Readings for this Sunday:
2 Kings 2:1-13 | Psalm 50:1-6 | 2 Corinthians 4:3-6 | Mark 9:2-9
It’s a beautiful thing to see someone as they really are: as they were meant to be.
I received a picture on my phone on Friday. It was of a friend who was with Leigh, our Leigh, REACH’s community chaplain. She had snapped his picture as he was standing in the hall way of his new apartment. This friend has been waiting for a home for two years. For two long years he has been trying to move out of homelessness, dragging his possessions, his CPAP machine, his hope and his dignity with him. This community, the church community in Renton, has walked with him and held on to him as he has encountered barrier after barrier, as he crept his way up the very long list of those waiting for subsidized housing, as he slowly realized that he deserved a place to stay and would be okay to move away, move from this community that has loved him, move away and move into somewhere that is just for him with a door he can lock – somewhere safe and warm and dry. This friend of ours has slept on this very floor in this church as part of the ARISE program – the rotating shelter that you and so many other churches support – you have fed him and so many others, you given him a place, kept hold of him while he waited.
The staff and many of the volunteers with REACH got to know this particular man better when we started a warm-up breakfast program last January. Warm-ups is a place to come inside out of the cold winter mornings – grab a cup of coffee and some food and hopefully build some community. It’s a place to be reminded that you are not alone – not forgotten. Almost as soon as we opened the doors he wanted to share his gifts, get involved, and so he makes the coffee every morning. 5 days a week he shows up to make the coffee and in this space he began to share himself, what he needed, what he wanted. It was a place for him to remember that he is loved and has friends who will be with him as we hang on together. Friends who will remind each other that we are all of value, that we need each other as we all struggle and move towards finding what we need.
On Friday I got a picture of this man as he really is. A man with a place, a man that knows he belongs, a man who knows he is cared for and loved, a man who knows that others see his gifts and are happy to receive them. He was shining bright, shining like the sun, shining from the inside out with a light so deep and good. There was a smile on his face so real, so true, so very beautiful. He had shaved his long beard – because he could. He had taken a shower – because he could. He had put on some clean clothes – because he could - and he was standing relaxed, happy with his arm around Leigh and his keys round his neck – not planning to let those keys out of his sight for a very long time.
It is just beautiful, breathtakingly beautiful, when you get to see someone as they really are – loved, cared for, with what they need to feel like they honestly and truly matter.
It’s can also be a terrifying thing to see someone as they really; as they were created to be. Questions can arise – hard questions. Who am I next to such fullness? How do we collectively, and how do I individually get in the way of others being who they are meant to be, and having what they need. How am I being asked to help others get to this place? Am I good enough? Can I be a part of this, connected to someone so full, so shiny, so bright. How can I not be? Can I be like that – let others see the things I want, the things I need, the ways I feel most myself. Can I be that vulnerable and really show myself, be myself – will they reject me. Just who am I in the face of such beauty, such need, such passion, such wholeness?
Our kids show the beauty and the passion of who they are really when they throw themselves into play. When the game takes over and they are laughing and joking and running really fast – gasping for breath, eyes shining, strategizing how to capture the flag, how to rescue a team mate, how to bring out the best in each other. “Come play” they will call – like they just can’t help it. Such beauty and wholeness loves company - and I wonder, have wondered, many times as I stand on the edge of the game - can I let them see me try. Will they laugh – do they really want me to be a part of it? But yes they really do. When I do join in never have they made me feel anything other than part of the group. I have never captured the flag and I often, well almost always actually, get run out on first base at kick-ball. But they cheer for me, joke with me, and love me because as they are fully who they are in the game they are able to love and be kind to me as they get a chance to see me for who I am – their friend, their playmate, someone who also wants to belong. Such wholeness loves company – it knows there really is enough of what we need to go around.
