Saturday, April 19, 2014

Easter 2014: "I Know that You Are Looking for Jesus Who Was Crucified"

Acts 10:34-43, Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24, Colossians 3:1-4, Matthew 28:1-10

Welcome to Easter, welcome to the celebration of the resurrection of Our Lord. Members and friends, visitors and seekers, whatever your religion, whatever your belief or unbelief, it’s good that you are here. Easter is a public day, Easter is not church property — it is but our privilege to host the celebration of it for the world.

What brought you here today? Are you like the women in the story? Are you looking for the Jesus who was crucified? You came here to get close to God, you came here for the worship and the celebration, you came here for the music and the prayers, you came for the metaphors and mysteries. Or you came here out of curiosity, or from your desire for faith and hope and love that go beyond the hardness of the world.

The resurrection is a window to the Great Beyond, so that when we speak of Jesus rising from the dead we have to speak of things we do not know the meaning of. Yet some of its meanings are discernible.

It means the vindication of Jesus as the Messiah, in spite of his public failure the Friday before.

It means the affirmation of the long experience of Israel, and the lasting importance of that people for all the rest of us.

It means the victory of goodness over evil in the universe, but from the inside out.

It means that grace is stronger than sin and forgiveness is stronger than guilt.

It means that justice beats injustice, not by force of arms but by the force of love.

It means that life is stronger than death — the life that comes from God.

It means that the promises of God hold true, even at great cost — especially at great cost.

It means that our species Homo sapiens has a strange and blessed future which remains a mystery hidden with Christ in God, and of which we can only catch some glimpses and some intimations. His risen body is the window, the doorway, the gateway, the wardrobe, the wormhole, the conduit into the future of God already impinging on us now.

And yet there is something so primitive and old-fashioned about it, that it centers on the revival of a physical body, which physical body will have an endless life. As if the physical body is so important. Aren’t spiritual things the most important things? Isn’t truth eternal anyway?

But isn’t it so that your physical body is the intersection of all that’s important in your world? Your emotions, your affections, what you love, whom you love, where you sleep, where you dream, where you work, what you do, how you feel, your fears, your griefs, your pain, your exultation? Your body is both spiritual and physical, where what is eternal encounters what is seasonal, where heavenly realities hit the dirt, where good and evil, and holiness and depravity, are jostling each other side by side. Your body is the stage on which the universal drama gets played out. Your body is the seat of your strengths and weaknesses and the vehicle of your enjoyment and your suffering.

So if God loves you, then God loves your body too, and God’s great salvation will include your body. The resurrection of Jesus is an affirmation of the flesh-and-blood existence of humanity. That is a continuity. But as the angel says, he is not here. That is a discontinuity. Easter gives us both.

This is a problem. The resurrection is the hardest doctrine to believe.
Humanism tries to solve it by denying its reality and his divinity. Gnosticism tries to solve it by denying his flesh-and-blood humanity. For both of them it ends up all within your mind.

All four gospels claim that Our Lord arose in flesh-and-blood. You can read in this the promise of some continuity between your bodily existence and your eternal life. But there is discontinuity in how hard it is to pin him down. He comes and goes, he appears and disappears, you can touch him and then you can’t. He presents himself to his disciples but most of the time he’s in absentia. "Jesus, come back, where are you going? Can’t you just stay put, and not go off again?" The great discontinuity is that the angel’s proof of the resurrection to the women is that his body is not there!

So he is real but also beyond us. His risen body is the intersection of time and eternity. He is where we will go but can’t go yet. We have to die first. We have to disconnect. His resurrection life is real in us, but only partially, and mixed with the corruption that remains in us. We live at the intersection of time and eternity as well.

This means something for yourself. It means that your eternal life is not the mere extension of your current life right now, and it’s certainly not the simple immortality of your soul. It’s rather the transformation of your life, the transformation of your body and your soul. It will be you, not by the extension of you, but by an extrapolation from him within the form of your own particulars.

And because of this discontinuity, you cannot see yet what you will be. As our epistle says, your life is hidden with Christ in God, hidden even from yourself. Hidden for safe-keeping. Preserved, protected, guaranteed, and incorruptible even by your failures or your sins or doubts or unbelief. Which is a great relief. You can let go of yourself. You can die to yourself. Do not be afraid.

This also means something for Christian social justice in the world: the continuity of his body tells us that we can share the ethos of humanists and progressives for the greater humanization of the world, and for the progress of liberty, fraternity, and equality. But the discontinuity, as well as the fact that this most perfectly humanitarian person who had ever lived was innocently crucified, is the judgment upon the secular faith in the positive power of humanity to achieve the progress we desire. We can receive it only by our transformation, upon repentance and in our dying to ourselves, in union with the Jesus who was crucified.

But do not be afraid. By raising this particular crucified person from the dead, the Lord of history has raised a banner in time and space against tyranny, injustice, discrimination, disease, poverty, suffering, oppression, greed, and war. That is where God stands, and to that social transformation we bear witness, even in our fear and trembling. So of course the women left the empty tomb in fear and in great joy.

Somebody who’s here today needs to be encouraged. Somebody who’s here today needs to be inspired. Somebody needs to see this vision once again. Somebody needs to be relieved.

Somebody here is trying to be good and noble on your own, and no matter whether that makes you hard and critical or soft and mushy, you need to hear the message that you must look for Jesus who was crucified, and die to yourself and even to your noble aspirations, and do not achieve but receive, and for your goodness you aspire to a life of gratitude and humble generosity.

Somebody here is afraid, afraid of the future of the world and for the children being born today. You need to hear the message that yes, the world is truly self-destructive and is judged by God, but also the promise that God so loves the world, and God has future plans for it, and for its good, and for its healing and its peace.

Somebody here is angry, angry at the failure of love in your life, and you are tested and tempted by the power of hatred and hardness and self-preservation, and you need to hear the message to get you through this temptation, even if sweating drops of blood, and believe that love is costly but love wins.

Somebody here is grieving, grieving at the loss of someone you loved, or for the loss of what you had hoped for, or at the imminence of your own death, and you need to hear the message that death is a boundary which has another side, and that while you are not fully shown the geography of that other side, you can know that there is reconciliation, and satisfaction, and joy and peace.

Somebody here is in pain, or you are sick in body or in soul, and you need to hear the message that God loves your body more than you do, even in its connection to infection and pollution and its susceptibility to aging and decline, and God will take it from you, and give it back to you in some new version, as yet unseen, without spot or wrinkle, and fit for bearing light.

