Relating, Creating, Transforming

Posts tagged ‘transfiguracion’

Shiny Faces & Propheteering

Exodus 34:29-35   and Luke 9:28, 29; 37, 38

What does it mean to have a shiny face?

Okay, think about it.

shine.jpegShiny face is real. By midday, your face just might have a little sheen. It’s called sebum [combo of dead skin cells and lipids]. This sebum protects your skin from drying out. But it can look oily and make your face shiny. Over-exfoliation?

I’ve had that problem before. After running outside in the cold winter weather, I’m not sweating as a normally do, but my face gets really shiny. My skin is overcompensating for the dry weather. My forehead is shiny. Or, sometimes I over-moisturize with face cream and, shiny face. And finally, if I get some nice sun, could very well be…shiny face.

This is not about complexion, pigmentation or whatever. Everybody can get the shiny face. Even light reflecting off of you the right way can give you the shiny face. It’s hard to photoshop, too.

Apparently both Moses and Jesus had the shiny face issue.

Now in American Christianity we don’t talk much about the Moses-Jesus connection. But we should. The two characters, though centuries removed from each other, have a lot in common. Both were considered prophets. And in this story, both got shiny faces when they met up with God.

Also keep in mind that Luke’s Gospel is not hiding the fact that the Jesus story is parallel to the Exodus story. Moses and the Israelites were slaves in Egypt. Then, Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt to Jerusalem. After that, the Israelites were exiled to Babylon and other places. Jesus, a Jew himself, would now return to Jerusalem. It’s a full-circle moment. And of course it’s clear in this particular story in Luke that the author is making connections between Moses and Jesus. Moses appears in the story, on the mountaintop, with the other prophet Elijah. The story tells us that Moses led the people to freedom and now Jesus will do the same—albeit via a different road. Luke even starts his story saying that Jesus, Peter, John, and James went up the mountain eight days after a series of teachings. This is to indicate the wholeness of what was about to happen—for the eighth day in Hebrew tradition, was the day of new creation.

Just like Moses on Mt Sinai, Jesus is changed by light. Luke uses the Greek word heteron which means changed, different, other. But Luke adds a detail that the original author of this story, Mark, doesn’t say. Mark says that Jesus was transfigured before them. Luke says that the appearance of Jesus’ face was changed. It’s Moses all over again. His clothes also turn a dazzling white. Maybe like a really good Elvis impersonator? But this time, there was no veil, nothing to cover up before the presence of Divine Light. Jesus shone brightly and then they all had to come down from that mountain.

Inevitably, once you come down from any mountaintop experience, reality hits quickly. And so it did. Just as soon as they are down on the ground, a great crowd comes. And then a man shouts out: I beg you! Help my son!

The transfiguration story can be interpreted in a lot of ways. Here’s what I’m thinking this time around. I’m seeing prophets and shiny faces.

Let’s talk a bit about prophets and the idea of someone being prophetic or engaging in propheteering [hehe].

There are two extremes in Christian traditions in regards to what it means to be prophetic. First, there is the common-held belief that prophets tell the future or predict things. They have special knowledge. Thus, we have thousands of books written by people who claim to be prophetic. It’s pathetic.

prophecyOn the other hand, some Christians hold the view that being prophetic means being social-justice oriented or political.

It’s important to be familiar with the extremes and then to encounter a more balanced and grounded perspective about prophets.

For example, I appreciate what Jewish Rabbi Abraham Heschel and NT scholar Walter Brueggemann have to say. First, Brueggemann. He wrote The Prophetic Imagination, in which he writes, “The task of prophetic ministry is to nurture, nourish, and evoke a consciousness and perception alternative to the consciousness and perception of the dominant culture around us.”[1]

For Brueggemann, a prophet should not only criticize social and spiritual deficiencies, but he/she should also energize people with the hope that alternatives are possible. Again, he writes: “Prophetic ministry seeks to penetrate despair so that new futures can be believed in and embraced by us.”[2]

And then there is Abraham Heschel, who wrote The Prophets. He states: “The prophet was an individual who said no to his [or her] society, condemning its habits and assumptions, its complacency, waywardness, and syncretism. [The prophet] was often compelled to proclaim the very opposite of what [his or her] heart expected. [The prophets] fundamental objective was to reconcile [humanity] and God.”[3]

So in both cases, being prophetic is about bringing people together. It is about reconciliation. In both the Testaments of the Bible, the prophets spoke out against the ills of society and did not avoid controversial subjects. Yet at the same time, they offered hope and a possible path to wholeness, peace, and reconciliation.

And this leads me to shiny faces again, for prophets are certainly not superficial and they seek to get to heart of the matter.

We tend to see the surface and superficial side of things more often than not. Shiny faces are, well, shiny faces because of oily skin or overexposure to the sun. But that’s not what the symbolism is all about.

Shiny faces reflect light because of what is inside.

In the case of both Moses and Jesus, their faces shone because of the light within them. And it certainly became contagious. Eventually, other people started to recognize the light within them–that they were worthwhile, and capable, and even possibly prophetic if they chose to be.

On Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, people smear ashes on their foreheads in the shape of a cross. It’s a visible thing that people see. It’s fine, I guess, but it’s not enough. Because you don’t really need to smear ashes on your forehead for others to see.

But it really WOULD be something if your face was shiny for all to see. If the light within you became visible to others—spreading hope, love, mercy, and peace and reconciling rather than separating.

Wouldn’t that be something, if our faces shone with the light that comes from within?

We’re all capable of the shiny face, you know. We all have light within us. We just need to nurture it, let it breathe and grow, let it flourish freely. If you think that you’re not someone with light in you because you’re going through some difficult times right now, or you have incredible challenges, or you just don’t feel light at all. Remember this Leonard Cohen lyric from the song Anthem: There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.[4]

So may all the cracks in your life remind of the light that lives within you. May your light shine through your face and your life. And may all the prophets and reconcilers and bridge-builders and truth-tellers show themselves.

[1] Brueggemann, Walter, The Prophetic Imagination, 2nd Edition, June 1, 2001.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Heschel, Abraham, The Prophets, 1962.

[4] Leonard Cohen, Anthem.

Trans-Figuring…and We Go Beyond

Matthew 17:1-9

On April 3, 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. addressed a large crowd inside a church in Memphis, Tennessee. He spoke about the history of the struggle for civil rights in the United States and the difficult days ahead. Towards the end of his sermon, King raised his voice as he was known to do, and said: “I’ve been to the mountaintop.” People applauded and cheered. The crowd knew that King was mentioning Moses, that Biblical character from the Jewish Torah. The people had heard the story of Moses and the Israelites and their ancient story of liberation. Of course, they knew about their own situation—injustice was their day to day reality and inequality was all around them. The mountaintop meant something to them.

