew to a close this Sunday – a short one this year. 5 Sundays. It was only 6 in 2015.  It is not called 5th Epiphany but Last Epiphany to anticipate the beginning of Lent this week.

The day was overcast with a chill in the air but we had 43 in the congregation. A rose was placed on the altar for the birth of a daughter to Johnathan and Odessa Davis. We had a final Sunday with the votive candles and poinsettia. 

This week are the birthdays of McKenna Long and Howard Muhly which we celebrated. 

It was also the "Souper Bowl.. " The "Souper Bowl of Caring" is an annual fundraising drive organized in partnership with the NFL. It focuses attention on the issues of hunger and poverty in our community and throughout the world. Last year we collected $327, 25 food items.  This year was $98, 21 food items. All of these go the Village Harvest food distribution.

It was the last 1st Sunday social before the kitchen is transformed on Feb. 8. This will be partially financed by the UTO grant of $15,000. Today’s meal featured ham biscuits, crab dip, fruit and 3 types of soup. The desserts were brownies, cookies and a wonderful trifle.

Today’s readings help us see how we can be empowered by our relationship to God. The Gospels speak about experiences with God and Jesus. In Exodus, we witness the physical transformation of Moses after spending time in God’s presence. In 2 Corinthians, Paul speaks of being transformed into the likeness of God. In the gospel, Jesus is transformed, his glory revealed and his mission affirmed by a voice from heaven. Ultimately the disciples will need transformation also.

The season after the Epiphany concludes with one of the most powerful epiphanies of all – the Transfiguration. This story comes at the center of Luke’s story, between Jesus’ baptism and his resurrection. The sermon emphasized the last part of the story. 

"A man in the crowd that meets Jesus back in the valley cries out to Jesus on behalf of his only son. A spirit possesses his son. The father says, “Suddenly a spirit seizes him, and all at once he shrieks. It convulses him until he foams at the mouth; it mauls him and will scarcely leave him.” Apparently the man had begged the disciples to cast out this spirit, but they could not, because they were powerless against it."

While Jesus was on the mountain during the transfiguration, "only Luke reports the content of the conversation between Jesus, Moses and Elijah. “They were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.”This conversation is significant. Eight days before Jesus, Peter, James and John had gone up the mountain, Jesus had told the disciples that he would undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. Jesus had already made it clear to the disciples, then, that he himself was going to suffer, and now his conversation with Moses and Elijah centered around the suffering that he was going to face in Jerusalem.

"As Christians, we believe that the suffering of Jesus was what theologians refer to as redemptive suffering. Susan Nelson, Professor of Theology and Culture at the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, in an article in the journal Interpretation, says that “some suffering can be used for redemptive purposes…God can use suffering to redeem sinners, to end cycles of suffering and sin, and to bring reconciliation and hope to a suffering world.” Suffering becomes redemptive when “cycles of suffering and sin are broken…redemptive suffering reaches down into sinful hearts and pulls on the chords of compassion that bind one creature to the suffering of another.” 3 examples were provided and then 2 that were local

"As Christians, though, we can recall that Jesus, too, has suffered. Even on the mountain, as he prayed, he was transfigured, so close to God and consumed by God that the appearance of his face changed and his clothes became dazzling white, and yet, his conversation with Moses and Elijah centered on the suffering he was about to endure.

"We too, can go to God in prayer, even in pain that takes away any words we might have, remembering the encouraging words that Paul wrote to the Romans. “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us….the Spirit helps us in our weakness for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.”  

"If you remember nothing else from this sermon today, remember that we have power in the face of suffering.  

"The following prayer appears in The Book of Common Prayer on page 461. It was adopted for our prayer book from The Army and Navy Service Book. “Lord Jesus Christ, by your patience in suffering you hallowed earthly pain and gave us the example of obedience to your Father’s will: Be near me in my time of weakness and pain; sustain me by your grace, that my strength and courage may not fail; heal me according to your will; and help me always to believe that what happens to me here is of little account if you hold me in eternal life, my Lord and my God. Amen.”

"We can remember this vision of Jesus on a mountain top, his clothes dazzling white, his face changed into the light of sheer love and union with God. We can remember another hill where Jesus hung on a cross and suffered in hope that through his suffering, the world would be redeemed. We can choose the way of the cross, the way of compassionate presence with those who suffer. God will answer our prayers for the strength and courage we will need when we enter into our own time of suffering."

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