Somebody here today is guilty and feels ashamed, and you need to hear the message that your value and your goodness is securely held by God and not by you, and is preserved by God against your failure and your foolishness and faltering.

Somebody needs permission to believe this mystery. Somebody needs encouragement to believe that the green and yellow metaphors of Easter are backed up in reality, though that reality be hidden from the present in the past and in the future. That reality is opened in the promises and prophecies, and reasoned out in the epistles and enacted in the gospels and emoted in our music.

The love and joy you feel today is passing and partial, but there is reality behind it, more real than all the other incidents and accidents you call reality. Whatever you are looking for today, I invite you to believe the enduring and cosmic reality of the love of God for you.

Copyright © 2014, by Daniel James Meeter, all rights reserved.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

April 6, Lent 5, The Walking Dead, # 8 in A Series on Sin

 Ezekiel 37:1-14, Psalm 130, Romans 8:6-11, John 11:1-45

This sermon is the last one in my series on sin, thank God. So this is the last time I’m asking my question of our scripture lessons: "What can you tell us about sin?" The gospel lesson answers, "Not much, that’s not what I’m about." Right. The theme is life, life in his name, and hearing his voice, and that even the dead will obey the voice of the Lord. If there’s any sin in the story it’s incidental.

But the story does have death in it. The death of Lazarus, or I should say, the deadness of Lazarus. His actual death is not described. But his deadness is. He’s four days dead. All that’s left of him is his dead flesh: his spirit has left his lungs, his soul evaporated, his mind extinguished. His body has begun to stink. He is nothing now but bones and teeth and slowly rotting meat. Das Fleisch. He has gone from flesh and blood to flesh and rot. So death here is not simply inertness, but the power of corruption and decay.

Which is connected to sin by our epistle reading. Romans 8 says that "We who are in the flesh cannot please God," and that "the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God," and that "the body is dead because of sin." So if we interpret scripture by scripture, we could say that there is sin implicit in the gospel story because there’s flesh in the story. The word "flesh", throughout the Bible, in metaphor and fact, is both a necessary reality of our embodied existence and a moral problem.

My own flesh is 60 years old, and I can feel the beginning of my body’s decay. I’m not an elf, like in The Lord of the Rings. Their physical bodies don’t die. They always stay youthful and strong and beautiful. This week the eye doctor confirmed that my vision is getting cloudy because of my age. I think my hearing is going. I used to have such nice feet and now my toes are getting crooked and my toenails thick and yellow. It’s not my death I think about so much as my body’s decline. Is this because of sin, as it says in Romans 8? If Adam hadn’t sinned, would we all be like elves? If I were not a sinner would I be youthful even at 60?

Right now I have both life and death in my body. Vitality and entropy. At present life is the stronger, and my body can handle all the daily dying and decay of cells and tissues. But eventually and inevitably I will get my final disease, and death will be the stronger. But this is also true for dogs and they’re not sinners. Elephants expire; they’re not sinners. So why for us is death because of sin?

We cannot answer that from out of biology or anthropology or even philosophy. The best we can say is that God has declared it so, that your death is because of sin. God has made a judgment out of something natural. And we do feel it that way, as a judgment. We are the only vertebrates, it seems, who experience death as unfair, and a cause for existential complaint.

So we resist our deaths. All animals try to stay alive, but we resist our deaths to a degree distinct among mammals. We resist the judgment of God on us. It’s circular. We resist our deaths, and yet the very meaning of death is our resistance. Your flesh resists the Spirit of God, your mind resists the righteousness of God, your freedom resists the sovereignty of God, your fear resists the love of God, and your self-regard resists the Lordship of Christ. In that resistance is your death, and your death is the very thing that you’re resisting most of all within your life, just by your will to live.

Resistance can be good. The sculptor requires the resistance of the stone, the cellist requires the resistance of the strings, and the athlete the resistance of physical limits against which to excel. Non-violent resistance is good. Turning the other cheek is resisting in love. James 4:7 says to "Resist the devil and he will flee from you." It is natural to resist incursions into your field of freedom. Copyrights, trademarks, private property, the sanctity of contracts, and the rule of law are forms of resistance. And even though the Lord Jesus submitted to death and did not resist it, yet he did resist getting arrested before the time of his own choosing. Your freedom, which is so important, requires at least some measure of resistance. Remember Masha Alyokhina from Pussy Riot.

But resistance can be tragic heroics, willfulness, refusing to see, not-believing, knowing better, and disobedience. Resistance can be abandonment, depression, guilt, fear, and passive aggression. Resistance can be prejudice and pride, or anger, or sloth, or any the Seven Deadly Sins. Resistance to God, resistance to love, resistance to the life of God. The whole story of the Bible is both the story of God’s salvation and the story of our resistance to God’s salvation. The goodness of God to Israel and the resistance of Israel to God. The Messiah comes to his people and his people resist him. The Holy Spirit is given to the church and the church resists the leading of the Holy Spirit.

Where is your resistance in your life? What are your defenses and your boundaries, the space you protect to preserve your independence, the commitments you’ve made to define yourself, the vows you’ve made to keep you going? The Jews are very wise on Yom Kippur to repent of all their vows. The purpose of Lent is to remind you that it’s futile to resist. Repentance means not resisting the judgments of God, so that nothing is left to keep you standing straight but faith and hope and love.

The great resistance is death. It’s a passive resistance, unlike the active resistance of disobedience, and yet it is its own kind of disobedience as the dead are deaf to obedience. Death means no response. Before you die, even when you’re very sick, medicine can do all sorts of things for you to extend your life. As Mary and Martha both said to Jesus, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." We spend 25% of our health-care dollars on the last six months of life, but once you are dead, even the most brilliant doctor can do nothing for you. Death is the great "No," the great negation, the final disobedience, a resistance which is passive and aggressive and absolute.

Except against the Word of God. In the beginning, when God created the heaven and the earth, the earth was formless and void, and darkness covered the face of the deep. Formlessness, no form, no thing, nothing, no life, all death, all passive aggressive resistance, all negation. When God spoke, things came to be, because the negation could not say No. It could not resist the Word of God. And this Creator was fully present in this man Jesus, and in a human voice but with the same authority he spoke to the stinking flesh, and he said, "Lazarus, come out," and deadness could not resist him, the dead guy obeyed him. He was like one of the zombies in The Walking Dead, except that this walking dead man was obedient to the Lord of life, and he was coming alive, and so they did not smash his head but they unbound his face and hands and legs to give him the freedom of his life in Christ.