Still today there are many who hear the story about Moses and the mountaintop and it resonates with them. People who have experienced racism or discrimination; people who have been pushed to the margins; people who are called lesser; people who suffer at the hands of evil oppressors.

mountain.jpeg

The summit of Volcán Popocatépetl
Puebla, Mexico State, and Morelos, México

Now of course not everybody can claim this story in the same way as African-Americans or others who have experienced slavery and brutal racism can. And not everyone experiences what immigrants to this country go through—the hate and mistrust and abuse. Nor has everyone felt the heavy stare of someone just because of skin color or cultural background. And how many of you can claim that your family and tribe had their land and way of life stolen from them—only to be misplaced in reservations, forgotten, and abused? And there are too many women—qualified and more than capable—who do not get jobs or are verbally abused simply because they are female. And then there are others who have been told, just because of their sexual orientation, that they do not deserve certain rights and that they cannot commit to a love partnership with someone.

Martin Luther King’s speech about the mountaintop, Moses’ story on Mt. Sinai, Jesus’ mountain tale–are about all those in the world who have indeed been pushed down and oppressed and those around the world who are still in captivity.

There are people who deserve to be free in every way and yet, they are not free because someone else doesn’t want them to be free.

In Latin America, this led to what is called liberation theology, basically the idea that the teachings of Jesus are meant to free people from unjust economic, political, or social conditions. Some call it “an interpretation of Christian faith through the suffering, struggle and hope of the marginalized; a critique of society, the church, and religion itself through the eyes of the oppressed.[1] Liberation theology spread from Brazil and Argentina to Nicaragua, Africa, and eventually the United States. It continues as a response to the Moses story, believing that all human beings have the responsibility to bring justice to those who are oppressed and to loosen any chains or bonds that are placed on people.

I say this because Biblical stories only matter when they are contextualized. But we all have different contexts. Moses’ story in Exodus 24 and Jesus’ story in Matthew have always been and will always be interpreted differently by different people in different eras and places. This should be obvious to us by now. Read these stories as a Black kid growing up in Mississippi or Alabama in the 50s and 60s; read them as a Sandinista in Nicaragua in the 1980s; or a Black South African in the 90s…well, you get the idea.

Context matters.

And these stories matter if they bring about change in you. After all, that’s what the story of Moses and the story of Jesus are all about: change.

The Exodus story of Moses and the Matthew story of Jesus go together. If we don’t get that, it won’t make sense. Jesus and three disciples go up on the mountaintop. Matthew mentions 6 days. What do you know—Moses just happened to be on Mt. Sinai for 6 days! We are transported back to the Torah story. Remember what the 7th day is all about in Judaism—Sabbath and rest. God the Creator rested on the 7th day because creation was finished and fulfilled. In these 2 parallel stories, both Moses and Jesus do the “work” of creation for 6 days and then find fulfillment on the 7th day. On top of that mountain, Jesus is transformed by the presence of God. There is light that visibly changes him, just like Moses’s shining face. But in Matthew’s story, Jesus doesn’t wear a veil to cover the light. The three disciples then talk in their sleep—dreaming about Moses himself and the other prophet Elijah. But then more light comes [in cloud form] and wakes up the sleepy disciples, with a voice: “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!”

But the three guys have trouble listening and they fall to the ground, scared out of their minds. But with a simple touch [like in healing] and these words: “Get up and do not be afraid” Jesus gets them to look up. And they notice that there is no Moses or Elijah, no crazy, talking cloud—just Jesus and just them. And then they come down from the mountain.

Some call this the transfiguration but that’s not really what it is. The word transfiguration wasn’t even used until the 14th Century. The real word and concept here is metamorphosis—caterpillar into butterfly stuff. In fact, if none of this story makes sense to you still, you’re better off reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

caterpillar

Because this is not just some spiritual or religious vision that is disconnected from real life. It is a journey to a mountaintop metaphorically. It is a connection with something greater than yourself, greater than your fears, greater than your traditions, greater than your religion—it is experiencing a light that wakes you up, and shocks your system. It’s a change that inspires you to go beyond what you thought were the limits of your humanity and living. The world doesn’t look the same anymore after the change.

For some [and this may be you], who have been oppressed, the mountaintop encourages and inspires. There is healing and strength. They wake up to know that the evil oppressors out there in the world are people doing evil things. Their evil choices and actions are not God’s desire and are unacceptable. In this case, the mountaintop can inspire those who have been pushed down to stand up to claim the justice and freedom that have been taken from them.

For me, going up to the mountaintop is about enlightenment, too. But I need to wake up and become more aware of what is happening in me and in the world. I need to stop ignoring the sounds of oppressed or the sounds of nature crying out. Yes I need to change spiritually and mentally, but then that change has to lead me to do just and compassionate things.

Metamorphosis on the mountaintop should change us in such a way that I become more compassionate, more in tune with injustice, more committed to peacemaking, more eager to love. If I pray or meditate or commune with this God, I better go into it expecting to change.

It has to make me a better person and a better global citizen of this planet.

Friends, you don’t have to literally climb a mountain. But you have to journey on the path to the mountaintop, whatever that means for you, so your metamorphosis is real. Faith practice does not exist just because. It’s supposed to change you for the better. When you practice prayer or when you meditate or worship or read scripture or serve in the community—all of this should change you. If not, rethink it all. Because listen–the world is full of injustice and oppression. There are real people of all ages who experience this every day. And so any one of us who chooses to go up to the mountain must do so expecting to change—accepting the light and accepting the challenge; internalizing it and then externalizing it by compassionately moving our hands and feet to love and serve others.

Those who journey up to the mountaintop must be inspired to come down.


[1]Berryman, Phillip, Liberation Theology: essential facts about the revolutionary movement in Latin America and beyond(1987)

A Spirit Perspective on Life

John 16:12-15

Our perceptions are incredibly important. How we see the world—our perspectives—determines how we react to things in life and also how we interpret the t hings we experience. So let’s do some activities to reinforce that idea.

What do you see?

illusion1

You may see a lakeview with a tree and two people standing.

 Or, do you see an infant in the fetal position?

 What do you read?

illusion2

Did you skip a “the” in the triangle?

illusion3

Which word did you see? Good or evil?

Quick: How many animals of each kind did Moses take on the Ark?”

Two, you say? All right.

But wasn’t it Noah, and not Moses?

What do you see in this picture?

illusion4

Coffee beans. Right. Me too.

But what about the poor guy buried in the beans? Do you see him?

Look on the lower left-center side of the picture.

illusion5As you look at this picture, do you believe me when I tell you that there are no triangles?

 How we see and perceive things makes a huge difference. But what our eyes see is not the whole story—not at all. Our perspectives, attitudes, and our worldviews determine how we interpret what we see. For instance, some of you may have already seen these pictures before. This time, was your perception different than the first time you saw them? And, for those of you seeing these for the first time, I’ll venture a guess that your experience was quite different than mine.

Often we cannot see what we are not expecting to see.

This is called confirmation bias, the tendency for us to favor information that confirms our preconceptions or assumptions regardless of whether the information is true.[1]

We look to see what we expect to see.

