Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Looking at the cross. March 11, 2018 The Rev. David M. Stoddart

Numbers 21:4-9; John 3: 14-21

I enjoy Gary Larson’s take on “intensive exposure therapy,” and I included his cartoon about dealing with the fear of heights, snakes, and the dark in your bulletin. It does not appear to be working, but it’s an intriguing idea and it offers us an entrĂ©e into this strange and disturbing reading from the Book of Numbers. The Israelites are wandering in the wilderness and they are complaining, which is not unusual. And they are unreasonable in their complaining, which is also not unusual: “We have no food, and the food we don’t have tastes terrible!” But after that, the story gets weirder. It tells us that the LORD sent poisonous snakes among the people, and they bit the people. What’s that about? It doesn’t say that God did it to punish people for complaining; we could infer that, except that we know better: Jesus tells us on numerous occasions that God does not do such things. Or it could just be that the Israelites at that point believed that anything which happened, good or bad, must be caused by God: if there are snakes, God must have sent them. That is a primitive theology, but it is present in parts of the Old Testament. But what is most bizarre is what happens when Moses intercedes for the people. The LORD tells him to make this bronze serpent and set it up on a pole for people to look at in order to cure their snake bites, which of course we know doesn’t work. Right?

But beneath all the strangeness there may be a deep wisdom embedded in this passage. You will notice that when Moses prays, God doesn’t make the snakes go away: they’re still there, and they still bite people. Instead he makes people look at an image of a snake, and doing that heals them. Put in basic terms, the LORD does not make their problem go away: he literally makes them look at it and confront it head on. It may not be “intensive exposure therapy,” but there’s something significant going on here.

And John’s Gospel gets it. And doesn’t just get it, but connects it with the work of Christ and the truth of God’s love: And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life (12:32) .  In John, the moment Christ is lifted up on the cross is the critical moment. In chapter twelve, Jesus says, And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw the whole world to myself.  And right after Jesus dies on the cross, John quotes the book of Zechariah: They will look on the one they have pierced (Zech. 12:10). The Israelites have to look at that snake on a pole, and it heals them. The Gospel tells us that we have to look at Christ on the cross, and it saves us. In the Greek, the word for salvation is the same word for healing. Eternal life doesn’t just happen after we die: it begins now, as we look at Christ and allow him to heal us and make us whole.

Why? Jesus is an icon of us: we look at him on the cross, and see the full effects of our selfishness, our greed, our violence, our indifference to others. And the cross does not just reflect our individual brokenness but the pain of our whole world: the systemic racism that afflicts our country, millions of people without health insurance, the abuse of our natural environment, and the huge and unjust disparities between the rich and the poor. They’re all there. When we see the body of Jesus hanging on the cross, we truly are seeing ourselves: our flawed, broken, and hurting selves — not being judged, but being embraced by the unconditional love of God.

For God so loved the world . . . The Gospel, the Good News, is absolutely clear: God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. When we confess our sins, we do not so in order t0 feel guilt or shame: we do so in order to be healed.

But how does that actually work? How will that actually change our lives? Well, we can see a great example of that in 12 Step programs, which are inherently spiritual and reflect Gospel truth even when the participants are not Christians. The first step: “We admitted that we are powerless over alcohol or drugs or gambling or food or whatever it is that we are addicted to, that our lives have become unmanageable.” And the second step: “We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves can restore us to sanity.” The rest of the steps simply outline a way of looking directly at the problem and seeing it within the light of God’s healing power. A snake on a pole. Christ on the cross.