There is a picture here for you. Not that you are zombies or the walking dead, but the life eternal which belongs to Jesus is coming alive already in you. When you listen to God’s voice, when you seek the Lordship of Jesus, when you share the life of God in Christ, your eternal life has begun already. In that sense you will never die, though your body decay and your soul evaporate. Your life itself, in some mysterious way outside of human knowledge and control — your life is safe within the bosom of Jesus like he’s a mother kangaroo and you are in his pouch until he comes again.

Jesus let his good friend die. You can’t be resurrected without your dying first. What must die in you is the whole system and complex of your resistance which is your flesh, both body and soul. So the Lord God overcomes your resistance. But even now, before you finally die, even the resistance of your flesh and all that it represents is being engaged in love by the Holy Spirit.

Do you know how the filament works in an incandescent light bulb? The filament is a wire made of tungsten which resists the flow of the electricity, and against that resistance the electric current turns to light. The wonder of God’s love is that the energy of God’s Spirit makes gracious love shine even in your dying flesh. The love of God for you is not just for what’s beautiful and lovable about you, but God loves also what is broken in you and weak and ugly and unlovely. God loves even your bones.

God engages your resistance to generate a loveliness that is sweeter than nature itself could ever know. (Une pièce de resistance!) It’s a sad song but a sweet song because it is a love song. I invite you to believe that God has made a song about you and your life and to imagine that God sings your song whenever an angel happens to mention your name.

Copyright © 2014, by Daniel James Meeter, all rights reserved.

Friday, March 28, 2014

March 30, Lent 4: Not Seeing; #7 in a Series on Sin

1 Samuel 16:1-13, Psalm 23, Ephesians 5:8-14, John 9:1-41

This chapter is a set-piece, it’s like a stage play in one act, a perfect little drama, with tragedy and comedy, and with a protagonist in the classic sense: the beggar, the man born blind. It’s dramatic but it’s also theological. The story develops the themes of the Gospel of John: of light and life, of being born again, of seeing the Kingdom of God or not seeing it, of believing that Jesus is the Messiah or not believing it, of sin and guilt and judgment, and who gets judged and how that judgment comes.

One act in the three scenes. A first scene, a long middle scene, and a final scene. On the street, in the synagogue, and back on the street. The beggar is in all three scenes, but Jesus is not; Jesus is absent for the long middle scene, and the absence of Jesus is part of the plot. We have to deal with the absence of Jesus too. Where is Jesus when I need him? Where is God when I need God? As the Children of Israel said last week, "Is the Lord among us or not?" Have we been abandoned again?

The drama opens with the disciples trying to establish the guilt behind the beggar’s blindness. It is a natural response to suffering to look for cause and effect in sin. On whom to lay the blame and therefore fix responsibility? We do this as a nation with the homeless and the poor. Park Slope people do this all the time: if a kid is having problems; we ask what the parents are doing wrong. We make this kind of judgment all the time. Jesus passes over it. No one is to blame and everyone’s to blame, no one is responsible and everyone’s responsible. Does that mean that Jesus does not judge? No it doesn’t. But he does judge differently than we do. So let’s see how this plays out.

Jesus mixes clay and spit with his fingers and puts the mud upon the beggar’s eyes and tells him to go wash. Why the mud and spit? We are not told why. The beggar goes off and when he comes back he can see. But he can’t see Jesus because Jesus has gone off somewhere. The neighbors try to sort things out and the beggar reports the simple facts, but where Jesus went he does not know.

We are not told why they brought him to the Pharisees. Maybe it was to get him admitted into the synagogue. This begins the middle scene. It has three parts: the Pharisees interrogate the beggar, then they interrogate his parents, and then they interrogate the beggar again, when they get into an argument with him and throw him out.

Their interrogation is not unreasonable. They have a judgment to make, and they have to establish the facts. The healing happened on the Sabbath Day, which broke the rules. First, you can do medicine on the Sabbath Day only if it’s an emergency, and this was not. Second, mixing mud and water counts as doing work, which is prohibited. So, was the healing of this beggar done in sin?

They do what judges do. They consider what evidence to admit and what to rule out, and they consider matters of fact and matters of law. The law stands, the facts can be argued, and the evidence is open to interpretation. To the beggar, the fact that he can see now proves that Jesus must be a prophet and that he must come from God. To the judges, the beggar’s claim proves no such thing, and the benefit of his seeing is extraneous, and that it was done on the Sabbath is ipso facto damaging evidence. The law was broken, a misdeed was done, a sin was committed, someone is guilty. If the beggar defends the sin, and the sinner, then he is guilty too, and so they cast him out. He is un-synagogued.

The judges have narrowed their eyes: What point of law is here at stake? They disregard those facts of the case that do not touch their point of law. And they do not think it is for them to look upon the heart, but only on the act. Would we say that they are blind? Shouldn’t they be? Should the figure of justice wear a blindfold? Is the purpose of justice to restore the moral balance of the world, or is the purpose of justice the restoration of persons and the claiming of God’s shalom?

These judges are just looking at the balance and restoring it. They are not looking at the future. They keep their vision narrow. But the beggar is seeing more and more. Till now he’d only known his parents by their sound and smell but now he watches their faces as they yield to their fear and abandon him. He looks around. He’s alone in this. He watches his judges. He begins to see through them. With his sight he gains insight. But insight is a costly gift. He gets thrown out.

The final scene. Back out on the street. The beggar has lost everything. He doesn’t yet see everything. Jesus must reveal himself to him. Jesus got it going, now Jesus has to finish it. Jesus comes to find him in his abandonment. Jesus questions him, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?" The beggar is a little cagey now, he’s learned to look both ways, and he questions Jesus back: "Who is he sir, that I may believe in him?" This must have delighted Jesus, because his answer is a little comic: "You’ve seen him; he’s talking to you." Does he look Jesus in the eye? He makes his confession, "Lord, I believe," and worships him. That’s a big deal. That’s the first time anyone’s ever done that to Jesus. He must see that Jesus comes from God. This is the high point in the Gospel of John so far.