And depending on what stage of life we are in, perceptions change. We illustrate this all the time with kids. There are some things we don’t want a child to see, but we in fact see these things daily as adults. So we shelter the child from those things—at least until he/she is a bit older and perhaps more able to “see” and “experience” the thing in a healthier way. I am about to perform a wedding this afternoon. The young couple soon to get married will hear me give them some advice and a blessing for their relationship. But my words won’t mean much, you know. They haven’t even begun to experience the challenges, blessings, joys, and sorrows of a life partnership. Ten years from now, if things work out for them, I could say the exact same words I will speak today. But I guarantee that this young couple would perceive my words to be different ones than I spoke at their wedding. Why? Because after many experiences, day-to-day life together, and the altering of their own individual views, their ears would hear something else.

Today’s story in John is all about perception. Jesus of Nazareth, trying to comfort his disciples before his departure, leaves them with a new way of seeing things. They won’t be alone. The Spirit will be with them and guide them through this crazy life. The story refers to the Spirit as parakletos, the ever-elusive Greek word that can mean so many things. This parakletos, the Advocate, is the Spirit of truth. This Spirit will lead the disciples into all truth. This Spirit is Jesus’ legacy, for Jesus himself was full of truth, and it is the truth that leads them on their way. But the disciples would not, could not accept such a shift in perspective right away. How could anyone or anything replace their rabbi Jesus? And yet, Jesus kept on insisting that his Spirit would be speaking to them—long after he was gone.

But notice that Jesus is also very honest with the disciples—about their tendency to cling to the past and their nostalgia–their inability to let go. He said to them:

I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.

Sounds like what we often say to someone when we’re unsure if she can take difficult news or constructive criticism. Sounds like what we say to someone who isn’t ready to change his perspective, or at least recognize that there is more than just one way to see things.

I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.

The disciples loved Jesus; they did. They relied on him. But they were not supposed to be co-dependent. Their calling was not supposed to be limited to their hometowns or to their narrow worldviews. The disciples were meant to be mature, growing, creatively transformed people. They were meant to move forward and to let go. They were not alone, remember. The Spirit was with them! Jesus’ teachings and example were with them.

This was their new perspective and their new way of life. Be humble. Recognize and embrace the Spirit’s presence; be connected to that Something Greater; let that Spirit move you to heal, to forgive, and to love.

Friends, like the disciples, we too can become clingy, nostalgic, static people. We can get too comfortable and stay in the same place. We can start to see the world as a depressing, scary, and awful place.

And then our lives aren’t life at all.

But we are offered another perspective. We are asked to stop putting Jesus and God in a box and to be open to a reality shift. Seeing life with a Spirit perspective means that our theology [how we think about God] is dynamic and forever changing. The way we see God and the world cannot remain the same; God is not limited to a church or a sanctuary or a song or a book or a doctrine. God is not limited even to our past experiences.

The Spirit is not a spirit of oppression or depression, but a Spirit of freedom, joy, and fulfillment.

This Spirit changes our perspective. The world is bigger.

There is more than just one way to see things.

We are connected to Something Greater.

We are connected to others in the work of compassion, justice, and love.

The Spirit is poured out on all of us; we just need to recognize it.

So what do you expect to see each day in your life?

Do you expect God to love you?

Do you expect to have opportunities to help someone?

Do you expect to see positive change in relationships that are broken?

Do you expect healing where there are wounds?

Do you expect to find strength to overcome the struggles you have?

Do you see the work of the Spirit around you and in others?

What actions, movements, creative moments, prayers, experiences, relationships, and enterprises make you more aware of the Spirit?

Which things make you less aware?

All of us are invited to a new perspective. The Spirit is in you. Recognize it. Perceive. Broaden your worldview. The Spirit is in your decision-making, in your day to day living. Notice the Spirit in others. And be led in this way. Find spiritual fulfillment and growth.

Walk this path knowing that you are not alone.

Each moment of your life has purpose and meaning.

And in those moments when this is hard to claim, when you feel alone or lost or completely broken—close your eyes.

Take a breath.

Listen.

Open your eyes and see things anew.

Hear new sounds.

And keep breathing, knowing you are never alone.

Amen.


[1] Baron, Jonathan (2000), Thinking and deciding (3rd ed.), New York: Cambridge University Press.

Low Expectations and the Power of Touch

  John 20:19-31   

Some of you know that from March 16-23 I decided to participate in a program of the Interfaith Center of Greater Philadelphia and the University of Wisconsin Eau-Claire’s Better Together initiative. The program was called Interfaith Encounters Alternative Spring Break. There were 44 students from the school from around the world, hailing from various cultural and religious backgrounds. Some of the students were Christian [both Protestant and Catholic]; some Muslims; some Hmong shamans; some Hindus; some agnostics; some atheists; a Wiccan; and some Buddhists. A diverse group, to say the least.

BetterTogether

Most of these students have been taking a course at the University called Engaging Religious Pluralism. As part of this class, students learn about other faiths, but do not limit their learning to textbooks and classroom environments. They actually engage people of other faiths and experience their faith practices. The goal is to promote a better understanding across religious lines and to empower younger generations to be interfaith leaders.

Work in pluralism focuses on being curious and engaging. Pluralism is actually not the same thing as tolerance. Tolerance is putting up with someone who is different than you, i.e. I guess I have to sit next to you or share this planet with you. Pluralism goes beyond just tolerating another person, but is an active attempt to understand that person’s worldview.[1]

Pluralism is based on real human encounters that include dialogue and experience.

Of course, this is part of the problem with our world in general. We don’t encounter and engage those who are different than us. We don’t talk, learn, experience, touch, feel, hear, smell, taste, and understand. We watch 30 second clips on TV or read comments on an internet blog. We make judgments about others based on such ridiculous things. And in turn, I would argue that we disconnect ourselves from our own humanity and our own religious practice. By neglecting to encounter and engage our neighbors, we neglect to know ourselves fully. That is why I got involved with this project, and also because I care deeply about younger generations. So much talk these days in Christian circles about how young people do not go to church. What’s happening? People in churches get scared and more protective of their religious territory. Meanwhile, younger generations are less and less interested in faith community. I know this. I’ve studied this. I have experienced this firsthand. So I wanted to spend a week with these students to learn from them.

In our meetings to plan the week, we discussed what types of experiences they wanted to have. We were in agreement. We wanted to experience the religious practice of others. We wanted to put on head scarves, eat the food, take off our shoes, sing and chant, smell and taste, see and touch. How do people pray? How do they bless? What books do they treasure? How does their worldview make them better people and inspire them to cooperate with others? How are we different? How are we the same?

For a week we visited 8 different faith communities: an African Methodist Episcopalian Church, a Sikh Gurdwara, a Hindu and Jain temple, a Won Buddhist temple, a Sufi mosque, a Quaker meeting, a Baha’i devotion, and a Reformed Jewish synagogue. And we also engaged 6 service-learning partners: Heeding God’s Call, Philly POWER, Urban Tree Connection, Philly Food SHARE, Church of the Advocate, and New Sanctuary Movement. It is impossible to express just how much we learned and experienced. If you want to learn more about our week, backtrack to these blog entries.

Today’s message—considering my Interfaith Encounters experience and my experience with John’s Gospel–is about low expectations and the power of touch. I mentioned in my Resurrection Sunday [Easter] message last week that the stories of the Bible don’t mean much unless those stories connect with our own stories. So today, let me share some personal stories with you—about Thomas and Jesus and about my week with UW Eau-Claire students.

