Have you had an epiphany?
43The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” 44Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” 46Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” 47When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” 48Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” 49Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” 51And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”
Today, we continue in this short season of Epiphany which means, manifestation or showing. This is a good way to begin the new year with passages that “show” that Jesus is God, what that means and the possibilities that come with that knowledge. Some churches leave their crèche until 40 days after Christmas until February 2 when Jesus is presented in the temple to remind them Christmas is the first and greatest epiphany. Christmas is followed by the showing of God to the Gentiles and the Baptism of Jesus follows which shows John and the people who Jesus is. The Season of Epiphany will take us until Lent which begins on Ash Wednesday, February 14, Valentine’s Day, while Easter Day in on April 1, April Fool’s Day and the Day of Pentecost is on May 24th Weekend.
In today’s passage, Nathanael states after Philip finds Jesus, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel” – that is an epiphany! The word “find” is used a number of times in this passage. I don’t think that it is theologically correct to talk about finding God, or as one commentator put it, if God were to hide from us, I don't think that we could find God. Yet, we hear Philip say, We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth. The two most common definitions for “find” are: (1) "to learn the location of something, either by intentional searching or by unexpected discovery;" and (2) "to learn something previously not known, frequently involving an element of surprise", or I might add, to find out about who or something. It is the second definition of "surprise" that isn't translated well the word "to find". When we hear Andrew "finding" Simon or Philip "finding" Nathanael it should not be understood as them "finding" the Messiah. They found each other, the location of each other, while when they found Jesus it was an unexpected, non-anticipated surprise of Jesus being the promised one, the messiah.
There are many epiphanies that I can think of that have happened at St. Mark’s. One epiphany was someone asked about whether there was a Christmas lunch to which I answered that there were a number around town. They then asked, but really what I am asking about is there one on Christmas Day. And I said, you know, (aha) you’re right, there isn’t. And you know the rest of the story. The other epiphany happened quite recently. I have had on my computer a file that talks about a rule of life. The file is tucked away in amongst all the other files and I think it’s been there for about five years. A rule of life is living out what we believe in a workable way of living. If you know the great commandment is to love God with all you are and to love your neighbour as yourself, a “rule of life” describes what you hope living that love will look like. And I said to myself, aha, I think it’s time to act on this. I will say more about this in my report to Vestry.
Our attitudes change once we actually make the decision to try something new. That happens in our lives, in our faith and church. The same change happened to Nathanael in today’s passage. His conversation with Jesus transformed him from skepticism to confession and the possibility of even greater experiences. The new year brings with it possibilities. Try something new, isn’t what the new year is about, isn’t that what our faith is about? Amen.
THE FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT
December 3, 2017
24“But in those days, after that suffering,
the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light,
25and the stars will be falling from heaven,
and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.
26Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory. 27Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.
28“From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 30Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. 31Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
32“But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. 34It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. 35Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, 36or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. 37And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.”
Today we begin reading the Gospel of Mark which we will read through until next Advent. It is Year B in our three cycle and so having completed Year A reading through Matthew, we now begin reading through Mark. I would encourage you to read through the Gospel of Mark for it is the shortest gospel and will take you about 1.5 hours compared to 2 hours to read through John’s and 2.5 hours to read through Luke and Matthew. While on the subject of time, it takes about 3.5 hours to read through Genesis and 5 hours to read through the longest book in the bible, The Book of Psalms. For those interested in the other end of the spectrum, it takes about 2 minutes to read through The Second or Third Letter of John.
Advent is a season of preparation. We get the word “Advent” from the Latin word, adventus, meaning coming. Today’s reading, on the surface, is a strange reading, if we are talking about preparing ourselves for Christmas. We need to be reminded that Advent is time to prepare to celebrate Jesus’ birth and his second coming. For every prophecy in the Bible concerning Christ's birth, there are 8 which look forward to his second! There is therefore in scripture, a lot of time spent about looking forward in time.