Some of the Pharisees observe this scene, but they can’t see anything from God. They have been getting blinder all along. Whenever the beggar had been saying, "I don’t know, I don’t know," they were saying, "We know, we know." We know all we want to know, don’t show us any more. And so at the end, back out on the street, they ask the question that needs no answer: "Are we also blind?" It is their own self-condemnation. Jesus doesn’t have to judge them. They have judged themselves.

Jesus says, "If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains." Your sin remains. You’re guilty. At the start he had shown no interest in judging the guilt of the beggar or his parents, but here at the end he does pronounce a judgment. His judgment works by people judging themselves. He doesn’t sit up in heaven giving this judgment on this person or that judgment on that person. His method is simply to offer himself and in reference to himself he lets you judge yourself. He gives you the freedom to judge yourself, and the responsibility. He takes the guilt away, so that in freedom and security and peace with God you can judge yourself.

Why do you choose not to see? Because you don’t want it to be true? Because it contradicts your worldview and it counters your commitments? Because it messes up your plans and it threatens your security? Because to acknowledge it requires your conversion, and that you recalculate all of your working calculations? To refuse this is the sin, which is why not-seeing can be sin.

But not-seeing is not the real guilt. It’s refusing to admit your not-seeing. Blindness is not the problem, it’s the denial of your blindness. So here it is not sin that is the problem, it is the denial of one’s sin. Your refusal to be guilty is what makes you guilty. That’s the paradox of the gospel that you have to return to time after time, because it contradicts our public systems of law and order. In the American system, your lawyer will advise you not to admit your guilt, even if you have to make a deal. In the gospel system, the best thing you can do is to admit your guilt, even if you don’t see it all, and admit without any excuses and without any interest in the guilt of anybody else.

You admit it to be free of it. The point of confessing your sin and guilt is not so that you fix your gaze on it but to clear it away. The reading from Ephesians tells you to keep your eyes on what is pleasing to the Lord. Don’t look too much at your sin or gaze on your guilt. You just have always to say, My guilt is worse than you think and worse than I can see myself, and I make no excuse, and I won’t argue if you call me "totally depraved," I won’t contest it, but you know what, I know a secret, and I’m keeping my eyes on what is pleasing, and fruitful, and full of light.

The purpose of Lent is to undo us. The Easter season is to redo us, but Lent is to undo us. See yourself for the joke that you are. You can choose to be the fool of a comedy or the hero of a tragedy. You see how this little drama of the beggar is a comedy? It isn’t mockery, it is a comedy of love. It tells us how to look upon each other. It tells us that we will notice in each other the total collective guilt of humanity, yes, but then to see each other as God sees us, as wonderful characters on the stage-floor of God’s grace and shining in the spotlight of God’s love. The most important thing that you can learn to see in another person is the love of God upon that person.

Copyright © 2014, by Daniel James Meeter, all rights reserved.

Friday, March 21, 2014

March 23, Lent 3, "Craving: #6 in a Series on Sin"

 Exodus 17:1-7, Psalm 95, Romans 5:1-11, John 4:5-42

I can understand the Children of Israel being worried about no water. They get judged for their complaining, they get judged by Psalm 95 for the hardness of their hearts, but look at their predicament. They’ve got little children to think about, and their elderly, and their animals, and a great big desert in front of them, a landscape they’re unprepared for, and has anyone informed them of the water-plan? Has anybody shown them what the plans for water were?

"We had not asked to be forced out of Egypt. We would have preferred to stay there, only not as slaves. Why didn’t you just stop the oppression but let us live there like we used to before the oppression had started? We knew how to live there. We didn’t need any miracles from your God to get by. You forced us into this; we would have asked for something else. You’ve got us in a fix and you don’t have a plan."

When I was in my previous congregation in Grand Rapids, Michigan, early on, people asked me what my vision was for the congregation. "Vision for this congregation? What vision? You asked me to be your pastor. I came here to be your pastor. I preach the next sermon, I pray the next prayer, and I visit the next person." That’s what I did in my first three charges. That’s what my father did.

But now I was the leader of a big church with a big staff and four pastors under me and a bunch of big wheels on the consistory, and they wanted to know where I was leading them, and I realized they had their point and I worried that I was unprepared, and I wasn’t the only one who worried that, and the complaining began. Moses was sensitive about his leadership, and we can feel it in his complaint: "C’mon, God, you got me into this, now get me out." And how testily might he talk to the people? "No, I don’t have a plan. Sorry. Because I was not given the plan, that’s why."

The judgment against the Israelites for complaining against their leaders seems like a judgment against ordinary human nature. Why should they not doubt? How long had they known this Moses? Three months? How long had this Lord God of his been in their lives? Two months? After 400 years of no contact? This Lord God who had avoided them for so many years, and now they’re supposed to put radical trust in him? How do they know that this God will not abandon them again?

They were a people who were traumatized, as we would say today. They were traumatized by their oppression under Pharaoh, and then traumatized by their uprooting from their homes, and then by their being pursued by Pharaoh’s army and fearing for their lives, and then by their narrow escape through the Red Sea, a traumatic rescue in itself. As traumatized they feared the worst, and so of course they feared abandonment. Abandonment is the root cause here, I think.

The fear of abandonment is a different version of the not-believing on which I preached last week. I said that not-believing is a sin to the extent that you keep believing in other things which are counter to your belief in those promises of God which are delivered by the Lord Jesus. Those other beliefs are reasonable: about how to secure your future, or how to get power, or get what you want when you want it, how to get ahead, how to feel yourself as right. Such beliefs are examples of "knowing-better," as I said two weeks ago.

But sometimes "knowing better" can have the content of "knowing worse," that you know better than other people do how bad things really are, and that your countering beliefs are negative beliefs, realistic beliefs, that people will not come through, that God will not come through, that the promises of the gospel are fantasies, and that ultimately you’re always abandoned to yourself and your own devices.

That’s how we find the woman at the well. Alone. She came to the well at noon-time and alone, not with the other women at sundown. Five successive husbands have divorced her. If she were a modern woman, we’d suspect she was addicted to relationships, or looking for love in all the wrong places, or maybe she was hot like some celebrity and able to make her way through six successive men. But realistically in her day such freedom was not available to her, and she had little choice in her marriages. Even if she was sufficiently attractive for each new husband to desire her, it was always up to him and not to her and her value decreased with each divorce and at this point she was effectively abandoned as damaged goods.

