The Rev. Jimmy Abbott
Last Sunday after the Epiphany
March 3, 2019
“Master, it is good for us to be here.” He sees Jesus transfigured into dazzling array, he bolds a vision of Moses and Elijah, and so Peter utters the truth: “master, it is good for us to be here.” Think of where we are in the Gospel of Luke. Jesus has called Peter, James, and John as his closest disciples. The Executive Committee, if you will. They have witnessed Jesus accomplish amazing things – healing, casting out demons, preaching good news. Along with the rest of the twelve, Peter, James, and John had been commissioned by Jesus to go out themselves, preaching and teaching and exerting power over the forces of darkness. And yet it is now, on top of the mountain, almost halfway through the gospel that Peter finally sums it all up: “Master, it is good for us to be here.”
I don’t know about you, but I am still buzzing from last night; from the laughter and the tears and the prayers. The bell, the music, the singing, the friends from near and far. “Master, it is good for us to be here.”
Much of what made last night so emotional, at least for me, was that it was the release of so much build up from so many years. Right now, we are in the manifestation of a dream. The showing forth, the epiphany, of decades of hope, prayer, work. Not in the proverbial sense, but we have given real blood, sweat, and tears. In you, I have seen miracles, good news, love, hope, peace, and grace. “Master, it is good for us to be here.”
But of course, when Peter utters those tremendous words, little does he know that the real work has only just begun. From that mountaintop experience, Peter, James, and John go down the mountain with Jesus to meet a boy with a demon. They are soon commissioned to go on a missionary journey. The Transfiguration is only a moment, a pause, in the work still ahead of them. More teaching. More preaching. More healing. Theologians call this part of Luke that follows, “the Long Journey.” Jesus goes from place to place on a mission. The Transfiguration is not the end, it is the beginning.
Until, that is, Jesus climbs another mountain. Jesus climbs up Golgotha, the Place of the Skull, and there he is crucified. He climbs that death penalty hill, he climbs up that cross.
We must not be so deceived as to think that our mission at Holy Comforter has been fulfilled. Heavens, no. Our mission is the work of the gospel and only the gospel. Yes, it is good for us to be here. But we too must go down the mountain. There are people who have yet to hear the good news. There are people dying of loneliness and despair. This neighborhood is full of people that have driven by this church and thought to themselves, “I am not good enough for God.” Our work, our mission, is not yet fulfilled. That is why we have named our chapel, the Chapel of the Great Commission. To stand as a physical reminder, a permanent physical reminder, that the work of the church is out there. On the streets. In the neighborhoods. In our homes. The mission field.
We will show this powerfully on Wednesday. Hundreds of people will come to meet the living God on our parking lot. Hundreds more will pray with our people in hospitals and nursing homes. Not only that, but our life will continue. Because this is the key to understanding the life of the church – there are no finish lines. Only starting lines.
The baptism we witnessed last night, that is the not the end for Isabel Ramsey, it is the beginning. The Holy Communion is not a celebration at the end of the week, it’s a celebration at the beginning of the week. Tomorrow we have a funeral in here – that will not be the end for Molly Ferguson, it’s just the beginning of their new life in God. Yes, it is good for us to be here but it also time to go down the mountain.
Let me put it another way. In evolutionary biology, there is a concept called “eusociality.” That’s “e-u-sociality.” Eusociality is the highest level of ordering any one type of species can achieve. To achieve eusociality, that species must exhibit a few distinct characteristics. There must be division of labor among individuals. There must be multiple generations living and working in harmony. And there must be adults taking care of their young. Humans, some rodents, a few kinds of shrimp, and multiple types of ants are eusocial creatures. They divide their labor, they care for each other, and they raise their young.
One of the distinct characteristics of eusocial creatures is that they must have some sort of nest. In that nest they care for their young. From that nest they leave to go work or collect food. The nest is a critical for any species to achieve their greatest potential.
Think about it. The American Dream is to own a home. Homelessness takes its toll not only because people are sleeping outdoors, but because without a nest, we have nowhere that is a place to rest. Our nests, our homes, are important because it’s there that we ought to feel protected, safe, with our families. And so we come to the Church. Like the dwellings, the tabernacles that Peter insisted on building, we have our nest. This is the place in which we gather, to be fed and restored. It is a place in which all generations are welcome. Yesterday we had a baptism. Tomorrow we have a funeral. And it is from this place that we go out and do the work that God has appointed for us to do.
Now, we must not worship the nest. No, the nest is to be used. And believe it or not, even this nest will change over time. Some acolyte will ding the wall with the processional cross. Somebody is bound to spill wine on a cushion. at some point. We’ll keep tweaking the light and the sound. But that’s because the church building is here to serve us – we are not here to serve the church building. This is our highest potential – that working together from this nest, not for this nest, we have the power to change the world for the sake of Jesus Christ.
Yes, it is good for us to be here. It is so good for us to be here. But we will have to go down the mountain. Out there into the mission field. To do the work that God has prepared us to do.
Yes, it is good to be here. But it is even better for us to be out there.