Today, I want to talk about time and what we do with it. It is helpful to look at the time when Mark is writing: false prophets and fake news were rampant. First, in the time that Mark was living around 60 AD there many false prophets coming in Jesus’ name, leading believers astray. On Saturday, November 25, I read a long article in the Toronto Globe and Mail, about an evangelist named, John De Ruiter from Edmonton. The article was very detailed and before long his preaching drifted from a Christian message to a new age message of personal fulfillment. Like many false prophets, there were allegations of sexual impropriety, money and murder. False prophets are activer in our time and our country.
Secondly, the other thing that was happening at the time of the writing of Mark’s Gospel was that false prophets were claiming that end had arrived or claimed to know when it would arrive. This we know too has happens in our time. The passage that gives us thought about the end is, “…this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place.” The way to look at this, is to look at the other times that Jesus uses the word "generation" (genea) in Mark, and it was always refers to "unbelieving, adulterous and sinful people" (cf. 8:12, 38; 9:19). Jesus is saying that the unbelieving, adulterous and sinful people will be around until that day when Jesus comes again, and that has turned out to be true. Jesus says that they were not in the end times, the beginnings of birth pangs described back in verse 8 of Chapter 13. Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill once coined a phrase, Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning. We continue in the time called, “the end of the beginning” or birth pangs.
At the end of the reading the verbal imperatives, "beware", "keep alert" and "keep awake" are in the present tense. The time to prepare for the end has always been in the present tense. This means that we are to live our lives so that it does not matter when he comes because we will be ready. What we have been always doing then is what Jesus asks us to do: Pray, gather together, give thanks, reach out to those in need and, reach in to our own. If we are doing that, we are ready, we are alert – a good way to get ready for Christmas and Jesus’ second coming. And if we aren’t, today is a good day to start. Amen.
The Twenty-Third Sunday after Pentecost
November 12, 2017
“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. 2Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; 4but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. 5As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. 6But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ 7Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. 8The foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9But the wise replied, ‘No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’ 10And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. 11Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ 12But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I do not know you.’ 13Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.
Our readings for these last weeks of the Season of Pentecost which started back in May are all about Jesus’ second coming. These readings lead us to beginning of a new Christian year, Advent when we prepare the celebrate Jesus first coming as a child in a manger 2000 years ago in Bethlehem. But we also hear in Advent readings about being prepared for Jesus second coming and that is what today’s reading is about. And so, I ask the questions, “How do we wait for Jesus’ return?” There has been a lot written about in the reading what the oil in the lamp represents? Some have suggested, the holy spirit, or good deeds, but the reading doesn’t give us any indication of that. The take away from this parable is that we are to hear Jesus words and do them – be prepared! There have been three stories in the last week that have touched on faith that I think have to do with being prepared. They are the Governor General’s remarks about faith and divine intervention in creation, the mass shooting in a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas and the Supreme Court decision out in British Columbia concerning a ski resort development and its affect on the religious beliefs of the aboriginal people.
First, the Governor General’s remarks about creation, belief and climate change. Payette's delivery was theatrical, her tone incredulous: "And we are still debating and still questioning whether life was a divine intervention or whether it was coming out of a natural process let alone, oh my goodness, a random process.” When we are challenged by friends, family members at one time or another about we believe we need to be prepared, because when we are challenged it usually comes out of nowhere, takes us by surprise, and we need to be ready with your answer. When and if you are, don’t stoop to scoffing and mocking there are not on the good list, but state what you believe. If you want to read further there is 2 Peter 3 about scoffers, we are to be on our guard, live holy lives and know that God keeps God’s promises.
The mass shooting in Texas. This awful, tragic, senseless crime has challenged us all. We are challenged about the shooter, gun laws and how and the question of allow for this to happen in a church of all places. People will say how can your God allow for this to happen and how can believe in a God like that. Keep up the faith, be ready to pray, because there will be more of this as the bible states.
The Supreme Court decision. Quoting from the Toronto Star: “The high court says the constitution’s religious freedom guarantee protects Canadians’ freedom to hold beliefs and to practice a faith, but does not require the state to protect what they believe in — the “object of beliefs or the spiritual focal point of worship, such as Grizzly Bear Spirit.” My point is this: many people said if this was about Christian sites in the Holy Land the reaction would be louder and different. Yes, it would, but we are talking apples and oranges, because the sites are already there and if they were to build, let’s say, a apartment building over where Jesus was born, it would not change a thing. And even they started burning bibles, it is a holy book and the wrong thing to do as the Bible is about God’s saving power, but God is not in the bible. We believe in God who can’t be hurt, diminished, or in any way brought down even on the cross.
