Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Samaritan Woman and Racism

John 4: 5-42

The Samaritan Woman at the Well

Jesus comes to the Samaritan woman at the well. She is, perhaps, the most broken woman in the whole Gospel story. The very fact that she comes at noon to draw water, rather than in the early morning when the other women of the village would be there, suggests that at the very least she is ashamed. In all likelihood she is the subject of scorn and derision. People look down upon her because of her brokenness in marriage and in relationships.

Jesus, we are told, is tired. As he addresses this broken, lonely and ashamed woman, he asks, “Give me a drink.” It is an invitation to be at risk. It is an invitation to cross boundaries and ancient taboos. He is thirsty, and she has a bucket, and there is the well of their mutual ancestor Jacob.

Notice how Jesus does not look down upon her as the others do. He calls no attention to her brokenness. He does not tell her to get her act together. It is good to see how Jesus approaches broken people – not from a superior position, but from a humbler, lower position even from his fatigue: “I need you,” he says. He is tired. He is thirsty. Those of us familiar with this story will recognize this thirst of his. Among his very last words on the cross are the words, “I thirst.”

What Jesus is seeking here is someone who shares his thirst. His thirst is a thirst for peace. What he calls God’s shalom. This shalom is in turn a thirst for justice and healing for all people, especially people like this Samaritan woman. Most of all, Jesus thirsts for dignity and respect for all people. Not some people. Not a lot of people. All people.

This woman knows no respect. But Jesus reaches out to her from his need, not hers. By reaching out to her from his own need he gives her dignity and respect—there is something she can do for him. Jesus gives her identity and purpose. Suddenly something new, something real, wells up inside of her. It is a new confidence, a new spirit. And from this new spirit her real thirst is revealed. It is a thirst that will not be quenched by the waters at the bottom of Jacob’s well. She thirsts for real life, authentic life, and Jesus gives it to her without cost and without condition.

Yesterday some of us from Saint Peter’s and others from the region and community met with the Task Force on Reparations for Slavery and Racism. We learned a lot about our church’s, the Episcopal Church in Maryland’s, very origins being enmeshed with slavery. Many of our oldest and earliest churches were built with money from the Tobacco Tax – a tax based per person in each household, including each slave. The African slaves worked the tobacco fields, providing the money with which their owners, predominantly Anglican/Episcopalians, paid the tax that grew our diocese. By and large these were not churches that openly welcomed black slaves to worship. And as the history of our diocese unfolded, one can readily see that mission churches were founded to serve black communities specifically so they would not be inclined to worship in white Episcopal congregations. And, of course, those that allowed blacks to worship often required that they sit in separate seating in “slave balconies.”

It would do a disservice to the quality of our conversation yesterday to attempt to distill it into manageable sound-bites, but it was astonishingly frank, very much like our Lord’s conversation with the woman at the well. Everyone in the room learned something new about what it means to be black and white in American culture. We agreed that as Christians, and as Episcopalians, our most basic and core ministry we share with our Lord is a ministry of Reconciliation – a ministry of repairing a broken world.

We also spent time sharing about “The No Talk Rule” – how in White and Black families and communities there were things having to do with race that just were never talked about. For instance, I grew up in a community and a church that for most of my younger years had one black family, Dr. Percy Julian and his family. Although Dr. Julian was a member of our church, no one ever mentioned his accomplishments: the first scientist to have synthesized cortisone and progesterone. I only found that out in 1992 when the US Postal service issued a stamp in his honor. Nor was it ever discussed that when Dr. Julian moved into Oak Park, Illinois, that there were those that harassed his family and tried to fire-bomb their house to get them to leave, which I only learned about this past year when PBS did a documentary on Dr. Julian. Things like that just did not happen in suburban Oak Park, so we did not talk about it. The No Talk Rule only hurts us all in the long run.

Perhaps most importantly yesterday, we acknowledged that not much progress can be made until there is an honest understanding and admission of the role White Privilege, or White Supremacy, plays in American culture.

The disciples return with lunch and appear horrified that their master Jesus has compromised himself by talking with this woman, a Samaritan, in broad daylight. Even Nicodemus had the tact to come in the dark of night. The disciples cannot understand the crossing of ancient boundaries, such a departure from the old taboos. This is pretty much where we find ourselves in our conversation of race, reconciliation and reparations. Blacks and Whites can lapse into viewing “the other” in the same way Samaritans and Jews looked at one another in Jesus’ day.