Each time I read the Jesus resurrection stories, I am reminded of just how low our expectations have become. The Sunday after Easter is the lowest-attended Sunday of the year. Think about why. We really have low expectations for the Gospel stories. Christmas Eve and Easter stories are mere history, fantasy, or tradition. We rarely encounter them [meaning, we rarely read them], and thus, we rarely engage them [meaning question them]. Because of that, we also have low expectations for God’s Spirit moving through our lives and in the lives of others. We set the bar very low for transcendent experiences and things that change us. We ought to participate in religious practice because it moves us to new places and inspires us to do good.

But we are often disconnected from the stories. Thomas? Disciples behind closed doors? Jesus’ hands and feet? We are more connected to television characters and reality show stories than to these things.

But what if we TOUCH the story? What if the story TOUCHES us? What if we refuse to be content with simply hearing old, old stories and participating in old, old traditions? What if we start to expect great things to happen when we read these stories? When we worship? When we pray? When we learn? When we serve? What if the stories become real in our lives and affect us? What if the stories make us better people, challenge us to be more merciful, push us to love people?

What if our religious practice didn’t stay trapped in a book? Or a tradition? Or a doctrine?

mother-bethel-churchOn Sunday morning at 8:00 a.m. we joined Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church for worship. The service included vibrant music with keyboard, drums, and inspiring vocalists. Even a little dancing! Towards the end of the service, people were invited to pray in the front of the sanctuary. People just came. No theme. No reason other than to pray. Music. Prayers.

Then, something unexpected.

Their prayers do not end with the Lord’s Prayer and an amen. They end with hugs. Strangers, old friends, family—it didn’t matter. A prayer ended with an embrace.

sikh1That same day we were in Lawrenceville, NJ at the Sikh Sabha. As the bus pulled up, Kavi Pannu and other community leadership greeted us in front of the gurudwara and directed us to a well-laid-out carpet where we could remove our shoes;

Youth brought us head scarves and explained how the afternoon would proceed.

We all sat on the carpet together, side by side, touching each other.

sikh2There wasn’t enough room for personal space.

After the prayer service, community members dropped down white cloths; langar meal began.

We ate with our hands—curry and yogurt and beans and rice.

We tasted and smelled and felt.sikh3

On Monday we visited the Bharatiya Hindu Temple in Chalfont.

bhara

After removing our shoes, we were led upstairs. Worshipers entered the prayer space and the three priests present that evening in the temple for Shiva Abhishekam rang bells and chanted songs–waving lit candles in the air. Their songs filled the space. The incense burned. One of the priests started to fling water towards all of us gathered there. We felt the drops. Then, water from the Ganges River was placed in our right hand by the priest. We drank it and received a piece of fruit.

bhara2We heard this from our hosts:

Any religious practice should make us a better person.

But in John’s story, the disciples were locked behind closed doors!

Scared, depressed, and apathetic. Jesus came and offered wholeness to them.

Thomas wasn’t there. Eventually, he had to see for himself. He had to touch in order for this experience to be real. He wasn’t content with a second-hand story. He encountered Jesus; he engaged Jesus. Thomas makes we wonder: what if our religious practice was free and actively moving in the world, capable of risk-taking, open to new perspectives, and not afraid to express doubt? What if atheists and agnostics were encouraged to join our faith community? Thomas was welcomed by Jesus. Don’t we see more of ourselves in this doubting Thomas who wanted to see for himself?

Thomas says: “My Lord and my God!” but that is not the end of the story. Later on, the disciples still don’t recognize Jesus’ presence. They hesitate to answer questions about faith because they are afraid to say: I don’t know the answer! They reach for faith but don’t quite make it. Like Thomas, they don’t “believe” until they eat with their hands–share a meal. Only then are their eyes opened.

I am healed by the message in John’s story, because the story invites us in. We weren’t there. We didn’t see. We are all like Thomas. We are included in the story that we often feel left out of. We’re encouraged to see, hear, touch, smell, and taste. It’s understood that we will have doubt and be skeptical. We are not rebuked–we are blessed with wholeness, too.

On Tuesday, at Won Buddhist Temple the silence was a blessed wholeness.

buddhist2I could even hear the breathing of the person next to me.

Once the chanting started, the silence remained in my mind. The prayer bowl resonated all the way through the wooden floor.

buddhist1

That afternoon, the Wisconsin students carried signs protesting gun violence in Philadelphia: Stop straw buying! Halt illegal gun sales!

SAMSUNG

They stood on Torresdale Ave. and hundreds of cars passed, honking their loud approval. The students even engaged the gun shop owner in conversation.

At Philly food SHARE’s warehouse, near the East Falls section of Philadelphia, the students packed boxes full of perishables and organized shipments for soup kitchens and shelters.

phillyshare

On the decorated walls were murals and their motto:

“Do Good. Feel Good. Eat Good.”
phillyshare2

On Thursday, snow was on the ground and a chill was in the air. But the students were enthused to be in West Philadelphia to work with Urban Tree Connection.
SAMSUNG urbantree2They cleaned up trash, removed dead brush and prepared the vacant lot to become an urban garden–a safe and functional place that could inspire and promote positive human interaction.

SAMSUNGOn Thursday evening, at the Mosque of Shaikh M. R. Bawa Muhaiyaddeen, a Sufi community, our mouths were filled with food.
bawa

One of the Muslim student leaders led us in the ritual of ablutions.

ablutions2The water trickled down our arms and covered our feet, refreshing us.

ablutions

Another female Muslim student from Saudi Arabia carefully and patiently helped others put on their head scarves.

scarves2 scarves

Upstairs in the mosque, the prayers began to echo.

Bowing, hands in the air. Arabic prayer-songs. Embraces.

mosque2

On Friday, we journeyed to the University of Temple part of Broad Street and visited the Church of the Advocate; immediately, our senses were overwhelmed by the Gothic cathedral and the artwork everywhere.
SAMSUNG advocate2 SAMSUNGBut our noses told us something else was going on in the kitchen. Church of the Advocate serves an average of 1,000 people each month, Monday- Friday. Anyone can get a hot meal. One man, proud of this effort and grateful for it, stood outside in the cold and shook all 50 hands in our group, asking each person’s name.

The chef and volunteers in the kitchen laughed as they shared about their work.

advocate3

We smelled the food.

Then we smelled cleaning supplies.

SAMSUNG

We found ourselves in the Gothic sanctuary once again—this time helping their sexton to clean.

That evening, at the Baha’i Center of Philadelphia, we sat at the table to eat and talk. Devotions began and people of different ages read sacred scriptures. A song and then a prayer.

bahai

And plenty of laughter. Stories. Embraces and pictures.

smiles smiles2Smiles.

smiles4 smiles3

 Our last gathering as a whole group was on Saturday afternoon at St. Barbara’s Catholic Church, before the long bus trip to Wisconsin. A closing time of sharing and challenge and reflection. Some students verbally shared how they expected to use their new-found understandings to be leaders or to stand up for others. Some shared that their experiences were transcendent, powerful, even life-changing. Embraces and pictures and laughter and some tears.

closing2 closing

Friends, this experience has left me wondering:

What would it be like if we started acting more like Thomas?