The oil in our lamps means being prepared to answer for our faith and not mocking those who don’t have faith. Be prepared by keeping the faith in stressful times and be prepared by knowing that our God can’t be hurt, diminished, or in any way brought down. Thanks be to God.
What is it all about?
Some weeks ago I had the opportunity with work with David Le Gallais who comes to our 10:00 a.m. service. David is the founder of Erudition and I was one of the first people to try out some new technology, called a Light Board. What you will know see is one of my shorter sermons, which I call, “What is it all about”.
People will often ask me, what is it all about, and I say, Grace, Faith & Works. Grace, Faith & Works all can be found in The Letter to the Ephesians Chapter 2, verses 8 to 10: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life”.
Grace means the free and unmerited favor of God and so nothing we do justifies us in the sight of God, so that no one my boast. This is supported by the word, "saved" which is a passive verb in Greek which emphasizes what has been done for us – Jesus death on the cross, his rising to life which gives us life now and forever more. We do not save ourselves by works; God saves us and we respond in faith. Throughout the bible, God by God’s grace makes promises and we are to trust in those promises. God shows God’s self to be faithful and we are to respond in faithfulness. To say “I have faith” does not say anything about ourselves, but what it really says is “God is a trustworthy God”.
We are what God has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life. We were created for good works and in the end, God gets the glory as it says in Matthew: “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven”. And I say, Amen to that.
For God is not unjust; he will not overlook your work and the love that you showed for his sake in serving the saints, as you still do. And we want each one of you to show the same diligence, so as to realize the full assurance of hope to the very end, so that you may not become sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
Canada celebrated its 150th Anniversary yesterday and, as I said in report to Vestry, 2017 marks the 180th year of ministry at St. Mark’s. Today I thought I would talk about the man who was instrumental in starting St. Mark’s, Seneca Ketchum, who is listed as a Missionary 1837-1849 on the list of Rectors in our Board Room here at St. Mark’s. His story is unique in itself, but was repeated many times by missionaries and clergy throughout Canada over the last 150 years. Today we heard about the almost sacrifice of Isaac. Isaac had to persevere throughout his life, in his courtship and eventual marriage to Rebekah, passing on of his birth right amongst other challenges he had to face. Seneca Ketchum had to persevere as well, and although in some ways much of what he did is forgotten, I will not let that happen today.
Seneca Ketchum was a layman, who felt the call to Holy Orders, but wasn’t able to answer it and that was one of his greatest disappointments in life, but that didn’t stop him. In 1830 he was licensed as a Missionary by Bishop John Strachan with whom he had a fair number of disagreements; there was no mention of any stipend and none was expected. Here are a couple of quotations about him after he died: “Very few had as much of the milk of the human kindness as he had, and few had less tears shed over his grave” said his nephew Jesse, who contested his will and for whom grammar was not his strong point. Archdeacon Alexander Neil Bethune described him as “an earnest-minded but not very sane individual.” In spite of this, Seneca also helped build a church in 1817 just north of Hogg’s Hollow, at York Mills in Toronto, called St. John’s which also recognizes him at their founder with a stained glass memorial window. Some years later he moved north and this is when he came to Mono in 1820 and bought 200 acres and added to his property holdings in the years to come. He came to bring the good news of Jesus Christ and it was needed here. The area was described as “little more than a series of primitive trails with a few families scattered in the bush”.
The town of Orangeville very well could have had some other names, like “Seneca”, or “Ketchumville”, but that was not to be. The followers of Orange Lawrence seem to have held sway. Orange Lawrence, came to the area in 1843 and within a few years he had two mills, a store and a tavern in town. One of his mills ran seven days a week – the man didn’t have much regard for the Lord’s Day. Mr. Lawrence thought that if the water ran seven days a week, so should the mill. The mill eventually burned down… on a Sunday. By the 1830’s Seneca bought more land, over towards Purple Hill and ultimately in 1837 he built a log cabin church on Lot 1 Concession 2 EHS (East of Hurontario Street), Mono Twp.