In situations of abandonment we often descend to our desires and we abandon ourselves to our appetites and we comfort ourselves with our cravings. Eating, or drinking, or hoarding, or politicking or socializing or even thinking. They satisfy only enough for the moment and then you desire again. Consuming, shopping, flirting, yet one more try at love. What was this woman thirsting for? What did she suspect this stranger was suggesting by requesting to put his lips upon her water jug and cross the boundary of sexual propriety? How would you read it if in an otherwise empty subway car some intriguing guy sat down right across from you and looked at you and spoke to you? If you were feeling otherwise abandoned, might you not respond to him? Despite the risk?

One of the problems of sin is that it gives in to sin. I have already spoken of sin’s contagion and momentum, that it gets too big for us to handle. But here I mean that even the smallest and lightest and most harmless of sins is magnetic, and takes an effort to resist, and then more effort, and then more effort until no effort is enough. We give in to sin, we yield to it, despite the risks that we’re aware of. The motion towards sin feels similar to the motion towards healing and hope.

The motion of this woman towards Jesus: it was for healing and hope, but how different was it from her motions towards other men before? We can’t know. The remarkable detail of the story is that she never gives Jesus anything to drink. She comes back at him with her question. "How is it that you, a Jew, are asking me, a Samaritan, for a drink?" You a Russian and me a Ukrainian? You an Israeli and me a Palestinian? "Well, if you knew who was asking, you’d ask me for a drink."

Notice that she does. She doesn’t yield; she rises, she enters. It’s not so much that she is drinking as that something’s being poured into her. What’s the living water? God’s love? God’s Holy Spirit? What does St. Paul write: God’s love has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit. It’s God’s love poured into her by the Holy Spirit which has turned her suffering into patience and her patience into character and her character into hope, and her hope comes flowing back out of her as she returns to her village and tells them what she has found.

I frequently meet people in the agony of abandonment. Nothing is working in their lives, they are alone and all their attainments are unraveling, and God is silent to their prayers. I can’t give them much in the way of prescriptions and solutions. I hear myself echoing the Israelites, "Is the Lord among us or not?" My job is to help them to not yield to their abandonment. For that would be a sin.

I know that sounds severe, and unsympathetic, and that’s not how I represent it in the moment, but it would be a falling short. The knowing-better would be the certainty that it’s all bad and that nothing is not hopeless. It can seem reasonable, and tragically romantic, but it’s the sin that yields to sin. And yes, we all know of extreme cases of people absolutely abandoned, which tempt you to doubt it all, but none of you are in that state, and you don’t have that excuse.

But you will have seasons in your life when the only righteousness that may be left to you is simply to keep on believing. Still believing in the middle of your suffering. Endurance can be little more than resistance, and only lacking the initiative to make a change and that’s okay, belief can only not not-believing, and it’s the job of the rest of us to keep you from falling, to get you up off the sidewalk, to get you into a chair, and to pour some of God’s love back into you.

It requires your belief. That’s all it requires but it does require that. Not your strong belief but maybe your desperate belief — if only that there’s nothing else to believe in. I invite you to believe the unprovable promise that God’s love has been poured into your hearts by the Holy Spirit. And that Love, and that Spirit, never yields to the sin. You are weak yourself, but poured into you is the pure and noble and indestructible and life-giving love of God for you.

Copyright © 2014, by Daniel James Meeter, all rights reserved.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

March 16, Lent 2: Not Believing: #5 in a Series on Sin

Genesis 12:1-4a, Psalm 121, Romans 4:1-5, 13-17, John 3:1-17

Is it a sin to not believe? Unbelief is not listed in the Ten Commandments; unbelief is not one of the seven deadly sins. And yet, implicitly, it is treated as the worst of the sins: the unpardonable sin.

You know: we Protestants say that if you believe in the Lord Jesus, then all your sins are forgiven you, but if you don’t believe, even the least of your sins is held against you. If you die unbelieving, no matter how good or bad you are, you are excluded from eternal life. Unbelief is unforgivable. Even C. S. Lewis says that: If you say No to God, then God will let you have your No, forever.

The familiar Christian logic of belief has two versions. In the Roman Catholic version, you invest your belief in the clearly defined and securely objective offerings of the church. You process your belief through its trustworthy ministrations, which clean up all your sins and guilt. In the Evangelical version you do it on your own, in your bedroom or at a meeting. You accept the Lord Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior, which makes you born again, and washes all your sins away.

Allow me to speak of Quidditch, the game the wizards play in Harry Potter. Most of the players are busy scoring points by tossing the Quaffle through the scoring ring. They have to avoid getting hit by the two black spheres called the Bludgers. One player on each team, the Seeker, only chases the Golden Snitch, and it’s the Golden Snitch that wins the game. It really doesn’t matter how many points your team mounts up by scoring Quaffles. It’s all or nothing with the Golden Snitch.

Now in all deference to the evident genius of Ms. J. K. Rowling, let me opine that Quidditch is not a good game. It’s a bad game with bad rules. But it illustrates the familiar Christian logic of belief. Most of the players are like Roman Catholics gradually scoring points by the Quaffles of sacramental observation and good works, and avoiding the Bludgers as best they can, while the Evangelicals are the Seekers who ignore all that tedious scoring and go off individually to just believe in Jesus and snatch the Golden Snitch of salvation. Just believe in Jesus and you get it all.

But don’t believe in Jesus and you lose it all. No matter how otherwise good or bad you are.

Or: die outside the Catholic church, and die unsaved.

In either case, God will not forgive your not believing. Your unbelief is unpardonable. Is that right? Is that fair? Then what about your friends and your neighbors and your loved ones who do not believe? Or the millions of souls who lived and died before the missionaries came and never had the chance?

Most of us fuzzy-up the doctrines of the church, and we figure that any decent person does not go to hell and probably goes to heaven. For the sake of God’s decency most of us typically blend the two beliefs of salvation by grace alone and salvation by good works, which inconsistency really irritates conservative theologians.

The church’s doctrine derives from our gospel today. As Jesus tells Nicodemus, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but have eternal life." So life instead of perishing depends on your belief. What does it mean to perish? Is that code for going to hell for eternal torture?

I’m sure that’s not what Jesus means. He’s being literal — that when you die, you die, that’s it, and your life is extinguished, it’s over, like the life of any other mammal. It’s neither hell nor annihilation, but simply the natural oblivion of universe, which, certainly, is not as bad as eternal torture, but not as good as eternal life. So believe, then!