What if we expected more out of our sacred stories and our religious practices?

What if we see, hear, touch, smell, taste, and live our sacred stories?

What if we choose to encounter and engage people who are different?

What if this Jesus, who taught that God’s Spirit was in everyone; who taught that forgiveness was given to us and required of us; what if this Jesus, who offered wholeness, even to the ones who still doubted and needed to touch, see, hear, taste, and smell; what if this Jesus were real in our stories and in our lives?

What if sacred stories became part of our stories?

What if we expected more out of our faith practice—that it would actually make us better people?

May it be so.


[1] What is Pluralism? Diane Eck.

Still Living, Still Changing Lives!

Luke 24:1-12

jesuspeepsThe “Easter” sermon is the hardest one to preach.

No really–it is.

Contrary to popular belief, it is not the tried-and-true, Christian-crux message with which you can’t go wrong. After all, how do I effectively relate Jesus, the Easter Bunny, colored eggs, and marshmallow peeps?

It is a story so misunderstood and so overdone. It is about somebody dying and then coming back to life. It is the Sunday when people who never go to a church service all of a sudden show up, expecting magic.

It is the resurrection story. And it forms the foundations for this religion called Christianity. There is this Jesus. Then, he is dying on a cross. Afterwards, he is dead and his body is in a tomb. And then his body disappears and this Jesus reappears to his friends.

And a religion forms.

And today we say: He is risen! He is risen indeed!

coolJesusAnd yet, each Gospel of the New Testament of the Bible tells its own story.

I know I say this a lot, but it’s worth remembering. Luke, a Gospel book, has a distinctive resurrection story. Remember that this is not an eyewitness account of the events, but a retelling of the story, with metaphors, references to the Hebrew Scriptures and prophets, and even references to the early Christian community. Yes, let’s remember—all four Gospels were written well after Jesus’ death and were penned within the community of this new group of followers of Jesus. In fact, Luke’s Gospel is even more unique because the same people who wrote Luke wrote the book of Acts. They are meant to be read in succession. So let’s do that.

The end of Luke’s Gospel reads like this:

Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the temple blessing God.

The beginning of Acts reads like this:

In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen.

It is important to note this characteristic of Luke’s story, because it does not end with an empty tomb, an appearance by Jesus on the road to Emmaus, and then Jesus blessing the disciples. Luke’s Gospel continues in the book of Acts. And as the title of Acts makes it clear, the story continues in the action of people—people from many different backgrounds, of different ages and genders, who were moved by God’s Spirit through the life, teachings, death, and resurrected life of Jesus of Nazareth. We must work backwards to fully understand the resurrection stories of the Bible. They were written with a context and a community in mind.

So that being said, let’s enjoy Luke’s story.

It was the first day of the week. This means the first day after the Sabbath [Saturday], so it was Sunday. They [women] went to the tomb were Jesus’ body was laid, burial spices and anointing materials in hand. When they got there, the stone that was supposed to keep people out of the tomb was rolled to the side. No body of Jesus anywhere.

So let’s pause for a moment. Luke’s resurrection story begins just as the birth story did. Luke tells the story of Jesus’ birth with women as the central figures. Women are the first to know about Jesus’ birth. Here on resurrection day it is the same. Women are the first to know about Jesus’ rebirth.

The women, just like Mary the mother of Jesus, were perplexed by this news. And then, two men in dazzling clothes appear. Two men is a translation of the Greek words andres duo. Why should you care? Because earlier in Luke’s Gospel, chapter 9, you may remember a story about Jesus and the disciples on a mountain and something called a transfiguration. In that story this same phrase andres duo is used to refer to Moses and Elijah—dead prophets who appear to the disciples in a dream. So these two men were changed men. Were they angels, like in Luke’s birth story? We find out later in Luke 24:23 that the women at the tomb told their crazy story to the other disciples, saying that “they had indeed seen a vision of angels.” Ah, Luke is a great storyteller. So far, in just a few lines, we have been connected all the way back to Moses and Elijah, and even to the birth of Jesus!

The two men speak: “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” Fear is a factor. The women came to a tomb, expecting death. It was not a pleasant journey. Now, they were confused and fearful. I know that the Bible doesn’t mention zombies or ghosts [technically] but I pretty much think that the women had all kinds of weird thoughts about what was going on. What kind of strange vision was this? Who rolled the stone away? Who were these two men?

But their fear of any creepy, crawly dead things is alleviated when the two men direct the women’s attention away from the tomb. He is not here. He has been raised. Yes, grammar sticklers out there, another passive tense. But in this case, with meaning. Jesus has been raised indicates that Jesus himself did not gain superpowers, turn into a super Messiah zombie and throw the stone to the side. This was actually God’s doing.

Then Luke uses a word that appears a gazillion times in this Gospel. Remember. Remember, ladies, when Jesus was still in your homeland of Galilee? Remember what he taught you? The Son of Man [the human one][1]told you that he would be handed over to sinners, be crucified, and then on the third day rise again?

Remembrance is big in Luke’s Gospel. Earlier in the story, during the scene in which Peter denies Jesus three times, Peter remembers the word of the lord, before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times.[2]

The thief on the cross asked Jesus to remember me when you come into your kingdom.[3]

And of course, Jesus said to his disciples, Do this in remembrance of me.[4]

For Luke, remembering is important. The story [and the experience of it] is renewed with a refreshed understanding, added insight, and change of perspective. This story is told so that all who read it will remember and reinterpret it with the new information they now have.

And so, the heroines in the story, these women disciples, do just that. They DO remember Jesus’ words and return to where the other disciples were staying. Now we hear their names: Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and even more women. They tell the story to the male disciples. They don’t believe them. In fact, the men think that the women are delirious! They are nuts! Insane! They don’t remember. Peter, the one who remembered Jesus’ words a little too late when the cock crowed, decides to go to the tomb. When he does, he looks inside and sees linen cloths by themselves. He is amazed and returns home.

Look, I don’t know what you think or believe about these resurrection stories.

I am honest and realistic about things. I use my brain [well, I try to] and I believe in science. I love stories and I have a great imagination. But I also treasure logic and observation. In short, I am a person of faith, but that doesn’t mean science, biology, history, culture, logic, and my brain get thrown out the window when I’m talking and thinking about Jesus.

Quite the opposite, actually. I believe in resurrection. Here’s the thing, though–so do atheists and agnostics.

Perhaps you stopped reading this  now, but this is true. You don’t have to believe that Jesus of Nazareth [who really was called Joshua] physically died and then physically rose from the dead, appearing physically to disciples to appropriately fulfill prophecy. You don’t have to believe that to believe in resurrection. If this makes me a heretic, I’m glad to be one.

I know many, many people who live as fully-resurrected individuals, giving their time, gifts, and lives to resurrect good in others and in communities. I am a follower of Christ. I believe in Christ and I walk that path with Christ. But what happened on the third day? Was there resurrection that fits nicely into our church’s doctrine? Or was there resurrection on God’s terms?