As we listen to this story this morning, I believe we are challenged in two significant ways. First, we must acknowledge that the brokenness of race relations persists to this day. Secondly, we must approach the work of repair and reconciliation from the same posture Jesus assumes with the Samaritan woman - not from a superior position, but from a humbler, lower position.

Like the Samaritan woman, we all come to the well over and over again to draw water. But do we see the man sitting at the well? Can we hear what he is saying to us? Are we even aware he is speaking to us? Can we feel what it is like to be asked by Jesus to do something for him? Can we see how it is that Jesus does not look down on the poor and broken ones? He does not look down on those who are utterly different from him like the Samaritans. He does not come with something to give them. He does not come pretending to tell them how to live their lives. He does not say, “Here, I have what you need. Take this and become like me.”

Instead Jesus says that the Samaritan woman has something that he needs. There is something she can do for him. Hearing this news she is liberated from all that weighs her down. He enters into a relationship with her first. He gives her value. He gives her purpose. He gives her new life by simply letting her know there is something she can do for him. We wonder if we might approach the poor and the broken hearted as he does. This story means to ask us if we can approach others, the “Samaritans” of our world, in this way. This story means to ask us if we are willing to reveal our brokenness to these others and to him.

Slavery and Racism are the brokenness we all carry. Until we acknowledge it and reveal it like Jesus, it will persist. Until we can acknowledge there is something we need from each other, the brokenness of Racism will not go away.

As we move steadfastly toward Holy Week we remember that as the story nears its conclusion on the cross, Jesus is still thirsty. He is still thirsty today. And we are, all of us and each of us, that Samaritan woman. We come to the well week after week. Week after week Jesus asks us for a drink. We know the kinds of things for which he thirsts. Jesus continues to thirst for dignity and respect for all people. He thirsts for justice and peace for all people.

Are we ready to bring him a drink? Are we ready to talk with him? Are we ready to reveal our own brokenness to him and to one another? Jesus is sitting before us right now. He is tired, very, very tired. He asks us to give him a drink. What shall we do?


Saturday, February 16, 2008

Born Again Faith

17 February 2008 – Lent2A * Genesis 12:1-8/John 3:1-17

The Reverend Kirk Alan Kubicek, Saint Peter’s at Ellicott Mills, Maryland

Born Again Faith

“…no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.”

Or, is it, “…no one can see the kingdom of God without being born again.” Turns out that in the Greek of the New Testament it can be either. Either way one chooses to translate this word, it all ends up meaning the same thing – the kind of rebirth Jesus has in mind is a) elusive and mysterious, and b) entirely God’s doing.

This suggests, of course, that one cannot “choose” to be “born again.”

Jesus takes it all one step further with another play on words. The word is pneuma – from which we get pneumatic. In the Greek pneuma can mean “wind” or “spirit.” So when Jesus says, “The wind blows where it will, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit,” he is saying this is all in God’s hands, beyond our control. There’s no telling when it will happen or to whom!

Now Nicodemus was a scholar of the tradition, a religious leader in his community. He comes to Jesus secretly at night. In one of the more famous paintings of this scene by the American artist, John Lewis Frederick Joseph La Farge, Visit of Nicodemus to Christ (1880) (,

Nic is pictured with a scroll open upon his lap, representing the tradition as recorded in the Hebrew Bible. He is pointing to it and seemingly saying, “How can this be? I have read this stuff, I interpret it, I know it, and I am an expert in this kind of thing. We have to stick with the tradition.”

Jesus might just as well refer Nic back to our first lesson. Abram and Sarai are living a comfortable suburban existence in Ur of the Chaldes, when God says, “Children go where I send thee.” Remarkably, they do! Little could they know they would reach a new homeland. Little did they know they would have a child at ages 100 and 90! Little did they know their names would become Abraham and Sarah, the ancestors of our faith. Little did they know that their journey would eventually lead to a young man named Jesus carrying on the tradition of faith as a journey with God. Abraham and Sarah are the first of God’s people to be “born again.”

This is where it all begins. The very notion that the life of faith is a journey, directed by God’s Spirit/Wind, taking us from we know not when and where and taking us to we know not where, begins with Sarah and Abraham and continues through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.