The Protestant version of the doctrine derives from St. Paul’s epistle to the Romans, that the promises of God are given to you not by your performing the works of the law, but by faith alone, and your faith is reckoned as righteousness, the righteousness that entitles you to inherit the world. So then your lack of faith must be reckoned as unrighteousness, and your unbelief is the unforgiven sin which is held against you at your death to cancel your inheritance. So believe, then!

And what must you believe? You believe in the promises of God as delivered by Jesus. This is true. There is no problem with this part of the doctrine. And here is a take-home: If somebody asks you what you as a Christian believe, you can answer that you believe in the promises of God as delivered by Jesus. What do Christians believe? Christians believe in the promises of God as delivered by Jesus. The summary of those promises is the Apostles Creed. The Creed is like the doorway into all the promises of God. That’s why we repeat it every week. To rehearse you in what you believe.

So is this belief a password that gets you into eternal life? Well, it’s actually more like a sign, to guide you and keep you going on the way of life instead of death. Nicodemus speaks of the signs that Jesus did. Six years ago I preached about why those signs impressed Nicodemus, and what he and the other Pharisees were looking for in terms of the Kingdom of God, and why he came to deal with Jesus secretly at night. But Jesus does not deal. He offers him a new sign to watch for.

He says, "The Son of Man must be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life." Jesus is the sign. He will be lifted up on the cross, and lifted up from the tomb, and lifted up on the clouds. God offers him to you as the sign to keep your eyes on as you go through life. He’s like a detour sign that keeps you going on the alternate route when the highway is impassable.

You get to a corner, and you wouldn’t know where to turn, but there’s the detour sign and it points the way down this old county road, and your instinct says, No, so you just have to believe the sign. And you have this again and again with many choices in your life. How does your choice here go with the forgiveness of sins, and reconciliation, and new life from the dead, and the Lordship of Jesus?

In the Gospel of John the meaning of "eternal life" is as much for now as after death. St. Paul means the same thing in Romans when he says that the promise is that you "inherit the world." That is this world, this world which God so loved that he gave it his only Son, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him; this world already under the Kingdom of God even though you cannot see the Kingdom upon it unless you believe; this dying world which is under the power of life, this present world in which we die but also in which God "gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things which do not exist." That’s what you inherit when you believe. Your belief is your green card for sharing the new life of the Kingdom of God within the world.

Belief is a choice, but the choice is not between belief and unbelief. It’s between belief and your other beliefs. No one believes in nothing. Everyone believes in something and in some combination of beliefs. Nicodemus has his set of beliefs about what the Kingdom of God should be, and he’s trying to fit Jesus into that. But Jesus challenges the poor guy, that belief in him means starting over, starting from the top, that belief in Jesus calls into question his other beliefs and even cancels them. Which would be a good thing for Nicodemus, because his current beliefs will lead his people to destruction and the Judea they were hoping for would perish, as subsequent history would bear out.

So not believing is a sin to the extent that your unbelief keeps you going on a dead-end road, and your combination of beliefs accumulate in you losing your inheritance. But this sin is not unforgivable. Which is a good thing, for we are all inconsistent believers. You mix your true belief with many false beliefs about the good life, your security, and your purpose in the world.

So all the time, God is forgiving your unbelief, every time you think you know better than the detour and then you have to work your way back to that county road. God is ahead of you, and God keeps calling you, as God did with Abram, to a land that God will show you, and God does not wait for your true belief. God constantly trains you and corrects you in your belief, like a child on a bicycle. You can do it!

So then, you must believe in something about yourself as well, which you cannot know for sure in abstract knowledge or even in emotional confidence, but you can believe it anyway. You must believe that your desire to believe is the proof of your belief, no matter how weak or intermittent your belief may feel to you. Because the power of your belief is not in yourself, but in the love of God who is calling you and drawing you. The strength of your faith is not your own strength, but the strength of God who loves you.

Copyright © 2014, by Daniel James Meeter, all rights reserved.

Friday, March 07, 2014

March 9, Lent 1: Knowing Better, # 4 in a Series on Sin

 Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-78, Psalm 32, Romans 5:12-19, Matthew 4:1-11

In this sermon series I am asking every set of lessons to tell us something about sin. Right off these lessons tell us is that sin is as simple as thinking you know better. You are given the instructions and directions, but you do it your own way because you know better. Or, you hear your friends talking and you interrupt and give them the real skinny because you know better.

Eve and Adam were suddenly not content with the knowledge they had. They wanted to know as God does, that is, knowing things independently, knowing things for themselves, apart from any one else’s instructions. That unconditioned knowledge was too much for them, for now they knew too much and yet still not enough. Their knowledge was accurate, and incomplete, and wrong.

In the case of the temptation of the Lord Jesus, you could say that the devil knew too much, yet not enough. I think the devil really believed what he was saying. Don’t think of the devil as some hideous, malicious Ringwraith or Lord Voldemort. He’s more like Saruman (in the book, not the movie) or Denethor, the Steward of Gondor. He knows an awful lot, more than anybody else, but he doesn’t know what he doesn’t know. He thinks he knows better than Jesus does, that pious fool. He’s negotiating with Jesus from what he knows about the world, from lots of experience, the sad truth about the world, and the only realistic way to make any difference for any attainable good.

The story of Our Lord’s temptation is rich and endlessly paradigmatic and I could preach a dozen sermons on it and not repeat myself. Please come back three years from now, when I hope to preach on it from the pulpit in the sanctuary. Three years after that, God willing, and I’ll be sixty-six and I’ll preach on it again. Three years after that you’re going to have to help me up to the pulpit. It’s because this story is so rich that I like people to help me hear it. So we read this story the other night at one of our small groups, and then I asked them to reflect on this: "What question would you ask of this story?" One of you said, "Why did Satan want to tempt him?" I didn’t try to answer.

At home I posed the question to Melody. "Why did Satan want to tempt him? What was his motivation?" Melody said, "Putin." You know, Vladimir Putin. She said, "It’s about power." Who’s got the power, and who in power is threatened by power, and uses power to defend his power?

The power to turn stones to bread. That is, the power to make good at no cost. That power would really help the bankrupt government of Ukraine right now, if it could convert its debits into credits, or print some money and then make it valuable, or convert its fertile soil into natural gas.

The second temptation is the power to call on God to rescue us. "He will command his angels concerning you." The power to get God to intervene. That God considers you important enough to break the rules of nature just to keep you safe. How important do we consider Ukraine? Enough to intervene? "We will command our soldiers concerning you." Even at great cost? How important to us was Hungary in 1956, or Czechoslovakia in 1968? Would you enlist? Would you risk your life? How much power do you have in your life to call on others to help you when you need it?