This heretic wonders if the resurrection stories are metaphors for you—pointing you to a resurrected perspective about your own life—how you have the chance each day to be made new and to do something kind, creative, wonderful, or merciful. Perhaps this story is more about the legacy of Jesus’ teachings, but not necessarily a factual, bodily raising of Jesus from the dead.

On the other hand, this heretic also wonders if the resurrection story, for some of you, is still a historical telling of the resurrection of a man who was killed and his body placed in a tomb, and then, miraculously, by the power of God, he was raised from the dead—and he walked and talked with his friends and disciples. Perhaps this belief moves you to believe in the impossible—that amazing, merciful things can still happen in you and in others, because God is still at work in this messed-up world.

What I experience is that most people see this story differently. But I also think we all can find a shared value here.

Luke’s story isn’t meant to end with folklore or some theological dogma or doctrine.

The story continues in the lives that are changed–in the people who are renewed, reshaped, transformed, encouraged, forgiven, healed, and moved.

We remember the story, not because it’s tradition, but because in  our remembering, we are inspired to move!

We remember resurrection, so we change. We remember so we forgive and show mercy and welcome the stranger and embrace everyone’s humanity and love, spread kindness, pay it forward, and widen the circle.

Otherwise, why remember at all, if the story doesn’t move us to loving, just action?

Why tell the story at all unless it makes us better human beings? Why even say Christ is risen unless we ourselves are resurrected, changed people who believe in unlimited mercy and that all people deserve love? Why remember resurrection unless the people around us see the fruit of what Christ taught and lived in our actions?

So…remember. All people have the opportunity to be resurrected and renewed.

No more guilt or fear that needs to grip your life. Let the healing come. Remember it.

You are loved, covered with mercy, and expected to rise up. So remember.

And do rise up. Rise to the occasion of mercy, love, and community.

And don’t just remember today.

Remember every day.

Be changed every day. Amen.


[1] The Common English Bible.

[2] Luke 22:61

[3] Luke 23:42

[4] Luke 22:19

Fully Awake

Luke 9:28-43

PhillySo the other day I was walking down the street in University City in Philadelphia, on my way to a meeting. It was cold [of course] and so people were hurrying to class, work, or wherever they needed to go without hesitating one bit. Who could blame them? It was cold. I admit that I also hurried down the street just like everybody else—though I did have about 10-15 minutes to spare before my meeting started. Perhaps it was for that reason or because of some strange coincidence that my eyes made contact with someone else’s eyes. She was standing there, in the cold, not running to the next thing. She just stood there. As the people hurried by, she stood there. Our eyes met and before I knew it, my feet had stopped walking. And now I stood there. Whoosh. A group of students buzzed past. A delivery truck’s engine hummed as they loaded merchandise. Whoosh. A businesswoman walked in between me and the strange, standing still, eye-contact-making woman.

Can you buy me a sandwich, please? Sir? Can you buy me a sandwich?

That is all she said. My first reaction was related more to logistics than to any kind of ethical or moral decision:

Uh…Where?

Here.

She pointed to the door of a food court-type establishment full of UPenn and Drexel students and I followed her inside. It was much warmer, of course, and she asked me if it would be okay for her to buy a sandwich at a particular place, to which I nodded my head and said:

Sure.

Thank you, sir.

She ordered the sandwich, I paid [as the lady behind the counter looked at me with a strange expression] and then she shook my hand and said:

My name’s Tanya.

I’m Josh.

Thank you, Josh.

And then Tanya shook my hand for a second time [firmly], and then she was gone—sandwich and all. Out into the cold, out onto the street where the people whizzed by and the cars honked and where my meeting was now a couple of minutes away. I too walked back out into the cold and joined the hurried mess. I made my meeting; then I worked on the worship service for Sunday; I answered a bunch of emails; I made some phone calls; I continued on with my day; but I kept thinking about Tanya.

eyeNow I make no great claim of being a humanitarian. I just bought her a sandwich, after all. I didn’t change the world, I didn’t get Tanya a job, I didn’t fix the poverty and homelessness in Philadelphia and beyond; I did nothing extraordinary. I make no value judgment about what I did, because, honestly, at its core, all I did was make eye contact with someone. And the eye contact led to me buying a sandwich.

I will say, however, that we live in a world full of people. We come in contact with people every day—or, at least we should. We share sidewalks, streets, rooms, offices, schools, churches, air, ground, and the planet with other people. And I think the more we realize that every day we come into contact with another human being and have the chance to treat him/her as a human being—the more we are awake to opportunity and possibility. At our most honest moments, we recognize that the world is a difficult, sometimes-awful place. It can feel overwhelming; it can seem hopeless and therefore not worthwhile to help or to try to make a positive impact. But I wonder–if we considered that every day we come into contact with other people; if we made eye contact with them; if we treated them like human beings and not objects or clients or consumers or agendas or ethnicities or nationalities or orientations or categories—I wonder if we just might awaken to new purposes and perspectives.

butterflyTransfiguration. It means metamorphosis; a change; an enlightening; an awakening. Transfiguration is a word we use to describe this crazy story in the Gospels of the Bible. Today is even called Transfiguration Sunday. Why? Because Wednesday, February 13th is the start of the season of Lent, a 40 day period.  Most consider Lent to be the oldest Christian observance—starting out as a time for the early followers of Jesus to pray, fast, and undergo self-examination. Over time, traditions change of course, but the purpose remained the same. The reason Lent became a 40 day observance was to remember Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness for, you guessed it—prayer, fasting, and self-examination. And as I’ve mentioned before, the number 40 is incredibly symbolic. Moses was 40 days on Mt. Sinai with God; Elijah spent 40 days walking to Mt. Horeb; 40 days and nights Noah and company dealt with the flood; 40 years the Israelites wandered in the desert before making it to the holy land; and Jonah, premium whale food, gave the Ninevites 40 days to shape up and honor God.

So the transfiguration story is steeped in symbolism, and not a literal tale. There are three versions of the story—in Mark, Matthew, and here in Luke. In the version we read today, Jesus just finished teaching his followers about what it would mean to be disciples. What should they expect? After this, they went up to a mountain for prayer. Right away, the symbol of a mountain should tell us that the story has shifted from down-to-earth action to metaphorical, visionary stuff. Up on the mountain, in Biblical stories, people hear and see things differently. Perspectives change. So Peter, John, James, and Jesus go up the mountain. And Jesus prays. Prayer is something that Luke’s Gospel focuses on. And in this case, it is during the act of prayer that Jesus’ face [and his clothes] brighten up. This is visual—seen. Also seen are two beloved faith heroes of old—Moses and Elijah. These two speak to Jesus about his apparent departure, but really the word better translated is exodus.

Aha! So Luke is directly connecting the exodus story of Moses and the Israelites from Egypt to Jerusalem with Jesus’ ministry. Moses led the Israelites from slavery to freedom. So Jesus would lead people from bondage to freedom. But Jesus and Moses had yet another thing in common. Moses, when he met up with God on the mountain and received commands from God—came down with a bright, radiant face. Luke doesn’t want us to miss this Jesus-Moses connection. Luke wants you and me as readers to see.