All of which is why, as Frederick Beuchner reminds us in his little book, Wishful Thinking (Harper and Row, NY:1973), “Faith is better understood as a verb than a noun, as a process than as a possession. It is on-again-off-again rather than once-and-for-all. Faith is not being sure of where you’re going but going anyway - a journey without maps. Tillich said that doubt isn’t the opposite of faith; it is an element of faith….doubts are the ants in the pants of faith. They keep it awake and moving.” (p.25, p.20)

Faith is alive, awake, and moving – moving forward not backwards. Abraham and Sarah never look back, they keep going forward with God. Nicodemus we learn later in John’s Gospel gets it – Nic is moved forward by the Spirit/Wind of God and never turns back. We later see him publicly defend Jesus against his critics, and playing a loving and touching role in arranging for a decent burial after the crucifixion. Nic is moved from studying the past to acting in the present and moving into God’s future.

Born Again Faith means not looking back. No doubt, as it must have been for Nicodemus, and I am sure it must have been for Sarah and Abraham, this can be scary stuff. For those who want to look back, however, there is a warning – Abraham’s nephew Lot accompanied them on the journey of faith, and at a most inopportune moment Lot’s wife looked back and never took another step again as she was turned instantly into a pillar of salt. Looking back is a great temptation.

Yet, none less than Don Henley gets the sense of all this in his Boys of Summer, ‘Out on the road today / I saw a "Dead Head" sticker on a Cadillac / A little voice inside my head said / "don't look back, you can never look back."

This Second Sunday in Lent calls us to a Born Again Faith that looks forward, not backwards. We are invited to open ourselves to the movement of God’s Spirit/Wind. Like Abraham and Nicodemus, those who are Born Again will recognize that only God could have sent Jesus to bring understanding, healing and hope to the world.

Those who are Born Again work together to help others, and in worship come to recognize Christ’s presence in our midst.

When, like Nicodemus, we find the courage to come and visit Jesus, we will move forward with God’s message to a hurting world. Our lives will become a sign of God’s love for the world – the world for which God gives his only Son so that all who believe in him may not perish but may have eternal life.


Saturday, February 9, 2008

The Big Lie

10 February 2008 – Lent 1 - Genesis 2:4b-9, 15-17, 25-3:7 – Matthew 4:1-11

The Reverend Kirk Alan Kubicek, Saint Peter’s at Ellicott Mills

The Big Lie

Temptation. It is everywhere, all the time, all around us. Yet, often we miss naming it for what it really is, which is usually a big lie. The big lie is either fed to us, or we lie to ourselves.

In the story of Jesus we need to make sure we remember: this is about Jesus, not us. And although we can think of instances of each of these temptations both in our public and private lives every day, that’s not what this is about. It is about who Jesus is: the Son of God who walks only in God’s way. It’s not about us, it’s about Him – he who is our salvation.

Similarly, the Genesis story is about who we are. We may as well admit that it is difficult to hear this story on its own merit since it has been so over preached, over analyzed, and overly “applied” to whether or not we tend to overeat, lie, get greedy, or any other of the seven deadly sins, which as I said on Ash Wednesday begin to sound rather quaint in today’s world where all seven are pretty much touted as virtues. Where would consumer capitalism be with out envy and greed? How would politics survive without lust, anger, greed, and, oh yes, pride? For sloth and gluttony God gave us cable and satellite TV, and of course, The Internet!

The problem in the Genesis story is not the fact that they ate the fruit. The problem is that they believed the big lie – which is, eat this and you will be like God. To believe this is to forget who we are and whose we are in the first place: God’s.

That is, we are already created, we are told, “in the image of God.” In theological terms we call this imago Dei. The idea is had they not believed the lie they would not have eaten the fruit which, we recall, God had told them not to eat. Why? It is like your mother or father saying, “Don’t go across the street by yourself.” God was simply protecting those he loved from the believing the big lie.

Fast forward to Jesus and it is the same scene all over again, except Jesus had just been inoculated. At his Baptism he had heard God say, “You are my beloved. I am well pleased with you.” This was for Jesus, and is meant to be for us, the equivalent of, “Do not cross the street by yourself.” In fact, it really says, “Don’t cross the street at all…remain on my side, God’s side.”

Now we might as well admit that the sort of temptations set out are not all that different from the ones that face us every day: who wouldn’t want to wave a hand and turn things like stones into bread or gold or derivative securities if that’s your thing; who wouldn’t want to leap from tall buildings, be more powerful than a locomotive and faster than a speeding bullet; who wouldn’t want to be king or queen of the earth?!?