Melody said that the third temptation is about territory. Right. Having power means having some territory to control. So when Satan shows Jesus all the kingdoms of the world, that’s like if Putin is telling the Ukrainians they belong to him, they don’t belong to the West. "Let’s just see if they come through and rescue you. They’re all talk. Obama is a pious fool. Face the facts. Just submit to me as the boss and then we can work this out and everything will be fine."

Well, you do need to have some territory. You need a place to call your own, but more you need to have some space within the world that’s under your control so you can exercise your initiative and your creativity and your freedom, or your life is no better than a tiger’s in the zoo. You notice how much I speak of freedom in my sermons. To exercise your freedom you need some power.
Power, might, macht, puissance, force, energy, voltage, wattage, horsepower, GDP, force of arms, strength, çë in Hebrew, äõíáìéò in Greek. Power has positive meanings in the Bible. And in terms of psychology and sociology, your empowerment is critical to your health and happiness, both personally and collectively. And yet you know the cliché that power corrupts.

Money is power. We’d like to fix our sanctuary ceiling, but we don’t have the power to do it because we don’t have the money to do it. The other night at that same small group, I asked one of the members to suggest what we might pray about. She suggested that we pray for the people we see around us every day who do not have we have. On the sidewalks, on the subways. We did. What they don’t have is the power to get for themselves what most of us take for granted. They don’t have the money, or the access or the means, or the emotional reserves, or even the know-how.

Knowledge is power. Is that what was really behind the sin of Eve and Adam? That’s how C. S. Lewis interprets it in his novel Perelandra, that to know as God knows would make you so much more powerful. Knowledge is good, you need to increase your knowledge. But your knowledge has its limits. You have to reach the point when you admit that you can’t know better than God does.

Sin has power. Your sin sets off a chain reaction and it gains a power of its own. You cause it but you can’t control it. Sin spreads, and you can’t pull it back. It’s a contagion, it’s a pollution, it gains a momentum and it overpowers us. That’s the teaching of St. Paul in our epistle. The whole human race is infected. No one starts out clean. We call this the doctrine of "original sin." Some churches teach it as if it’s in our DNA. Not the Reformed church. Our metaphor would be that you’re born clean, but the maternity ward is contaminated and the birthing clinic is not sterile, and every single one of us is compromised at the start.

But the Lord Jesus Christ has even greater power, and his power has its own force and momentum outside of us and our control. St. Paul sets these two against each other, the humanity of Adam and the humanity of Christ. Under Adam, sin has the power, and under Christ, righteousness has the power. Under Adam, even though we live, our lives are under the shadow of death. Under Christ, even though we die, our deaths are under the light of life. Under Adam, even the good you do is corrupted. Under Christ, even the sin you do is reconciled. This scheme has two benefits for you.

The first benefit is knowledge. When you’re within sin, you think you know sin. When you’re under death, you think you know death. And you think you know the reality of life, as the serpent thought and as Satan thought, but you don’t. It’s only when you’re under life that you really know what death is. And it’s only when you’re within the humanity of righteousness and reconciliation that you truly know what sin is. Part of the problem of sin is that sinners are confused about sin.

I see this all the time with people. Sin confuses people about their sin. Take the case of Putin. I don’t know about his personality, but I imagine that everything he’s doing makes real sense to him. It all fits with how he sees the world and what he thinks he has to do. Everything that Satan says to Jesus is true on its own, but it all falls short of the glory of God. Not one thing the serpent said to Eve was untrue, but it wasn’t the whole truth. But the truth of your sin you can know correctly from the other side, from the perspective of God’s grace, from the vista of God’s redeeming love. You can know it as God knows it. How humble you deserve to be. And in Christ how righteous you are.

The second benefit is power. The power of righteousness within this new humanity has even more power than sin. It is not an objective power, or a mindless persistent power like pollution or infection, a power blind and dumb and stupid, for all of its momentum. No, it is a personal power, the personal power of the Lord Jesus who is risen from the dead, it is the power of his resurrection and the power of the Holy Spirit. He keeps pumping this power into his humanity.

So your choice is no longer between sin and not to sin, it’s your choice between sin and the Lord Jesus. You rest in him, and in his power, and in his love. You don’t have to know better. What you have to know is him, and you can recognize him as the channel of God’s love for you.

Copyright © 2014, by Daniel James Meeter, all rights reserved.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

March 2, Transfiguration: Missing the Point, #3 (revised) in a Series on Sin

Exodus 24:12-18, Psalm 99, 2 Peter 1:16-21, 16-23, Matthew 17:1-9

What did Jesus know and when did he know it?

Did the Transfiguration take Jesus by surprise or did he know it beforehand, or did he make it happen? Did he anticipate that his physical body would light up from the inside? Did he summon Moses and Elijah? Did he call on God the Father, and did his Father listen to him, just as the Father told the disciples they must do? Was this for his own benefit, or for the benefit of Peter, James, and John? Did he take them up for company, or that they be eyewitnesses? That after his resurrection they could connect the dots and imagine its significance? How did Peter know that it was Moses and Elijah? Matthew gives us very little explanation.

Of the three eyewitnesses, Peter was the only one to write about it afterwards, in his second epistle, which you just heard. But many scholars regard this epistle as pseudepigraphal, that it was written by some later author who attributed it to Peter to give it authority. This hypothesis causes more problems than it solves (violating Occam's Razor), and it makes the anonymous writer a liar in his claim to have been an eyewitness. (I don't think the early church was that stupid, and I think it says more about scholarship's lack of imagination. We have no proof that Peter did not write it.) James wrote an epistle, but he never mentions the Transfiguration. Neither does John in the gospel he wrote. He didn’t need to, because Matthew, Mark, and Luke already had, and apparently it did not contribute to his literary plan.

Matthew, Mark, and Luke were all telling it second-hand, so it’s not surprising that they report the details differently, though not drastically so. You’d expect them to select and describe the details to fit their respective literary plans. The details in Matthew typically evoke the Torah and the Prophets. Matthew always shows Jesus fulfilling the Old Testament.

You’d also expect these variations in reported details in the case of a real event in history which is also a singularity and thus a mystery.

As an event in history it has real details which are textured and complex, the varied meanings of which are brought out by the different reporters.

As a singularity it stands outside our categories and normalities and every description is approximate at best.

