Sunday, March 12, 2017

In the Desert on a High Mountain...

Lent 2 Sun Yr A - 2017
Ss. Peter & Paul, Danville

Last week, we entered the desert of Lent – we left behind what we know, our patterns, our normal, our familiar, to get into the desert.  We left behind our triumphant and jubilant hymns to enter into a greater silence, so we can hear the Lord speak to us more clearly.  We left behind the water we draw from old familiar wells of earthly success and praise; we left behind water drawn from the wells that never satisfy for longer than a few moments – you know – the water of feeding our appetites indiscriminately with screens and food and cheap love – we left that water behind to seek and find the water of life that is the only drink that can satisfy our longing.  We entered the desert by committing to a program of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving to let go of the ‘extra’ in our lives – the ‘extra’ that weighs us down in the stark dryness of the desert and will, if we don’t drop it, prevent us from moving through the desert to the garden of paradise and new life on the other side.

We may still be struggling – trying – having difficulty getting into the desert, but we recommit today to the prayer, fasting, and almsgiving because they help us get into the desert – because our hope of making it through the desert to Paradise and new life lies in following Jesus into the desert…  In Lent, we have to get into the desert, where we are transformed, find living water and begin to see, and are brought back to life.  Can you say that with me?  In Lent, we have to get into the desert, where we are transformed, find living water and begin to see, and are brought back to life.  Very good – remember that – chant it – say it over and over again – let it guide us through Lent to Easter.  In Lent, we have to get into the desert, where we are transformed, find living water and begin to see, and are brought back to life.  Very good. 

So…here we are, in the desert, in the dry stillness and stark simplicity of the desert…here we are, in the desert, with Jesus…

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A few steps – just as we really begin to get into the desert – a few steps into the desert, still tentative and halting, still trying to adjust, let go, shed sin and death – a few steps in the desert, listening in the stillness and looking for Jesus, walking with Him in the desert…and what’s the first thing we see?  Oh great – a mountain.  Here, just inside the desert, there’s a mountain.  

Well isn’t thaaaatttt speciallll...

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Just inside the desert, there’s a mountain.  And not just any mountain – a HIGH mountain.  I can’t walk up a hill, no less a mountain – a high mountain.  But, apparently, Jesus thinks we should go with Him.  The good news I guess – if there can be any good news that goes along with having to climb up a high mountain – the good news is that Jesus leads us up the mountain.  Like Gandalf guiding the Fellowship, Jesus leads us up this mountain.  There must be something important up there for Jesus to lead us up that mountain so soon after following Him into the desert.

And – of course – there is something important up on this high mountain.  Something that has to happen before we can find living water and begin to see – something that must happen before we can be brought back to life.  Something that must happen before we can journey through Lent to Easter...

We must be transformed!

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In my Bible – in every Bible I’ve ever seen – the little heading over this passage of scripture tells me it’s the Transfiguration.  As if what this story is about what happens to Jesus on the mountain.  But – does anything really happen to Jesus?  He is the same person coming down the mountain as He was leading us up the mountain, right?  

Peter and James and John saw His face shine like the sun for the first time, but Jesus is the Bright and Morning Star!  It wasn’t like Jesus began to shine at that moment – He had been and will be forever the bright shining light chasing away the darkness of our night in the valley of sin and death.  

Peter and James and John saw His clothing appear as white as light itself, but Jesus is the pure Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  It wasn’t like Jesus began to be radiantly pure and unstained by sin at that moment – He had been and will forever be the perfect, innocent, unblemished lamb that is the only acceptable sacrifice to rescue, redeem, and sanctify you and I and all humanity from the stain of sin and death.

Peter and James and John saw Moses and Elijah – the law and the prophets – conversing with Jesus; but Jesus is the very Word and Wisdom of God.  It wasn’t like Jesus began to be the source and completion of the law and prophecy at that moment – He had been and will forever be the fulfillment of all that the law and prophecies have pointed and will point toward, rescuing you and I and all humanity from the perils and pitfalls of sin leading us into death.

This story doesn’t really seem to be about what happened to Jesus at all – He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  No, this story seems to be about something that we who follow Him into the desert and up on the High Mountain – Jesus isn’t changed, He is revealed.  And – by encountering Him more completely as He truly is we – you and I – WE are changed and transformed!

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Peter and James and John – and any of us who bravely get into the desert and follow Jesus up the high mountain – we’re transformed when we encounter Jesus more completely for who He truly is.

Our desire to capture moments and stay so stuck in them that life won’t move on is transformed into a willingness to leave it all behind and follow Jesus into whatever great adventure He has planned for us.

Fitting Jesus into a little box where He isn’t really anything more than a sage teacher telling us to be nice to each other is transformed into a recognition that Jesus Christ is true God, the Only Son of the Father; Christ the King and Jesus the Friend – who calls and leads and has enough – is enough – to bring us to the other side.

Our fear at seeing Jesus for who He truly is is transformed into love and courage and strength – our fear is transformed into a burning desire to follow Him wherever He leads, no matter what the cost.

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We so often avoid the desert and the high mountains of life because they are uncomfortable, we have to leave the familiar behind, it’s hard in the desert… We avoid the desert and the high mountains because change is hard and sometimes it hurts.  But in the desert – on the high mountains – as we fast, and pray, and give – in the desert and on the high mountains we encounter Jesus more completely for who He truly is – and that encounter always – every single time – encounter with Jesus always transforms us.

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“Well – that’s all well and good, Father.  But you haven’t told me anything I can use.  I hear what you’re saying – but I don’t know what to do with it.  Tell me something useful.  Tell me what I need to do – tell me where I need to go and what I need to go do.”


I wish I knew…but I don’t.  I don’t know anything about where to go or what to do – what I do know about is how.  How to live life in the desert and on the mountain.  Pray this week – in the silence of the desert, pray – pray and listen for Jesus so you can encounter Him.  Fast this week – fast from screens or food or complaining or despair – fast so you’re hungry for Jesus and can encounter Him.  Give – notice others around you and take some of what you’ve got that they need and give it to them – time, attention, resources – give to others and see Jesus in them so you can encounter Him.  If you live life this way this week – you’ll encounter Jesus on the High Mountain in the desert, and – seeing Him more perfectly for who He truly is – you will be transformed…

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