Church news – March


Looking ahead, we church folk are entering a change of season. We are moving out of the liturgical season known as epiphany. Epiphany indicates light, revealing, wonder.

It began with the light of a bright star, which led shamans from the far East to journey many weeks to witness the arrival of the infant son of God.

Through these weeks, we have heard the stories of his preaching, teaching and healing, which revealed to us a radical shift in the salvation story of God’s people.

God the creator, the law-giver, the mountain-top experience, has become God-with-us. Not just with us, but within us, and among us. We are constantly enlightened in real, everyday life.

The season of epiphany ends with another story of light: Jesus invites Peter, James and John to join him upon a mountain. Now, Jesus spent a lot of time on high places, in prayer and contemplation. The high places were his retreat. This time, he took friends with him.

And what they witnessed was worth writing about. They see Jesus literally illuminated, his face and garments shining like sunlight. It is reminiscent of Moses on Mount Sinai when he went to receive the ten commandments. It was written that his face shone so brightly that he had to wear a veil upon descending the mountain. I wonder if Jesus was always bathed in light when he climbed the mountain alone to pray … 

As Jesus descends his mountaintop – with his friends/followers – he knows that his life is now directed toward its inexorable end. And so we earthbound Christians enter the season known as lent.

We continue to read and hear and share stories of healings and miracles. We also witness the teachings of Jesus becoming more challenging and intense. It is as though he knows something we don’t, and is trying to help his disciples understand that their time is coming, when they will be teaching, healing, and challenging the status quo of the Temple in Jerusalem, and the government in Rome.

The joy of new teachings, new understanding and the attendant miracles is slowly transforming into a time of serious learning, of traumatic political consequences, and preparation for an uncertain future.

When Moses came down the mountain, he brought the law, a gift from God. The law was extensive and extremely precise. It left no doubt exactly how life was to be lived, not just how to construct the spaces and accoutrement of worship, but how to live daily with one another in the land that God has given them. And this law had guided them for generations.

When Jesus comes down the mountain, he brings from God a gift called grace. It is grander and more far-reaching than the law. It is a universal embrace of unconditional love. And it is no longer just for God’s chosen people, but for everyone.

Now Jesus continues undaunted in his mission and his ministry. He gives hard, often confusing lessons. He debates the Mosaic law with the Pharisees (the law-keepers of the temple leadership).

And he continues to heal and perform miracles. The life of hard future consequence continues to be a present life of endless grace and joy. Jesus refuses to be daunted by his approaching demise. He has work to do, and he does it faithfully and completely.

As we move through lent, we continue to witness miracles and learn wondrous truths. But now we look at these things more seriously. We are no longer amazed at miracles, nor do we take them lightly. We are awestruck and wide-eyed at the future that awaits us.

It may challenge us and may even threaten occasionally. But it is full of a joy and wonder that is realistic.

It tells us that things aren’t always what they seem. And even what seems to us to be one thing, may be leading us toward some kind of undefinable grace, perhaps even disguised as a challenge, a confrontation, a grief.

Sometimes we may feel like some kind of pioneers. Yet always, we are followers. We follow the one who blazed the trail, who left indelible footprints and shows us the way Home.

Lent is our journey, toward our inevitable destination, which may seem like an end, but is actually a new beginning.


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