Fortunately we have Jesus who reminds Satan and all of us who care to “listen to him,” as we were instructed last Sunday, that there is only one king of the earth, one all powerful being, and only one source of bread for life – the Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Jesus. The result being that we are relieved of all such duties, and ought to be suspicious of all who claim to be the appointed representative of the same God, let alone be tempted to elect them into political office to carry out what such self-appointed guardians believe to be “God’s Plan.”

We might be clever enough to note that Jesus uses the spiritual disciplines our Book of Common Prayer urges us to adopt in Lent: self-examination and repentance; prayer, fasting and self-denial; and reading and meditating on God’s holy Word. Up front and at the core is to be aware of our continual need to renew our repentance and faith.

Repent means to turn. Every time we find ourselves believing the Big Lie, forgetting who we are and whose we are – God’s Beloved – we need to turn back and remember. Every time we find ourselves caught up in the trappings and traps of envy, greed, gluttony, pride, lust, sloth and anger we better be ready to repent and return to the Lord.

God does not want us to cross the street because God loves us and does not like to see us get hurt – yet, getting hurt is often what we do best. This is why the church exists at all – to be that place where we come to listen to Jesus and remind one another who we are and whose we are- God’s Beloved People.

The Church is meant to be a sort of hospital where we bind up one another’s wounds and get back on our feet and on our way – God’s Way. When we buy into The Big Lie, however, we use the Church to hurt others and one another, even though we must know just how it grieves God to see us devolve into wounding dysfunction rather than being a source of healing and reconciliation.

Between the spiritual disciplines Jesus examples, and listening to him, we just might remind one another not to cross the street – for God cannot be responsible for what happens to us when we cross over to the other side. That would put us in the hands of “the other guy,” and few of us if any of us want to go there, because he is the originator of The Big Lie.

And one thing we know for sure. The minute we believe The Big Lie all Hell breaks loose!


Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Echoes of Our Faith

Echoes of Our Faith

Ash Wednesday presents us with what one might call “echoes of our faith.” It began the Last Sunday after the Epiphany actually. In the story of our Lord’s Transfiguration, we heard a voice from heaven say, “This is my son, my beloved, with whom I am well pleased. Listen to him.” This echoes the voice heard back at our Lord’s baptism, “You are my beloved with whom I am well pleased.”

These echoes remind us of the very core of the Good News of God in Christ: that for all of us, when we are baptized into the Body of Christ, there is a voice that says, “You are my beloved. I am well pleased with you.” Jesus dedicated his life, death and resurrection to proclaiming this Good News.

There are similar echoes in the Ashes of Ash Wednesday – a reminder that we are but dust and to dust we shall return. But this is no ordinary dust. It is not the kind of dust you go out and get a can of pledge and wipe down the whole house! This dust we hear about echoes the story in Genesis when God picks up a handful of dust, breathes into it and gives life to the first person. It is an intimate moment between God and man. Our very breath comes from God – another reminder of just how beloved we are.

Then there are the palms from which the ashes come. Each year I take them out to the backyard where I have developed a ritual with my Webber grill. There is nothing to describe the intensity of the white-hot flame that comes from burning palms. One cannot do this in a soup pot or you will never use that soup pot again. It will be permanently damaged by heat and resins! A friend of mine, Tom Talley, did this in his sacristy on the counter and it fused the bottom of the pot to the Formica counter top! The flame is white-hot, vehement, powerful and awesome.

These palms carry some contradictory symbolism. On one hand, a sign of what is called Jesus’ Triumphal Entry to Jerusalem. On the other hand the palms lead directly to Good Friday and the cross. The cross is a sign of God’s love for us, as strange as that seems to those beyond the community of faith. And the intensity with which the palms burn is reminiscent of those words about God’s love for God’s people in the Song of Solomon, “Its flashes are flashes of fire, a most vehement flame. Many waters cannot quench love; neither can the floods drown it.”

So the liturgy of Ash Wednesday is filled with echoes of our faith and signs of our belovedness in the eyes of God. A God, we are told by the prophet Joel, who would come into the sanctuary and leave an offering on our behalf if we were unable to make the offering ourselves! What a God!

Yet, Ash Wednesday also means to recognize that there are lots of things that get in the way of our accepting our belovedness – lots of things that distract us from understanding ourselves as God’s beloved. There are a lot of things that get between us and God’s love.