There are at least two streets that recognize our ministry in a new subdivision behind the car dealerships on the north side of Hwy 9: Ketchum Street and St. Mark’s Circle.
The congregation outgrew the log cabin church and a new church was built on this site in 1854, after Seneca had died, on land given by his nephew Jesse Ketchum, but the congregation outgrew it and a this church was built during the year of Confederation and completed in 1868. Buildings were not a problem, but getting clergy up here was as Seneca continually hounded Bishop Strachan for a resident minister. The Rev’d Adam Elliott, the first minister in the early 1830’s in this area filed this report on what Seneca did: “Mr. Ketchum’s exertions in promoting the religious instruction of the young in the remote settlements where he resides are highly commendable. He has formed several Sunday Schools, and instructed above a hundred persons in the Church catechism.
Here are a few words about the quotation underneath Jesse and Seneca’s name on the plaque which are from Hebrews 6:10: For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name. There are things we do that no one will ever see. There may even be costly sacrifices that bring about misunderstanding or criticism, but God sees. For the person who goes the extra mile, God sees. For the family who are trying to provide for their children and keep their sanity, God sees. For the parishioner who gives so much with so little return, God sees. When we feel misunderstood or alone in our service to others, the God who sees in secret will reward you. This is a promise of Scripture and that is a very appropriate scripture verse for someone like Seneca Ketchum who was misunderstood, but that did not stop him as he kept persevering. May his ministry inspire us all, lay and ordained, to keep striving in the ministry God has given to us. Amen.
”If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you. ”I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”
Today we hear the words of Jesus from John’s Gospel, And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. The word, Advocate, has also been translated, helper, comforter, paraclete and friend. The Greek word means “called to the side of.” We will often call someone to be by your side to give us strength. For example, when there is a sudden tragedy in our lives, the natural instinct is not go it alone, but to have someone there with us, someone by our side, to give us strength. Or, when you have to make a big decision, we often don’t want to think it through alone. We sometimes want input from other people before making this decision. We always need to call the Holy Spirit along side at these times.
We might then ask, ourselves are we like robots when it comes to our faith? Do we just mimic what our friends, family or church leaders say to us and not speak for ourselves? The answer I suspect would be no. And what about God; has God made us so that we just mimic what it says in the bible, what Jesus said, what the disciples said. The answer again, I hope, would be no. God has not made us to be like robots. We have free will, while at the same time we are guided by the Holy Spirit.
There are tough decisions to make in life and we are not left alone, we have God The Holy Spirit who will abide, or remain with us and will be in us. Hollywood portrays the good and bad options as the devil on one shoulder and the Holy Spirit on the other. This is the ‘in the moment’ of decision when we will probably think of the immediate gratification. To lie, to save someone’s pride, to cheat on our taxes because we rationalize that the government takes too much of our money already, or we break a law because the law is wrong. Or, we might think of the ‘longest term’ when we are doing what we ought not to do and asking ourselves, are we going to heaven or going to hell? All good and right questions. What is the outcome in the longer term of our good or bad decisions will be also be an important question. We have to put ourselves in that place where can imagine what the consequences of our actions or words will be. We need to imagine what it will be like after we have made the decision, how people will see us in a different light, how it will affect our relationships, how it will change our lives.
I will end with this question for you: think about something that you are possibly going to do that you shouldn’t and imagine the longer term outcome. And if you can’t think of anything – great – then think of something that you are going to do that is good and how God will get the glory. Amen.
“Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.” Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. So again Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
In our Gospel reading we read, “the sheep follow him because they know his voice”. Jesus is described in today’s reading from John as the shepherd and also as the door or gate. In verse 7 we read that Jesus is the thyra, the door or gate through which life is given to all who go through it. The shepherd would lie across the front of the pen at night so that no one could get in to steal the sheep – hence Jesus is the shepherd and the gate. God’s voice calls all to himself through Christ and in him we have abundant life as a member of his flock.
