Archive for the ‘2nd Sunday’ Category

Life in the Valley 3-17-2019

Saturday, March 16th, 2019

This Transfiguration event was both literally and figuratively, a mountain-top experience. Only three of the disciples were privileged to witness what happened. Significantly, it all started while Jesus was praying. First, his face changed in appearance. Then, his clothing became brilliantly white. Next, Moses and Elijah appeared and talked with him. And finally, God spoke from a cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen One. Listen to Him.”
But before we deal with it, I want us to skip ahead to the next day and include it in our thinking also. It was then that Jesus and the disciples came down from the mountain and were met by a desperate man with a sick son. The other disciples had tried to help the boy, but their efforts had been in vain. So Jesus filled the gap and did what they had been unable to do.
Each of these back-to-back days represents a vital dimension in the life of us Christians. One is the mountain of worship; the other is the valley of work. We must have both. If we major on either to the exclusion of the other, our lives will become spiritually lopsided.
Each of us as Christians needs to learn how to move back and forth between these two poles. Just as physical life depends upon an alternating rhythm – we inhale and exhale, we work and rest – so our spiritual lives can stay vibrant only when we alternate between taking in and giving out. But this is a very difficult balance to maintain.
This is the inclination of Peter up there on the mountain – He wanted to stay on the mountaintop.
He had never seen or heard or felt anything like that before. Jesus was there in all of his radiant beauty. Moses and Elijah were there – heroes from the past, so real and vivid. For one brief shining moment, everything made sense.
The cares of this world were left behind. Small wonder that Peter said, “Master, how good it is for us to be here. I want to stay!
What Peter wanted was to freeze that moment and hold on to it forever. Who could blame him? Surely, we have all had those mountain-top experiences that we wish would never end. Life was working; God was real. Trouble seemed so far away; and victory seemed so inevitable. That is where Peter was, and he wanted to stay there.
His was a natural inclination. This is what Christian faith means to some people – a retreat from life, far above the cares of the world.
But Peter’s desire to escape was not the only religious stance in evidence that day. We mentioned briefly the other disciples who remained in the valley.
I have wondered at times why Peter, James and John were the only ones who went to the mountain. We have supposed that they were the only ones whom Jesus invited, but that is not specifically stated.
It could be that the other nine choose not to go. Perhaps, they were so aware of the work to be done, of the needs to be met that there was no time for mountain-top retreats. Maybe they were the first century equivalent of today’s activists who think practical problem-solving is the only function of Christian faith.
Thus, we have two extremes – those who would love to stay on the mountain of worship and not be bothered with the problems of the valley, and those who are so involved with the problems of the valley that they have no time for the mountain.
It is worth noting that Jesus did not endorse or reject either position. He went to the mountain, but would not stay there. He returned the next day – refreshed, renewed, ready to meet the needs and challenges of the valley.
Those first disciples had to learn what we need to learn. Christian faith is more than work and more than worship. It is both. Those who would use their faith as an avenue of escape from the world and its problems have totally missed the meaning of Christ and his mission. He is the only one who “came not to be served but to serve and to give his life a ransom for many.” If we would walk with him we must realize that nothing is given to us to keep for ourselves. We are blessed in order that we might become a blessing to others.
By the same token, attempting to give, and give and keep on giving will lead to another kind of problem. Eventually a person must replenish his supply, or he will find there is nothing left to give. Those nine disciples in the valley were eager to help the afflicted boy but found themselves unable to do so. They somehow lacked the resources to meet the need.
So it is with us. We will never be through with the mountain of worship or the valley of service. All of our lives we will need power to live from and purpose to live for.