But it’s hard to see, don’t you think, if your eyes are closed? Peter and company were weighed down with sleep and we don’t know why. But really, doesn’t this scene look a lot like Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane? I mean, he was praying there, too, and the disciples were asleep then, too. But our storyteller Luke reminds us that up on the mountain, even with the sleepies still in their eyes, Peter and co. become fully awake. They see Jesus for who he is and Moses and Elijah. Even so, Peter is as clumsy as ever. He interrupts the transcendent, spiritual moment with:

Hey Jesus—it’s good to be here. Let’s make three tents. You can have one, and we’ll give one to Moses and Elijah, too!

Says the narrator: Peter didn’t even know what he said.

PeterSometimes I think Peter is singled out in the Gospels to represent our inability to listen or simply to call attention to our general lack of awareness.
Okay, but Peter is probably not this bad.

But even Peter’s words can’t hold back the vision of clouds and voice from up above, telling them to listen to Jesus. It is pretty clear that the whole story is meant for the disciples [and for you and I] to stop trying to figure everything out and to just listen. Just see.

The veil is lifted up and Peter, James, and John see things as they are—no facades or masks, no false pretense, no filter. This vision is raw. It’s terrifying. It’s the real world.

They come down from the mountain. Right away, the world finds them. A great crowd forms. A man shouts out:

Help my son! He’s sick—he has random seizures. It’s horrific! Your disciples, when I told them about him, couldn’t do anything. Help!

No more visions. No more floating clouds and god-like voices. No more tents for faith heroes. No more sleeping. Real life. Raw life. A sick kid. A desperate dad. A needy crowd.

And an unhappy Jesus, right? Jesus, fresh off the mountaintop experience, is ticked off! He almost cannot bear to be with humanity anymore. The world is so messed up, there is so much injustice and so many people sleepwalking through it all—he’s had it! A calm, passive Jesus petting a baby lamb? No way. He’s Jesus–the one God is actually pleased with, because he tells it like it is, sees things as they are. Yes, Jesus ends up healing the kid, but he does so almost reluctantly, because he knows that one healing won’t change the world. One healing won’t bring justice to all those oppressed by an imperialistic society. One healing is one healing. There is much more work to be done and the road ahead is difficult. And it may get ugly.

Wait—it WILL get ugly.

And we are supposed to see without a veil over our faces. We are supposed to make eye contact with the world as it is. And we are supposed to wake up—fully awaken, to be able to act. But it’s hard—isn’t it—to not lose hope or to get overwhelmed and then apathetic? It’s hard to balance the mystical, spiritual, heartwarming experiences we want to have with the raw, tangible, ugly, and difficult experiences of real life. But that’s the point. The mountain and the street corner are one and the same. The great visions co-exist with the unjust, sad, and sick lives of real people. The spiritual, God-experiences live in the same space with unanswered prayers. The voices in the clouds co-exist with the desperate cries in the street. We have no time to build tents or shrines to commemorate religious things. We have today. And if our eyes are open, we can see the spiritual co-existing with humanity.

We can see that God doesn’t stay far off in the clouds, but lives with us in our pain, our uncertainty, our fears, and our inadequacies. We can see that there is more to the world than just what our physical eyes spot or what our TVs tell us.

There is more to the world. There is more to people than the categories we give them. We are more than categories. We are loved, and gifted, and full of purpose. And so are the others around us. We just need to see. We just need to wake up. Every day is an opportunity to see someone and accept her for who she is—embracing her whole self, her full humanity. Every day is a chance to open your eyes to notice that you can do good in the world if you fully awaken.

40 days are just another 40 days if you want them to be. But Lent could be a mountaintop experience on the city street, if you are open to it. This is an opportunity to see. May our eyes be fully open and our hearts prepared to make eye contact; to listen; to embrace someone’s full humanity; to heal; to forgive; to share; to love. Amen.

 

La Oruga Muy Hambrienta [The Very Hungry Caterpillar]

Mateo 17:1-9/Matthew 17:1-9
Mariposas

Cuando era un niño, recuerdo que mis papas leyeron un libro que se llamaba La Oruga Muy Hambrienta. Cuantos de Uds. han leído este libro? Es ecrito por Eric Carle. Es muy corto. Y lo voy a leer:

Image

Al claro de luna reposa un huevecillo sobre una hoja. Un domingo de mañana, salió el tibio sol, del huevo salió una oruga diminuta y muy hambrienta.

Enseguida empezó a buscar comida…
El lunes comió, comió y atravesó una manzana, pero aún seguía hambrienta.
El martes comió, comió y atravesó dos peras, pero aún seguía hambrienta.
El miércoles comió, comió y atravesó tres ciruelas, pero aún seguía hambrienta.
El jueves comió, comió y atravesó cuatro fresas, pero aún seguía hambrienta.
El viernes comió, comió y atravesó cinco naranjas, pero aún seguía hambrienta.
El sábado comió, comió y atravesó un pastel de chocolate, un helado, un pepinillo, un trozo de queso suizo, una rodaja de salame, una paleta, un pastel de cerezas, una salchicha, un pastelito y una tajada de sandía.

¡Esa noche, tuvo un tremendo dolor de estómago!
Al día siguiente era domingo otra vez.
La oruga comió una hermosa hoja bien verde, y se sintió mucho mejor.

Y no tenía hambre, ni era una pequeña oruga. ¡Ahora era una oruga grande y gorda! Construyó una casita a su alrededor – un capullo-y se encerró en ella por más de dos semanas. Un día hizo un agujero en el capullo, empujó un poco para salir y…

¡Se encontró convertida en una bellísima mariposa!

Image

Me encanta la historia. De hecho, la vida real de las orugas que cambian a ser mariposas es algo de la naturaleza que nos fascina. Por qué? Porque una oruga verde y extraña que se convierte en una mariposa brillante y bonita es increíble. La transformación, o la metamorfosis es significante. No debería de sorprendernos que esta historia de una oruga muy hambrienta nos pone a pensar en nosotros mismos. Estamos viendo el evangelio de Mateo, específicamente la historia de la transfiguración. Bueno, les digo que esta palabra transfiguración no es algo habitual. No ocupamos esta palabra en la vida cotidiana. Y la historia en Mateo es un poco rara.

Aunque estamos leyendo el nuevo testamento, esta historia tiene su raíz en el antiguo testamento, realmente la escritura hebrea de los judíos, que se llama el Tora. Si quieren, pueden ver el libro de Éxodo, capitulo 34. Esta historia es muy conocida. Moisés, el profeta, va a la cima de la montana Sinaí. Allá recibe los mandamientos de Dios. Pero miren lo que pasa–cuando Moisés baja de la montana para compartir estas instrucciones con la gente—su cara empieza a brillar y a la gente le da miedo. Los Israelitas no pueden ver a su propio líder, Moisés. Desde este momento y adelante, Moisés tiene que llevar un velo sobre su cara después de hablar con Dios. Es difícil imaginar a Moisés como una novia, verdad? Pero así fue. Y noten que lo que paso a Moisés es similar a lo que paso a Jesús en el evangelio de Mateo. El detalle que Mateo nos da es que la ropa de Jesús cambia a ser de color blanco brillante.