Some of these used to be called the Seven Deadly Sins. They almost sound quaint today. As a sign of just how strange the world has become, many of them these days are touted as virtues – Greed, Lust, Gluttony, Envy, Pride, Sloth, Anger (Wrath). Pride, Lust and Greed (not to mention Anger!) lead a list of modern culture virtues, and all but dominate the presidential primary scene and even the election for a new bishop in the Diocese of Maryland.

Our Litany of Penitence covers pretty much all the territory of those behaviors that separate us from each other and from the love of God. It lists the multitude of ways we get distracted from our belovedness, and seeing that belovedness in others. Ash Wednesday, then, is a day to begin to Repent – which means to turn around. The idea is we are no longer going in the Way of the Lord, but rather in our own way or in distracted ways. We have forty days to do this turning. It does not happen overnight.

This leads us to the spiritual disciplines of Lent – tithing, self-examination, prayer, fasting, and reading and meditating upon God’s word. Jesus calls us to enter into these disciplines with a spirit and attitude of humility – again, a virtue almost lacking in the midst of our popular and political culture. We are promised, as we prayed at the outset, that God hates nothing and no one God has made, and seeks to accept our repentance and forgive us all our sins. For our God is the Lord who is “gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love;” the same Lord “whose property is always to have mercy.”

Ash Wednesday is a time to listen for the echoes of our faith, in which we hear about a God who forms us from dust and breath, whose love for us is a vehement flame, who endured the cross that we might have eternal life. As we hear and even feel those echoes reverberate through our very souls, we begin the process of turning, repentance, and applying ourselves to those spiritual disciplines that mean to remind us of who we are and whose we are. We are the Lord’s. May we remember that it is only by God’s gracious gift that we are given everlasting life.


Sunday, February 3, 2008

Good News for Challenging Times

The Reverend Mary Marguerite Kohn

St. Peter’s Episcopal Church Feb 3, 2008

Last Sunday After Epiphany (Transfiguration)

Exodus 24:12-18 Psalm 99

Philippians 3:7-14 Matthew: 17:1-9

These are exciting and challenging times for St. Peter’s. At our annual meeting there was a very spirited discussion regarding the best use for our property. As I believe you are aware, our vestry has spent the last two years investigating the possibility of selling some of our property in order to create an endowment with which to fund out reach projects. Having received permission from the Standing Committee to go forward with the next step in the process, this sparked a variety of comments as to what would be the best use of our property in order to live out our mssion statement and to establish a financial solvency.

On Wednesday night Bishop John Rabb was present at a meeting to present the Renewal and Growth Committee’s report to the congregation. There was a very good turnout for a Wednesday night, and another vibrant discussion regarding the best way to involve the whole congregation in the next step of renewal and growth, including work on healing and reconciliation in the congregation.

Third, our vestry met yesterday for their annual retreat at the Franciscan Priory. To begin, we met together in small groups for spiritual sharing, and then proceeded to work on goals for the coming year. After a lot of creative brainstorming, the vestry came up with a plan which will be presented to the congregation next week. Your participation is not only needed, it is crucial, and I hope you will add your voice and your talents.

So, as I said, a lot of exciting choices and challenges before us. However, I believe that the most important decision we have to make is not which specific choice we make (e.g., sell the property or keep it) but how we make the decision, how we frame our conversation. The story of the Transfiguration which we heard today can be of help to us in framing our discussion. In fact, I have been thinking of this sermon as “St. Peter’s meets the Transfiguration.”

We hear the story of the Transfiguration every year on the Last Sunday after the Epiphany, and again in August if we celebrate the Feast of the Transfiguration. All 3 synoptic gospels contain this event, which means that it is very important for understanding our life in Christ. A quick recap of the familiar story as Matthew tells it: Jesus has taken his close friends and disciples Peter, James, and John up a high mountain. While they are up there Jesus is transformed in some miraculous way that makes clear to the awestruck disciples that he is bathed in the glory of God. Then Moses and Elijah, the two greatest people in the history of the people of Israel, appear and begin talking with Jesus. Peter, seeing the three of them, says the first thing that comes to his mind, wouldn’t it be nice to build three dwellings, or tents for the three divine beings, and they all can stay there and worship.

Next something happens which I hadn’t fully noticed in previous readings. It seems as if God is bent on interrupting Peter, on stopping Peter’s train of thought before he can finish it. The voice from Heaven cuts in, saying, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!" The first part of the sentence should take us all back to Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan, when the same words were said. And I think the second part is a direct command: listen to Jesus, not to your own instincts. And all of a sudden, everything is normal, the prophets are gone, Jesus is telling them not to be afraid, to keep quiet about what happened and heading back down the mountain.