And if you’ve never tried this, then Lent is an excellent time to start. Think of one of your besetting sins, a behavior or habit that hurts you and hurts others. Say, for example, you have lots of resentments. You don’t let go of anger easily but instead resent people and think badly of them, so much so that it eats away at you. I know a lot of people struggle with this. You could just say, “I’m so terrible. I really stink.” Or you could look at Christ on the cross, and see him embracing you with all your anger and resentment, and loving you. That would allow you to lay guilt and shame aside and look more closely. Why do you get angry so much? Why do you hold onto resentment? What old hurts do you carry? What insecurities cripple you? When can’t you forgive? How can God help you and heal you? Remember, Christ crucified is God loving us as we are so that we can be set free. Jesus died to save us. The goal of looking at the cross and seeing ourselves in the light of the cross is not condemnation: it is transformation.

I don’t know why God made a world where snakes can hurt people. I don’t know why God made a world where people can hurt people. We can speculate all we want, but God never gives us an answer to that question. Having faith does not mean explaining away the snakes: having faith means letting God heal the snake bites. Our salvation may not be fully realized until the Kingdom of God is fully realized, but it begins now. It begins the moment we look to Christ and say yes to his love, his forgiveness, and the healing he offers. For God so loved the world.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Where is God? March 5, 2018 The Rev. Kathleen M. Sturges

 John 2:13-22

With college basketball’s March Madness starting soon it makes me think about all that goes into making a game happen.  Not only do you need players, coaches, and refs, but countless other things like lights, buzzers, scoreboards, cameras, and video streams, to name a few.  But imagine with me if someone came into a game with a giant pair of hedge trimmers and cut all the electrical cords - the lights would go out, the scoreboard go black, the cameras stop filming.  If something like that happened we wouldn’t say that the person who did it was “cleansing” the basketball arena.  We’d say that he had stopped the game. 

In the same way that you need electricity in a basketball stadium, you need cattle and sheep, doves and money changers for people to worship in the Jewish temple.  And it is into this arena, the temple in Jerusalem, that Jesus enters with his own type of hedge trimmers - a handmade whip, in this case - to cut the cord and stop the temple game.  The gospel of John tells us that, “Making a whip of cords, [Jesus] drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.” 

What’s going on here?  Well, the gospel of Matthew, Mark, and Luke tells us that Jesus is cleansing God’s temple from corruption, accusing the sellers of turning this holy place into a “den of robbers.”  But the gospel of John has a slightly different take on what’s going on.  Jesus isn’t quibbling about shady business practices, but calling for a dismantling of the entire system of sacrifice.  The big issue here is  -  where is God actually located? 

Now back in Jesus’ day good and faithful Jews would answer that God is in the temple.  That the divine literally dwelt within the walls made of brick and mortar.  The temple was kind of like God’s house, but it seems that he had a terrible case of agoraphobia because he never left.  People had to come to him in the temple.  But you couldn’t show up empty handed.  The Jewish law required that all worshippers come with some type of sacrificial offering.   That’s why all those animals and money changers were in the temple in the first place.  They provided what was necessary to be in God’s presence.
So when Jesus stops all of that everyone was shocked, not only by his actions but by his words.  "Destroy this temple,” he says, “and in three days I will raise it up."  No one knew what he meant by that.  It didn’t make any sense. Only with hindsight did the disciples realize that the temple Jesus was talking about was his own body.  That Jesus was giving a new answer to the question, where is God?  No longer was God in a temple made of brick and mortar, but a temple of flesh and blood.  In Jesus’ was where God was most present. 

But even that didn’t turn out to be the final answer.  For at the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry in the gospel of John he prays for something more, “As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they (all my followers) also be in us...I in them and you in me.”  Now it’s hard to keep track of who is in whom, but what it’s all about is a mystical, mysterious being in one another - God in us and we in God.  And after Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension that prayer is answered by the Holy Spirit.  God is now everywhere...and in particular in each one of us.  The temple of God, where God is most present, is truly made of flesh and blood, our flesh and blood for the temple of God is found in you.  And in every other person - no exceptions. 