The first reading from Acts (2:42-47) gives us a snapshot of community life in the early church. There was teaching, fellowship, prayer and breaking of bread. They were together and all things in common, sold their possessions and distributed them. They spent much time in the temple, ate their food with glad and generous hearts praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And the Lord added to their number. A touch to the far left, politically speaking, in terms of how they lived, before the far left was thought of, and at least a modern day commune if we had to give it a name. We may say that was then and this is now. That was the early church and because of the Romans who weren’t too happy with them, and so they had to live like that. There have been others over the course of history who, as we read in John’s Gospel, hear Jesus’ voice, follow him because they know his voice and decide to live differently. They decided to live apart from society because they wanted to live for righteousness. Benedict of Nursia decided to do this in the sixth century when he thought that it was impossible to live for righteousness in the fallen Roman Empire. And so, he founded a monestary and carried on Christian living separately from the grumbling society around him. We might say again, that was then, and this is now.
I recently read a review a about a book called “The Benedict Option”, subtitled, “A strategy for Christians in a post-Christian nation” by Rod Dreher which came out eight weeks ago. It’s on my summer reading list and may find itself being a book study later in the year. His premise is that it is time for those who don’t agree with most of what is going on in society to remove themselves, politically where they have lost every debate, socially from their neighbours, and even geographically from society. There are degrees to which this can happen from Bruderhof communities who have completely removed themselves. There is a community of Roman Catholics who make up an entire community outside Washington D.C. where others come and go. Then there is where Rod Dreher grew up in Louisiana where he felt that the Christian life was being lived through various churches. At the very least, he and most modern day Christian leaders feel that Christians should lead more Christian lives. And what does that look like? It think that we could do well, at least, by starting with teaching, fellowship, prayer and breaking of bread which we do each Sunday and we live out during the week. We are well situated to a parish response to the Benedict Option. We both engage with the community during the week as we have partnered with many organizations and we gather on Sunday for our worship of Jesus. God became human in Jesus, his was, is and will be the intersection of the spiritual and physical world. We can’t separate the two and say Sunday is Sunday and the rest of the week we live and act the same as everyone else. We can’t do anything good, as one of our prayers states, without God. We need to hear the voice of Jesus in scripture and in our lives, and follow him because we know his voice. In doing so, we will have life and have it abundantly. Amen.
Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” But when Jesus heard it, he said, “This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.” After saying this, he told them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.” The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.” Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.” When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there. When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus began to weep. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.” Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him
I am Resurrection and I am Life, says the Lord. Whoever has faith in me shall have life, even though he die. And everyone who has life, and is committed to me in faith, shall not die for ever. Three sentences from scripture are read at the beginning of a funeral and this is the first. These “sentences” send chills down my spine and many others to as I walk down the isle. They are found in the funeral rites of both the BCP and the BAS. It's nice that they agree on something even if it is at the last moment. They are powerful words for many reasons. They are used at the beginning to remind us of what God promised in Jesus Christ. Life after death is one of the truths, tenets, beliefs of our faith, that I believe is one of the most challenging, hope filled, misunderstood of our faith. Just about everyone you meet will have a comment on whether or not there is life after death and even those on the same side will have disagreements.
Today’s Gospel from John is the story of “The Raising of Lazarus” is well known. It is only found in John's gospel and it happens just before Jesus triumphal entry into Jerusalem which we will celebrate next week on Palm Sunday. John, the writer, is interested in making sure we understand that: Jesus purposefully waits until Lazarus is dead before going to him so that he can perform the miracle of raising him back to life. This story is a reminder of what is to come, that Jesus will rise from the dead and his rising gives the hope of eternal life.
I have been the cave where Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. It is in present day Bethany which is about two miles northeast of Jerusalem There is not much to see, just a small cave and a much bigger parking lot for the buses. Because it is so close to Jerusalem, many people come and see it. The place in itself is not powerful, it is not particularly beautiful. It is therefore not the place that is significant, but the event. And so, like the death of a loved one, it is the event that is significant, not the place.
I read the obits just about every day. I have gotten to the age where I now not only read the obits of my mother’s generation who have died, but also my own.