As Matthew tells the story, the next things that happen are that Jesus heals an epileptic the disciples could not heal because of their lack of faith, and then begins teaching about right relationships among his followers. They are on the road to Jerusalem and the cross. So it seems to me that Jesus is making the point that a mystical encounter on the mountain is a brief, wondrous event, but the real work of discipleship, the real “transfiguration” takes place in the work of ministry and the sacrifice he will make on the cross.

Despite my earlier statement, perhaps you are wondering what in the world the transfiguration has to say to our situation. Here is my argument, beginning with some thoughts on sacrifice. Sacrifice is a word with unpleasant connotations: sacrifice is hard, painful, and grim. Yet in theological terms, sacrifice is something given up willingly out of love for God. Sacrifice is not capriciously demanded by God—it can lead to our spiritual growth, and the good of others. Jesus’ offering of his life on the cross is the ultimate example of sacrificial love. I would suggest that we at St. Peter’s are being invited to sacrifice--give up, let go of—three things if we are to listen to the voice of Jesus and move forward in faith in our mission.

First, we are being invited to let go of our comfort zone—the ways we have become comfortable in our life at St Peter’s. The disciples left everything they had to follow Jesus, and were continually nudged and pushed beyond their faith comfort zones. Things like “the way we’ve always done it.” Or just assuming that my opinion is the right one. We are called to really listen to our sisters and brothers here, making the assumption that views they hold are just as sincerely and faithfully held as our own. Whatever decisions we make will entail risks, and new ways of being church. That is always what it means to follow Jesus—to listen to his voice.

Second, we are being invited to let go of the vision we might have of the “perfect” or “best” church. Often that vision is a memory from the past. I know my own “best church” memories come from my time at St. Mark’s, Raleigh, the first church where I truly felt at home and connected with God as an adult. I will find myself thinking, “If we only did things here the way we did them at St. Mark’s, we would take care of a lot of problems.” Well, my wonderful experience occurred over 20 years ago in a different city and a different context. I am sure that if I went back to visit, that many things I treasured would be changed. And if they were the still the same, then St. Mark’s would have stagnated, listening to the voice of comfort rather than the voice of Jesus.

A wonderful church experience might have been in a different congregation, or occurred some time in the past at St. Peter’s, when you were happiest here. Or just possibly, a “best church” is one that doesn’t exist—one where there are never any conflicts, never any difficult decisions, and everyone is easy to like. These feelings are natural, part of human nature. But if I hang on to my vision, I won’t be following Jesus because I won’t be able to hear or see him.

I bring up the third item knowing it may not apply to everyone here or be known to everyone here. This has to do with St. Andrew’s, Glenwood. Some years ago, St. Peter’s decided to send some of the congregation to start at mission there. I have heard more than one person reflect that in hindsight perhaps that was a mistake. Had these congregants not gone, we’d have a “large enough” congregation, wouldn’t be in financial difficulties, and would have been able to build on our property already. I wasn’t here, but I am sure that the sending was a sacrificial offering for the people who stayed and those who left. And I believe we are invited to let go of whatever “what if’s” we have about St. Andrew’s. We are being invited to look at the matter from God’s perspective, not our own. There is now a thriving congregation in that area—thanks be to God!! And while we may miss the people who left, there are plenty of people right in our neighborhood who need God, whether or not they know it.

The Transfiguration makes clear that following Jesus means being on the road, being willing to let go of whatever may be keeping us from hearing and listening to his voice. Our baggage may be material possessions, but not always. Memories of wonderful times in the past in a congregation, or wonderful personal encounters with God can keep us stuck if we cling to them. A wise spiritual friend called that “living in our spiritual archives”. If you or I spend all our time thumbing through our special scrapbook of the past we will not be awake or aware in this exciting present. Jesus always calls us to live in the present, in his Kingdom that is new each day.

So, my friends, that is how I think St. Peter’s meets the Transfiguration today. We have nothing to fear and much to gain. If we truly desire to live out our mission statement: feeding, healing, and reaching out to others, then we have all the gifts we need and will do more than we could ask or imagine. Yes, there will be sacrifices and hard work. St. Paul says it best to his beloved friends in Philippi, explaining why following Christ is the only path worth taking:

Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.