I pray we already know that.  Yet sometimes it’s hard to remember.  Certain circumstances may prompt us to ask, “Where is God?”  But know this any where, any time, any place provides a chance to encounter the God of grace that loves us beyond all measure.   When you share food with someone who is hungry, that’s the flesh and blood temple of God.   When you are in the hospital with someone you love, that’s the flesh and blood temple of God.  When you work for justice and peace, when you keep watch with the dying, when you forgive someone who’s hurt you - all those times and so many more are when the divine is present in the flesh and blood temple of God.  Now if we’re lucky we are aware of it in the moment, but other times, maybe even most of the time, we recognize those holy encounters only with hindsight - just like the disciples did in our story today.  They didn’t get what Jesus was doing or saying as he made a mess of the temple.  It was on the other side of the resurrection that they were able look back and see what had been true all along - that God had been with them in the flesh and blood temple of Jesus.

And here’s something else you probably already know.  That is that you don’t have to be in church to find God.  But before you rush out those doors and I never see you again - and then I’ll terribly miss you - let me say that I believe coming together on a regular basis to worship the God of love helps us to more fully be the flesh and blood temple of God out in the world.  For when we come together in church as members of the Body of Christ it is a special time where we pray for each other, encourage one another, and sometimes even challenge each other.  When we go it alone in our relationship with God, it’s remarkable how often God starts thinking exactly as we do.  Being part of a community guards against our tendency towards narcissism.   It’s been said that finding God in nature all by yourself, well, that’s easy.   The real miracle is finding God in the company of people who are just as annoying as you are, and as I am.  But here at church we get to practice all that, practice looking for and learning to do the work of God so that we are better at it when we go out in the world during the rest of our week.   For the world keeps asking the question, “Where is God?”  And we are called to answer in both what we do and what we say that God is with us, always, in flesh and blood. 

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Eager: A Reflection from Emily Rutledge

My baby just turned four.  He has a wild heart.  He is deeply compassionate and wide open.  Church is as much a part of him as bath time and preschool. He views it as such, another thing he does where he can be his true self, no need to hold back. 

Lately, he has been approaching the communion rail in a way that would make you believe they are handing out cupcakes and not wafers and wine.  While I'm happy he is eager for communion I often hope he will refrain from commentary.  My hopes are always squashed. 

Me: Dip your wafer in just a little big.
(dips entire wafer into chalice till his fingers are almost submerged)
Him: YES!  I got SO MUCH.
(happily nibble wafer all the way back to pew)

I wonder what communion would feel like for me if I laid it all out with commentary when receiving it, not as a 4 year old does but as my 33 year old self does.

(taking my normal sip from the chalice)
Me: YES!  Forgiveness for another week where I feel short in almost all aspects of my life but still get another chance and am still so loved!
(gleefully skip down the aisle)

I have a feeling I may be running to the alter, too.  Eager.  Always wanting more.  

I find that instead of running to Christ to tell me that I am enough, I am instead running for validation from others to tell me what I should or could already know.  That no level of success or progress is going to make me anymore loved and wonderful than I already am.  

I invite you this week to receive Christ at the rail the way my son does, so excited for the gift of Christ and so sure of it's goodness and truth that commentary is needed.  

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Letting go and getting behind Jesus. February 25, 2018 The Rev. Kathleen M. Sturges

Mark 8:31-38

In the spirit of the season I have a confession to make.  Conflict makes me uncomfortable.  So when I hear about Peter rebuking Jesus and then Jesus firing back and rebuking Peter I don’t like it.  What is all this rebuking about?  In fact, what does it even mean to rebuke?  It’s not a word we use very often.  Conflict avoidant or not, we may scold our kids or lecture our significant other, only on rare occasions, of course.  But rebuke?  We probably don’t think what we’re doing is rebuking because it sounds so harsh and it can be, but perhaps a more helpful way to think about it is to consider that “to rebuke” really means to put someone in their place. 