I find increasingly that most of those in The Globe death notices don’t have a funeral. One of the obits actually stated that the deceased did not want a funeral because they are sad. Yes, they and no matter what you call it, or where you have it or who is leading it, they are still sad. And, I get it; if you don’t invite God into your life, why have God at your death. And so, if we don’t get the message of hope, love out at funerals, let alone, in our daily lives, why would people want to have a funeral.
When a loved one dies people don't come to me hoping that I will perform a miracle of averting certain death. Sometimes they come with questions on why things happened the way that they did.
They do come to me for comfort and for help in a time of need. Martha, Mary and Lazarus aren’t just stand-ins in for a theological account, they were grieving, and Jesus brings comfort and life to them. God is making a point here to the extent that he is willing to make it with a good friend. We know this because it says earlier “he whom you love is ill”, and then we get the shortest verse in scripture for you “Trivial Pursuit” players, verse 35, “Jesus wept” which now is “Jesus began to weep”. Jesus wants us to understand that God’s blessing did not come to just these people who happened to be in that place in time, but that God’s blessing comes to us as well. His death on the cross will mean entry of all believers into heaven through the centuries. Although we were not there in that time and place Jesus later said, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe” (John 20:29). In two weeks we will celebrate Easter, the day of Resurrection. On that day I will speak about heaven. Amen.
Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. 2And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. 3Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. 4Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 5While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” 6When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. 7But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.” 8And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone. 9As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, “Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.
It’s six days after Peter has declared that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God at Caesarea Philippi. Only Peter, James and John then go up a high mountain with Jesus. Jesus had an inner circle whom he choose to bring along on certain occasions like this one; the raising of Jairus’ daughter and in the Garden of Gethsemane are two such other occasions. We read, “And he is transfigured before them” – what does that mean? In a word, Jesus was transformed – transformed into his pure heavenly self. Then Moses and Elijah are seen talking with Jesus. Moses represents the law and Elijah, the prophets. Jesus is later left alone as to say, I’m all you need now.
In the rest of the reading we hear that Peter makes a speech, God makes a speech and Jesus makes a speech. In Peter’s speech he says that they should build 3 dwellings to commemorate the event. God’s speech is short and to the point. God says that the disciples are to listen to Jesus, with whom God is well pleased. Jesus makes a speech where he tells them not to say anything as they come down the mountain. Jesus says this because the disciples didn’t understand what had happened and Jesus doesn’t want them misrepresenting the event.
The Greek word translated "transfigured" is metamorphoomai. Paul also uses this word to talk about a transformation that is to take place within us. In Romans chapter 12 we read, Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God -- what is good and acceptable and perfect. This story is as much about the transformation of the disciples as it is about the transfiguration of Jesus.
I recently had a moment in my life where I felt that I was transformed. A couple of weeks ago I had a fall. The part of my body that took the brunt of the fall was my head. I went to the hospital and got checked out where they told me to watch for a headache that didn’t stop and/or vomiting. Neither happened, but I had a mild concussion which lead to fuzziness in my thinking and perception. I took this to be what I saw as a wake up call. It made me realize how fortunate I was to have not been more seriously hurt. I also understood how some people live some or much of their lives in that state and how tough that would be. And lastly, I was very thankful. Blessed, empathetic, thankful – these are items that should be in our daily speech with God and with each other.
As some of you know I go to a men’s bible study every Thursday morning at 7:30 a.m. This past week the leader spoke about transformation. He goes to a church where they don’t follow the same readings, so I was really glad about the topic and how it related to our reading today. We talked about how we can lead lives that leave behind: fear, anger and depression. And how to lead to the fruits of the spirit: peace, love, joy, gentleness, forbearance, kindness, faithfulness, goodness and self-control. Our transformation sometimes will take a significant event in our lives to shake us how of complacency. Sometimes it means taking stock of what are doing in our lives that isn’t leading to the fruits of the spirit, but is leading in the other direction. That in many ways is what Lent is about; taking stock and looking at our own transformation. Prayer is where this begins asking for God’s help to move beyond where we are, and if think that we can’t grow as a Christian any further, think about what that means.
Being transformed, be thankful, empathetic and blessed, leading to the season of Lent when we think about, ponder and pray of God’s work in our lives through the cross and the good news of Jesus. Amen.