If You Love Enough 1-20-2019

Sunday, January 20th, 2019

I had the privilege to be part of some weekends called Engaged Encounters. On these weekends two married couples would share a great deal about their married life with about thirty engaged couples. I listened and learned a lot from these married couples. I was impressed with how hard they worked at staying married.
On this weekend when we read about the marriage feast at Cana, I would like to share with you two brief stories about two married couples that also really touched me.
She fought bravely and valiantly, he always at her side. But after eight years, cancer took her life. After the funeral, he was cleaning out the drawer near her bed and found a piece of paper she had written. It was a sort of love note. It looked a little like a schoolgirl’s daydream note about the boy in the next row. Except that this note was written by the mother of seven children, a woman who had been battling for her life until the end. It was also a wonderful prescription for holding a marriage together. This is how her note to her husband began. Loved. Cared. Worried. Helped me when I was sick. Forgave me a lot of things. Stood by me. Always complimentary. Provided everything I ever needed. Warmth. Humor. Kindness. Thoughtfulness. Always there when I needed you. And the last thing she wrote sums up all the other. Good friend. He folded the paper and placed it in his wallet. Sometime later he was talking to a friend about her. He showed him the paper. The friend, a much younger man, was deeply moved by the note. The friend asked, “How do you stick by someone through 38 years of marriage, let alone the sickness too?” “How do I know I’d have what it takes to stand by a wife if she got sick?” And he replied simply and quietly. “You will.” “If you love enough, you will.”
A strong self-reliant ranch owner, who did not very often express his emotions outwardly, had to rush his wife to the hospital. A ruptured appendix. The ensuing operation was successful, but the woman’s’ condition deteriorated. Despite the blood transfusions and intensive care, she continued to lose strength. The doctors were puzzled because by all medical standards she should have been recovering. They finally were convinced of the reason for her deterioration. She was not trying to get well. The surgeon, an old family friend, went to her and said. “I would think you would want to be strong for John.” She replied weakly. “John is so strong he doesn’t need anybody.” When the doctor told the husband what she had said, he immediately went into his wife’s room, took her hand in his and said. “You’ve got to get well!” Without opening her eyes, she asked, “Why?” He said, “because I need you.” The nurse who was monitoring the blood transfusion said she noticed an immediate change in the pulse beat and the blood pressure. Then the patient opened her eyes and said, “John, that’s the first time you ever said that to me.” Two weeks later she was home. The doctor commenting on the case said it wasn’t the blood transfusion, but what went with it that made the difference between life and death for that woman.
In closing, I would like to ask any married couple present here to stand. I would like to thank you for the hard work you put into your Sacrament of Marriage and I would like to offer you a special prayer of Blessing for you both. God, you have called woman and man to become “one flesh.” What a great sign of your love for us. Send your spirit, O God, upon those today who passionately proclaim their love for each other. May they always remember that the energy and power source of their relationship lies in fidelity and commitment to you. May they inspire all of us to pledge ourselves more deeply to our own promises, and our own vows to live in love. May these two lovers dance to the music of Christ. Amen.

Road Builders 12-9-2018

Saturday, December 8th, 2018

The little boy is scheduled for surgery the following morning. He is understandably scared. Late that night before the procedure, a nurse comes in to check on him. He is awake. Seeing the tears in his eyes, she sits on the corner of his bed and lets him talk about his fears. She explains not only what will happen but why. She answers his questions with honesty and assurance. After a while, the little boy understands. He’s still anxious, but the road is now a little smoother…
He’d be perfect for the sales opening. He has been invited in for an interview with the sales manager. Before the meeting he calls a friend who works in human resources. The friend tells him what he knows about this company and their culture and what they typically look for in sales associates. They study the company’s website together and the HR pro points out what to note about the company and what to talk up in the interview. He also helps his friend update and tune-up his resume. By the end of their time together, he’s ready for his meeting and a possible new beginning on the road of his life…
She was working on her psychology paper when she got the call from her mom. Her beloved Nana had died. Though not a complete surprise, she was still devastated. Her roommate made coffee and took her up to the dorm roof, where they sat and talked. Actually, she talked and the roommate listened. The roommate knew what she was going through because the roommate had lost her grandmother the year before. Her roommate’s empathy helped her negotiate, for the first time in her young life, the hard journey down the road of grief…
I would like to leave you with this thought: John the Baptist, that we hear so much about this week and next, came to fulfill Isaiah’s vision of the prophet: to “make straight” a highway to God, to create a level road for all of us to travel to the kingdom of God. We may have forgotten this, but because of our baptism, we take on that same role of prophet 2018 to create passageways and entries of hope, healing and support for all of us to complete our journey on the road to God’s dwelling place. Road builders: the nurse, the human resources friend, the roommate, every one of us sitting in this church today. Road builders to God!