So with that in mind, I don’t know about you but I certainly feel more comfortable turning our attention to today’s reading from the gospel of Mark.  Now what’s going on here is a continuation of what just happened right before our reading began.  Jesus has just asked his disciples who they think he is and Peter declares, “You are the Messiah.”  And with that confession the disciples finally know Jesus’ proper place as God’s Messiah.   So now that “the cat is out of the bag,” so to speak, Jesus takes this opportunity to teach the disciples what being the Messiah actually means.  The Son of Man, Jesus explains, must undergo great suffering and rejection and even be killed. 

My guess is that it is Peter now who is feeling rather uncomfortable because he, along with all the other disciples, know that the Messiah’s proper place is in triumph not in suffering, rejection, and execution.  So Peter being Peter takes it upon himself to pull Jesus aside to inform him that he’s got it all wrong.  Peter is determined to put Jesus the Messiah in the place that he thinks is most proper, a place of glory and triumph and so he rebukes him. 

However, in doing so Peter, a disciple, someone who signed on to follow Jesus, is now suddenly trying to reverse roles and take the lead by telling Jesus what to do.  But Jesus is having none of that.  In response - for Peter’s own good - Jesus is quick to put him back in his proper place, that is, behind him.  “Get behind me, Satan!” rebukes Jesus. 

Poor Peter.  Just moments before he had been totally in sync with Jesus, seeing what many couldn’t see - that Jesus was the long awaited Messiah.  And Peter was more than ready to follow, follow that is, until it became clear that God’s Messiah wasn’t leading where Peter thought he should go and that’s what led to all this rebuking.  But Peter’s story is not unique.  Aren’t there times when we feel as right and as bold as Peter and ask God to just move on over and let us take the lead in our lives or the lives of others?  Circumstances where we feel pretty confident that we know what’s best and just wish that God would follow our instructions?   But there are other times when we do want to follow Jesus yet without even realizing it we do things to take control of a situation instead of letting go and getting behind Jesus so that we can follow and he can take the lead in our lives. 

Which brings me back to my years in high school, when for a few weeks in P.E. class we were taught social dance.   We learned how to do the foxtrot, the waltz, the swing, and for those who were really advanced, the polka.  Although it wasn’t cool to say so back then, and perhaps it’s still true today, I loved it.  Not only did it save me from changing in and out athletic clothes in the middle of the school day which was such a pain, but learning how to dance like “old people” turned out to be quite fun.  Who knew?  But there was a problem.  It wasn’t the dance steps that came relatively easy to me.  My problem was that I couldn’t stop leading my partner.  And as you may know, tradition has it that in social dance the boy leads and the girl follows.  I can’t tell you how many times I heard my teacher shout across the gym for all to hear, “Kathleen, stop leading!”  With that rebuke I was reminded to pay more attention and let my partner lead - which usually lasted for a few steps - until it completely slipped my mind and I went right back to leading once again.

It’s not easy for any of us to surrender control and follow someone else’s lead - and you know I’m not just talking about social dance here.  Jesus certainly knew this about us because after putting Peter in his place Jesus gathers the entire crowd, not just the disciples, but everyone who was around so that he can tell them something really important, where their proper place is - where our proper place is: Behind Jesus.  If any want to become my followers, Jesus says, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.

Sobering words, which at first may sound just as appealing as an invitation to a death march. But really it’s quite the opposite, it’s a call to dance with God.  To dance the dance of abundant life with the first step of this dance, starts with denying ourselves.  Now just to be clear, denying ourselves is not about hating ourselves because we are called to love ourselves as Christ loves us - and that’s a whole lot of love.  Nor does denying ourselves mean deciding to make life hard - to give up things that bring comfort, joy or pleasure - doing that is just a different way of trying to control which in this dance leads to a lot of stepping on toes and nothing feels right.  Rather, denying ourselves is about letting go, letting go of the idea that it’s our right to be in charge of our lives, that we should be the ones to dictate what steps to take and when to take them.  Denying ourselves is surrendering our claim to be in charge so that Jesus is able to take the lead.  For when we are willing to follow his lead, responding to the gentle guidance and prompting of God’s Spirit, then we are able to pick up the cross of Christ.  Jesus’ cross that is all about giving in a world that takes, loving in a world that hates, offering mercy when others seek vengeance, forgiveness when others condemn, compassion when others are simply indifferent.  This is God’s dance that we are invited to join in.  This dance of denying ourselves and taking up our cross which leads to abundant life.