Peter was terrified when these disciples saw Jesus for who he really was. A million thoughts running through his head I am sure. Too many to make any sense of and so he blurts out, let us do something – be a part of this - hold onto it. I would imagine if he had some time to reflect – maybe if he had had the services of a really good therapist or perhaps even just a really good friend he might have been able to hear himself ask - who am I as I look in on such beauty, such promise, such divinity. I want to be a part of that so badly. But really am I good enough? What is it going to ask of me? Will I be OK not fully understanding it? I like to understand things. Can I trust something that I don’t fully control or understand?
But as terrifying and beautiful, as stunning, as these visions are - as this vision of Jesus is – they are also deeply powerful. They are compelling. They will if we let them reach out and hold us through the most difficult of stuff. They will pull us closer to God and keep us on the way until we see a fuller picture.
In this vision on the mountain top, the disciples are confirmed in their growing suspicion that this really could be the Son of God. They see with some clarity that he comes in the line of Moses and Elijah – the promised one who comes to free us. As the story has progressed so far there have been rumblings from those who oppose Jesus that this one is the Son of God, there has been healing and teaching with an authority they has not seen before. Peter has speculated that this really is the Messiah and Jesus lest they understand the mission incorrectly has tried to explain just what this means. It means that the powers that oppose him will not let him be – that they will kill him – but that he cannot be overcome and will always bring life.
It’s confusing and not what is expected of the Son of God – the one who would come to set things right. But right here in the midst of this confusion, they are given a vison – they a get a glimpse of the power and the authority he really holds. And he tells them not to tell this revelation. They have to keep it quiet, they have to wait, they have to hang tight as things get harder and it seems like everything has fallen completely apart. Only on the other side of the cross can his full identity be made public because only them will we not miss the point that this God of the universe wants to love and wants us to love as people who will give ourselves away and will know fully that there is life in the darkness. So they have to wait.
But this vision, this glimpse of Jesus as who he really is – well I imagine it held them. They follow him off of that mountain and they carry on as his disciples even in their confusion and fear – not well it has to be said – they often still bumble along – but they hang in there. I wonder if this vision helped them. Kept them going – captivated them, compelled and maybe stopped them from running away completely when it got so very hard. I wonder the same thing for Elisha. Who tenaciously followed and then saw what he needed to see and was in that given more strength, more spirit to keep going.
Our friend in his apartment, kids playing with all they are asking us to join in, friends loving each other, communities holding each other. In these and so many other things we get to see things as they were meant to be. Just like Peter’s vision of Jesus these things reveal a fullness and a hope that is beautiful and sometimes terrifying but they are also powerful. They will if we have eyes to see will compel us and provide the strength we need to trust in God as we are led to see a fuller picture of God’s peace.
What are these visions for you? The places you see God as you move towards all that you need to be whole, as you move through things that are hard and often confusing. Where have you had a glimpse of wholeness – things as they really are? As they were really meant to be? Where have you seen Spirits shine like the sun – and felt your Spirit as it looks on being asked to shine too?
We will be moving towards the cross these next seven weeks of Lent. Towards a hard but more complete picture of who Jesus really is – a God mighty but choosing to be weak, strong by choosing vulnerability, revealing truth by remaining non-violent. We start this Wednesday with an Ash Wednesday Service. We will be marked by ash – a somber thing I suppose - but really just a reminder, that we are but part of this created world, ash and dust, that something much bigger holds us and offers life even in the darkest of places. And then over the next seven weeks we will be taking some time to look around for glimpses of this God. We’ll be looking for those thin places where God seems near –the tops of mountains maybe, or in children playing, people fed, conversations with loved ones, pen put to paper, art being made, a flower breaking the ground, the color purple – the color of lent, beauty and fullness right in our midst.
In these things we get to see the kingdom. So we will take some time during worship this season to look for them, to name them, to share them. We will look for these glimpses, these beautiful, sometimes terrifying, but powerfully compellingly glimpses that will hold and instruct us as we are guided by God towards peace.
Thanks be to God.
St. Andrew Sermons