As a mystery it calls to us beyond our comprehension. The details are offered to us but they are not explained. They are windows for your wonder. You have to look through them. You engage this story with your imagination no less than with your understanding, and these two of your faculties serve and discipline each other.

It’s obvious that Peter did not understand what they were seeing. He was trying to understand it, which is why he made that comment. Peter was trying to use his knowledge of the Torah, of when Moses came back down from Mount Sinai, when his face was shining with real light from having reflected the glory of God for forty days, and so they built a separate tent for him. “See, Jesus, I know my stuff.” Nice try, Peter, but you’re missing it.

Notice that in this case Jesus does not rebuke him, as he does several times elsewhere. He doesn’t respond at all. Matthew doesn’t explicitly judge what Peter says. It’s the later gospels of Mark and Luke that tell us that Peter did not know what he was saying. But there is a judgment implied in what God says from the cloud: “Listen to him!” That implies: “Peter, will you just shut up!” So it’s no wonder they fall to the ground and are overcome by fear. Of course the cloud and the light and the voice are enough to overcome anyone, but what if that voice behind the cloud is telling you off!

They were witnesses of something they were missing the point of. You know what that’s like. You’ve had it that you’ve seen things directly but you did not get what was going on. You have observed events of which you’ve missed the point. Later on you figure it out, or someone explains it, and you wonder how you missed it. I can remember my father sitting in his chair and shaking his head and saying to himself, “Meeter, you dope.” It’s a double failure: your failure of understanding and your failure of imagination, each compounding the other.

I suspect it was their missing the point of the Transfiguration that Jesus ordered them not to speak of it until after his resurrection. The Resurrection was the greater event and singularity and mystery for them to embrace and imagine and understand, which they then had to read back into what they had witnessed on the mountain.

So you can hardly blame them for having missed the point. They do not yet have the categories by which even to imagine it. And Jesus does not rebuke them. It’s only a mild and minimal judgment on them that they should keep it mum. He nudges them kindly and gets them up and tells them not to fear. He did not say it, but I’ll bet he was thinking, “Father forgive them; they just don’t get it, what they do.”

Missing the point. Is that a sin? It can be innocent. Like in math class, or like not getting a joke. The method of this sermon series is to ask each set of scripture lessons what they might tell us about sin, but is that even fair to the story? Would Matthew glare at me, and say, “You know that’s not the reason I wrote this story down for you. It’s not about sin. It’s not about your problems. It’s about the Lord Jesus, and how the light of the glory of God was fully within him. You know it’s not always about you. You’re the one that’s missing the point.”

But St. Matthew, you like rabbinic methods, and you like to interpret one scripture by another, and I don’t know if you read the correspondence of your upstart colleague, St. Paul, but in his letter to the Romans he wrote that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” and if these three guys fall short of God’s glory then we can see in them our sinful state, with their faces in the dirt and overcome with fear. Not any specific sinful actions, but our sinful condition. We generally and typically fail to imagine and we fail to understand, and we fall short and we miss. It’s our habit, it’s our inclination, when left to ourselves, and to our own devices and desires.

You know what the children of Israel did, when Moses was up on the mountain those forty days and he left Aaron and Hur and the elders in charge. They made a graven image of a golden calf and worshiped it as their god, just a few weeks after they had all agreed to the covenant. And Aaron made it for them, just a month after he and the elders had enjoyed a sit-down dinner on the mountain with the Lord. “What’s wrong with you people? Can’t I leave you kids alone for one minute?”

We miss the point because we have our agendas, our expectations, our prior understandings, and our preferred imaginations. This is what we want, that is what we’re looking for. We fail to understand ourselves as existing for the glory of God and not for ourselves, and we fail to imagine ourselves as enjoying God forever.  We hugely miss the point. We tragically miss the point. Because falling short of God we fall short of ourselves. We fail in our expectations of ourselves and our desires for ourselves. We fail to understand God’s purpose for us and we fail to imagine God’s vision for us.

Do you get it that what was suddenly visible in Jesus was not only the glory of God but also the human future? This story calls Jesus both the Son of God and the Son of Man. The vision the disciples see is God’s vision for you. You’re meant to be something like Jesus. As I have said many times before, you were designed to have the capacity for that.

You will be photo-luminescent. It is not impossible. You’ve heard of fireflies and lightning bugs. You’ve heard of electric eels, and the wonder that they survive their own voltage in the water that kills their prey. You will have power. You will have energy. You will light up, you will shine from the inside, you will be glorious. But not for yourself. I’m pushing the metaphor, but I’d rather push it than miss it. I’m talking about your moral and spiritual capacity, your capacity for mercy and service and justice and love, your capacity for holiness and righteousness, the capacity which you fall short of now.

It’s not so much the specific sins you do, it’s that you settle for the disappointment that you are. It’s from your doubts and your despair, it’s from the general sadness of life and its shortness and its frailty, it’s from domestic violence and civil wars and the prevalence of greed within the marketplace, and that the world is manifestly so unfair. It’s from your guilt that hobbles you and weakens you. The problem of your guilt is the real problem of your sin.

The problem of your guilt is what we deal with in the season of Lent, which begins this Wednesday. So stand up on your ground and offer up your face and get some ashes on it and wear the symbol of your condition.

In our opening collect, you just prayed, “Grant to us that we, beholding by faith the light of his countenance, may be strengthened to bear our cross, and be changed into his likeness from glory to glory.” Changed into his likeness will be Easter, and bearing your cross is Lent. The doorway into Lent is the Transfiguration, which both knocks you down and picks you up. God the Father says, “Listen to Jesus,” and the first thing Jesus says to you is, “Rise up, don’t be afraid.” God kneels down and touches you.

God says, “Get up, let’s go, I’m with you now before you have arrived. I’m giving you my glory now; not the glory of perfection but the glory of your reconciliation. You are translucent with my mercy, you are translucent with my love.” You see, you are like stained glass with all your stains and streaks and ripples and distortions. But all that sin in you just gives more color and texture to God’s light in you.

Get your faces up from the dirt and look around you. You can see the same translucence in each other, and you can love each other for it, how the veins and the ripples of your condition display the greater depth and power of the glorious light of the love of God in you. The light that shines out of Jesus in the Transfiguration is the light of God’s free love. The Lord Jesus Christ is the wonder of the love of God for  you.

Copyright © 2014, by Daniel James Meeter, all rights reserved.