Now we are all pretty clumsy when it comes to this dance.  We may even feel like all we have to offer are two left feet.  No matter, God in Christ desires to dance with each and every one of us.   But if you’re like me, you’ll need lots of reminders and sometimes even a loving rebuke.  Yet keep in mind that it is always good news when Jesus speaks to us and says, Get behind me and follow my lead.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

One of us. February 18, 2018 The Rev. David M. Stoddart

Mark 1:9-15

What if God was one of us? In a few breathtaking verses, Mark brings us right there. Jesus is baptized, the Spirit descends on him as a dove, and a voice from heaven proclaims him the Son of God. But then that same Spirit does something remarkable: She drives him out into the wilderness where Jesus has to be human and vulnerable. He battles with temptations; experiences fear and terror — he’s with the “wild beasts” as Mark describes it. And he is out there for a long time, no doubt feeling lonely, certainly struggling with the relentless tedium of difficult days without any distractions, getting just what he needs to survive. And then, when that ordeal is over, he begins his public ministry right as John the Baptist is arrested, soon to be executed on a whim from Herod. Having faced his own human nature, Jesus goes out into a dangerous world where human beings both suffer and cause suffering. And it is to human beings in that broken world that Jesus proclaims the message: The kingdom of God has come near; repent and believe in the good news.

Jesus doesn’t float above the ground, preaching only in the rarefied precincts of the Temple to respectable and outwardly perfect people. He hangs out with whores and traitors, spends time with disreputable women, touches lepers, embraces outcasts, and eats and drinks with anyone because the Kingdom he proclaims has come near to everyone, and breaks into all situations and circumstances. “What if God was one of us? Just a slob like one of us. Just a stranger on the bus tryin’ to make his way home.” (from "One of Us" by Joan Osborne) That’s the whole point: God has become one of us, and there is no human condition alien to God. And that message needs to penetrate into every corner of creation: into doctor’s offices where people learn they have cancer, into twelve step meetings where people struggle with addiction, into Parkland, Florida where they are reeling from a senseless slaughter, into the midst of racial discord and glaring inequalities, into the grind of our daily lives, and into the fear and loneliness of sleepless nights. It’s right where we most need God to be that God wants to come.

So the question is not whether God is present: the real question is will we accept that God is present, no matter what? Which leads to the great exhortation on this first Sunday in Lent: Repent. But that doesn’t mean “feel bad about the wrong things you have done.” The Greek verb is metanoiete, which means, literally, “change your mind.” How? Accept that God loves you and holds you close as you are, in all your flawed and wonderful humanity. Let that love in, so that you can be forgiven and renewed and set free to love in return.

No other message will do. If the Church says to the world, “You better shape up! You better behave! If you do, then maybe God will love you and bless you, and if not, go to hell.” There’s no good news in that, and it’s not the message of Jesus, who constantly shows broken and sinful people that God’s love is close, that the Kingdom of God, where that love is fully realized, is being revealed all the time. And we can be part of it. God wants us to be part of it, and there is no barrier other our willingness. People cannot be coerced into the Kingdom. They cannot be scared into the Kingdom. They will not be guilted into the Kingdom. People can only be loved into the Kingdom. That is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

But that Gospel can only be authentically proclaimed by people actually living it. I can preach the love of God until I am blue in the face, but if you don’t see God’s love at work in my very imperfect life, why would you listen to me? We as a church can talk all we want about sharing Christ’s love with the world, but if the world looks at us and doesn’t see God’s love at work in our very imperfect community, then our message is empty: it means nothing.

