Sermon for the Last Sunday after the Epiphany
Sunday, February 10, 2013
Looks like somebody has some good news. We are famous! We were in the Houston Chronicle for Drive-Thru Ashes! Let’s take a moment to congratulate ourselves! This is good news!
And I’ve got some more good news. Jesus is Lord! Transfigured into dazzling array, Jesus is hailed as the Son of God. The Chosen One. This is good news, because it means Jesus is Lord. It means that there is life, and life eternal.
It is also good news that Jesus confers with Moses and Elijah on the mountain. It is good news that Jesus can heal the sick, even those haunted by demonic convulsions. This is good news – that the Lord we follow, Jesus Christ, is God. That is what this passage is trying to tell us this morning. That Jesus Christ is Lord, and his transfiguration is a sign of his most gracious rule.
This is good news. It’s good news because the king of this world is not a tyrant, but a lover.
Now, in speaking with Moses and Elijah, Jesus discusses his “departure.” The literal translation of that word is “exodus.” Exodus. Jesus is speaking of his exodus. His foreseeable death by crucifixion. Jesus, yes, the Lord of this world, is openly discussing his betrayal and murder by this world. He’s talking about leaving. Jesus is talking about leaving the safe place on the mountain, and going to where things aren’t so safe.
And that’s exactly what the Houston Chronicle is saying about us. We are leaving. We are leaving our church walls and going out to proclaim that Jesus is Lord. We are making our departure, our exodus. We are taking what we do in here, out there – out there where things aren’t so safe.
It is here, on Sunday mornings, that we encounter the transfigured Jesus. This is our mountain, and we worship God here with joy and beauty. And I know, because I’ve felt it myself, that this place can be transfigured. I’ve met Jesus here. My heart has burned with passion for the Lord. And I’ve seen Elijah and I’ve seen Moses. This is our mountain. And sometimes, I just want to camp out here and stay forever. I just want to kneel before that altar and soak in God’s goodness. With Peter, I want to bask in the glory and the radiance and the love that we feel in this place. That’s not a bad thing, it’s just not the best thing.
Because we’ve heard the voice. We’ve heard about our leaving. I’ve listened to the voice of the Spirit, and you’ve listened to the voice. And even though we’ve climbed all the way up this mountain, we have to go back down. We are going to make our departure, our exodus.
With this Drive-Thru Ashes thing – we are making our exodus, our departure from this mountain of holiness to face the world. We are going out there, out to where the people are to tell them that yes indeed, Jesus is Lord and Jesus loves you. Jesus can even love you in your car. Jesus can even love you when you’re hurrying to work. Jesus even loves you if you’re afraid to step foot inside a church.
Now, for Jesus, his exodus took him pretty far. In Luke’s gospel, he wanders around Israel for ten chapters. That’s a lot of walking. The coolest thing about Drive-Thru Ashes, is that our exodus isn’t taking us very far. I mean, it’s just out to our parking lot. I’m willing to bet money that this is the shortest mission trip in the history of Christianity. We see God here, so we are taking God there. It’s that simple. We are leaving.
Now, when Jesus made his departure, and set his face to Jerusalem, he encountered some obstacles. There was some difficulty. They scoffed at Jesus. They mocked Jesus. They wagged their finger at Jesus for breaking the rules. And then they crucified Jesus. All because he left, he made his departure, he went down the mountain.
In the last few days, since the newspaper printed our good news, I want you to know that we’ve had some critics. Not from parishioners, but from outsiders. I’ve received some emails and “nasty-grams” about “Drive-Thru Ashes.” They’ve told me that it denigrates the meaning of the holy day. They’ve told me that it’s disrespectful to Jesus. They’ve told me that the bishop would be upset if he knew about this. They’ve told me everything, but you know what? I haven’t listened.
Jesus is always sending out his disciples. Jesus takes the good news to where the people are. Jesus never sits down at the synagogue and wonders, “Why isn’t anybody here?” No! Jesus goes to where the people are! Jesus would be much more upset if we stayed in here, on the mountain, and never gave a passing thought to the thousands of people passing by out there, down the mountain.
And on Friday, Bishop Doyle spoke to me and told me how cool he thought this idea is. He is even sending out a photographer to take pictures. I think Bishop Doyle is actually a little jealous that he won’t be here giving out ashes.
We cannot stay on the mountain. We just can’t. And I know, I know that all of you have been on the mountain. Each one of you has experienced Jesus Christ in your lives. A prayer was answered. A sign was given from God. A spiritual encounter or a weekend retreat brought you to the mountaintop with God, and you wanted to stay there. You wanted to build a tent there – in that moment – and just hang out with Jesus.
But it doesn’t work that way. The good news of Jesus Christ can’t stay locked up inside your heart. It just can’t. The good news that Jesus loves you won’t stay on a mountaintop. The good news won’t stay in the church.
The good news of Jesus Christ must go everywhere. To your home, to your work, to your barber. And yeah, even to your car.
People of Holy Comforter – I have some good news for you. We are leaving. We are making our exodus. God is parting the Red Sea, and opening the double doors at the end of the Parish Hall, and we are going out there. To where the people are.
I have some more good news for you. People are talking about us. They are starting to realize that this place, this home, this mountaintop we call Holy Comforter, is open to anybody and everybody. That’s some good news.
And I’ve got some more good news. Jesus Christ is Lord. His reign is glorious, his love is eternal, and his grace is for you. And for every person that drives on Spring Cypress Road. That’s some great news.