So, I urge all of us to follow Jesus this Lent and change our minds. Let’s confess our sins so we can know God’s forgiveness and accept God’s love for us as we are, without having to earn it or deserve it. And then let’s go out and live it and share it, each one of us, in the particular circumstances of our lives. That’s what the world needs: to see people who know the love of God is coming into the world all the time and who show that in their own lives. In a world where people sing songs wishing God was one of us, they can look at you and me and all who believe in the Good News, see Christ, and realize God is one of us and God is with us. Always and everywhere.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Between Dust and Dust... A Reflection from Emily Rutledge

On this, the second day of Lent, I am beginning to think about what I want to focus on for this season. 

I am a pre-planner like that. 

I have had years that my Lent has been about giving up: chocolate, self-doubt, social media.  I have had other years where my Lent has been about taking on: reading, contemplative prayer, making time for others. 
Image result for ash wedneday
To be honest, sometimes when Lent rolls around it feels like a chance for New Year's Resolution 2.0, a re-do, a second chance because somehow the unrealistic expectation I set for myself a month ago is going to suddenly become realistic.  Magic God will show up and my resolve will be stronger.  This usually just ends with further disappointment and a reminder that God isn't in the business of mind control... She's far more concerned with our hearts. 

Preparing our hearts for something doesn't often mean we need to live in a black and white world of no ____________ till Easter but rather the infinity more difficult existence of wresting with our own humanity and mortality.  The gray space of life.  When we are told on Ash Wednesday that, we are but dust and to dust we shall return, it's no mistake that our kick-off to the season is a reminder that we are mortal.  You and I and every person we encounter will someday die.  That is a truth our culture works incredibly hard to cover up.  It is counter-cultural to live as though we are going to die.  We live in a world that tells us we can be and do anything but constantly leaves out the universal truth that we are all going to die.  We begin and end made up of the same stuff.  At this moment we are in between dust and dust.

Lent is our chance to enter that space as Christ did before his death. 

I know deep in my soul that eternity is ahead for each of us but I have no earthly understanding of it.  I'm fairly sure it's not fairy wings and cloud jumping but I could be wrong about that, too.  For much of my young life I put a lot of energy into trying to figure out what was next to ease the fear I had of death.  As I have worked to accept my own mortality the strong grip I had on unlocking the mystery of eternity has released and I long more to be present in the Kingdom of God I am currently a part of. 

Last month there was a missile scare in Hawaii.  An alert went out informing residents that a ballistic missile was headed to the islands.  I was born and raised in Hawaii and most of my family and friends still live there.  The stories that have unfolded regarding the half and hour before the alert was deemed a mistake have rooted deep within me.

Declarations of love, apologies, words of affirmation.  Parents fighting like hell to be with their children and strangers helping each other in selfless ways. 

People were not calling others to remind them how much they hated them.  People were not concerned about another's immigration status or gender or orientation or voting history.  There were not lines of people at ATMs withdrawing all their money. 

In a moment when an entire state's mortality was suddenly thrown in their faces reactions were that of love, connection, and caring. 

This Lent, what if we threw caution to the wind and lived as if we were going to die? 

Monday, February 12, 2018

The glory of God who is. February 11, 2018 The Rev. Kathleen M. Sturges

Mark 9:2-9

Remember Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz?  At the beginning of her story she's in Kansas and rather unhappy with her circumstances.  The loneliness and boredom of small farm life are getting to her.  She’s restless, wanting something more or something different.  Perhaps if she were somewhere else, somewhere, say, over the rainbow then all would be well and her dreams really would come true.   

But Dorothy's not the only one who longs for change when the current situation isn’t what one would hope for.  So often we look at the circumstances of our lives and judge them.  If they all add up to what we like and find pleasing then we say God is good and life is at as it should be.  However, when we don't like what we see, when life isn’t so satisfying in one way or another we may blame God and be desperate to seek something new.  Maybe a change of scenery, or some other kind of change - a new car, a new job, a new relationship, a new something might solve the problem.   Sometimes that works.  But more often than not that restless desire for something different or the longing for something more isn't so much about the circumstances of life that are happening around us, but the depth of life that exists within us. 

It’s a bit ironic that when we seek to nurture the life within us, our spiritual lives, we often look on the outside to our circumstances in order to find God.   We seek to know God through our blessings - an amazing job opportunity, the long-awaited birth of a child,  a doctor’s report of good news from a test result, or in my case just a few days ago not slamming into the car that stopped right in front of me when I was going 50 miles an hour.  When good things like that happen, we thank God and feel like all is right in the world.  And when our outside world is good then our inside world is good as well. 

That must have been how the disciples felt as they witnessed Jesus doing all this amazing stuff.  Casting out demons, healing the sick, feeding the 5,000 and calming the storm.  In Jesus they were seeing God show up and doing marvelous things - a God who does.  And who, no doubt, would have gotten plenty of likes and shares on Facebook if had been around during the day!  

However, there comes a time in most of our lives when we are called to know God more fully and more deeply.  To know not only the God who does, but the God who is.  The God who is - regardless of circumstances.   This is who Peter, James, and John are invited to know when Jesus leads them up on a high mountain apart, by themselves, to experience the Transfiguration.  Mark’s gospel explains that Jesus’ “clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them.”  The gospel of Matthew says that in addition to his clothes Jesus’ face shone like the sun.  In this transformation Jesus didn’t just reveal a God who does, but the glory of God who is - a God who is light, who is love, who is life - no matter what.

Yet as amazing as that experience must have been, nothing really changed.  It’s not like Jesus suddenly lit up and became someone new or different.  The disciples were given a glimpse of what was true all along that whether Jesus was literally shining or not he always embodied God’s glory.  And just as quickly as all of this happened it suddenly disappeared and everything seemed to go back to the way things were -  all except for those three disciples, Peter, James, and John.  Their eyes were now open to a new way of seeing Jesus, a new way of experiencing the ordinary world, a new way of knowing God as ever present and near.   

But let’s remember Peter, James, and John were real people.  Yes, they’d seen God’s glory in Jesus.  They knew it was real.  But still, as Jesus heads down the mountain and begins his journey to the cross, it becomes more and more difficult to hold onto this new vision.  No longer does Jesus wow the crowds with big, bold miracles.  Instead he submits to the people and forces that seek his bodily destruction.  And when the time comes when Jesus is arrested Mark records that all the disciples flee - including Peter, James, and John.  Yet even in the brutal reality of Jesus on the cross, even then, though not apparent to the natural eye, the glory of God - the God who is light and love and life regardless of circumstances - still shone in and through Jesus.  Now it took a while, but eventually the disciples were able to see this glory as well.   

We are invited each and every day to know more fully our God who is, to connect with the Holy One who fills the world with divine light and love that brings life to all situations.  Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for the God who does.  I love when prayers are answered in ways that we can see God’s goodness at work in obvious ways.  But what the Transfiguration offers us is the promise that in all things there is so much more going on than what our human eyes can see - the glory of God is truly everywhere.   

As you may recall, towards the end of The Wizard of Oz Dorothy has a change of heart.  She now sees Kansas with new eyes and she longs to go home, but her chances seem lost.  Lost until Gilda, the Good Witch of the North, appears and explains to Dorothy that she has always had the power to go back home.  “Then why didn’t you tell her?” asks the scarecrow.  “Because,” Gilda answers, “she wouldn’t have believed me.  She had to learn it for herself.”  We, like Dorothy, often must follow our own paths, experience our own journeys in order to gain new vision and learn for ourselves over and over again more deeply and fully each time the reality of the Transfiguration in our own lives  - that no matter what our circumstances look like, God’s light, God’s love, God’s life is always present, always with us.  So take a close, hard look and see the glory of God shining right in front of you in your life today.