Pero vamos a pensar más en esta palabra transfiguración. Como estamos leyendo el nuevo testamento, el idioma original es griego. La palabra griega por transfiguración es metemorphothe, en español, metamorfosis. Ocupamos esta palabra para describir cuando una oruga  muy hambrienta cambia a ser una mariposa. La que emerge de un capullo es completamente diferente a la que entró. Metamorfosis. Transfiguración. Algo nuevo emerge.

También, lo que a mi me gusta mucho de esta historia es que podemos ver la reacción de los tres discípulos de Jesús—Pedro, Jaime [Jacobo], y Juan. Ellos estaban con Jesús en este momento importante. Pero ellos no brillaban como el sol ni llevaban ropa blanca. Pero si vieron algo. Moisés y Elías aparecieron en frente de sus ojos! Y luego, una nube brillante los tapo y la voz de Dios habló desde la nube! Obviamente, estos tres hombres eran más que observantes inocentes. También eran transformados! Se quedaron petrificados, escondiendo sus ojos hasta que Jesús les dijo que fue tiempo para ver hacia arriba. Cuando lo hicieron, Moisés y Elías habían desaparecido al igual que la nube; los discípulos quedaron solamente con Jesús, su maestro. Pero no eran iguales. Nada era igual. Después de esta experiencia, Jesús y sus discípulos empezaron su ministerio. Viajaban a los pueblos. Ensenaron, sanaron, compartieron la misericordia de Dios. Su experiencia en la cima de la montaña les transformó y les dio todo lo necesario para vivir la voluntad de Dios en el mundo.

Entonces, que pasa con nosotros? Vamos a empezar con la experiencia de la montana. Han tenido una experiencia así? Les ha llamado Dios a subir hasta un lugar muy alto para conversar? Pues, a la mejor muchos de Uds. van a decir “no” porque no recuerdan una experiencia santa en la cual Dios les reveló la gloria del Señor personalmente. Yo tampoco no puedo decir esto. Tal vez no han tenido la experiencia cuando las nubes les han hablado o visiones de sus antepasados. Pero recuerden que las experiencias en la montana no son iguales. Dios nos habla donde nos encontramos y como somos. No cada persona responde igual. Entonces, piensen en un momento de su vida cuando sintieron la presencia de Dios. Un momento cuando eran inspirados a creer o tener fe; una experiencia cuando algo los motivó para seguir el camino de amor y misericordia. Tal vez fue cuando eran niños o jóvenes o recientemente como adultos. A la mejor pasó cuando estaban orando o hablando con un amigo muy querido; o cuando estaban estudiando por una examen o cuando estaban trabajando. Piensen. Cuando les habló Dios? O si no saben si han tenido una experiencia así, piensen en un momento de mucha claridad, un momento cuando el amor fue evidente; una experiencia de compasión, perdón o gracia.

Ahora, recuerden lo que pasó después. Que hicieron? Empezaron a ser parte de una comunidad de fe? Empezaron a orar o a leer la biblia? Cambiaron de trabajo o pueblo o aun cambiaron de país? Oraron por la primera vez no por obligación sino por gozo? Pueden ver? Las experiencias de la montana en la comunidad de fe empiezan y terminan con acción. Primero, Dios actúa en la montana. Luego, es nuestra respuesta que sigue. Entonces, la primera cosa para recordar es que nosotros tenemos que bajar de la Montana. No podemos quedarnos en la cima porque no es una realidad. Nuestras vidas no siempre son bonitas ni transcendentes, ni muy espirituosas. De hecho, día al día nuestras vidas son rutinas; son normales; no siempre sentimos la emoción de la montana. Usualmente no tenemos visiones de Moisés o Elías; no siempre oímos la voz de Dios. A veces no podemos ver absolutamente nada y Dios parece muy silencioso.

Sin embargo, vivimos aquí en la tierra muy lejos de la montana. Que hacemos?

La respuesta nos lleva otra vez a la montana. Tenemos que escuchar. Empezamos con esto. Si no escuchamos a Dios, la experiencia no significa nada. Si no escuchamos a Dios no vamos a aprender, no vamos a darnos cuenta de su misericordia y su amor. Hay una razón porque Dios hablo a los tres discípulos y solamente dijo algo simple: Escuchen a mi hijo. Ellos necesitaban oír de Dios que Jesús de Nazaret era más que un hombre loco que caminaba contra la corriente. La enseñanza de Jesús y su ejemplo de vida eran invitaciones a los discípulos para reconocer su propósito en la vida. Amigos, tenemos que escuchar. Si solamente hablamos de muchas cosas y de religión y lo que debemos hacer o lo que otra gente debe hacer—no escuchamos. Y así no actuamos. Pero si escuchamos con paciencia y humildad podemos ser inspirados a vivir como gente de amor, fe, y justicia. No siempre hablaremos sino que actuaremos en nuestra comunidad, en nuestras casas, donde trabajamos, donde estudiamos—donde respiramos. Así la experiencia de Dios es viva, no solamente dicha.  

En si, tenemos que cambiar. Moisés bajó de la montana de Sinaí y fue un hombre transformado. Tenía otra perspectiva. Aunque fue una persona muy tímida el decidió ser un líder. Asimismo, cuando Jesús bajó de la Montana su cara brilló tanto que pareció otra persona. Sus discípulos eran cambiados también. No regresaron a su rutina. Eran inspirados para salir de su monotonía. Tenían confianza. Tenían empatía por otra gente. Abrieron sus corazones y mentes para aceptar a cualquier persona. Ya no eran orugas. Eran mariposas. El amor de Dios era evidente en sus vidas. No quedaron en la montana. Decidieron vivir y eso fue una gran bendición para muchos.

Amigos, si decimos que somos personas de fe y mas que esto, si decimos que seguimos a Jesu Cristo, que significa? Para ser sal y luz en el mundo, nuestras acciones tienen que brillar más que nuestras palabras. Perdonamos? Amamos de verdad? Aceptamos? Enseñamos misericordia? Buscamos unidad en nuestro mundo? Tenemos hambre por justicia para toda la gente?

Yo no soy una persona de gran fe. Todavía tengo momentos cuando no escucho bien a Dios o a mi hermano o hermana. A veces me quedo en la Montana. Pero todavía sé que Dios me habla y nos habla hoy. Tenemos la oportunidad para escuchar. La compasión de Dios nos habla de muchas maneras. Para poder escuchar debemos ser hambrientos como la oruga. Debemos tener hambre por la justicia y la misericordia.

Amigos, tenemos que salir del capullo. Porque las mariposas escuchan esta voz que dice: la misericordia de Dios es para todos. La voz dice: vengan, los que tienen hambre. Vengan y cambien. Coman de la comida que satisface. Que se den cuenta que no importa sus situaciones, sus dudas, o sus errores. Todavía Dios les habla. Todavía Dios les ama. Todavía hay oportunidad de cambiar. Son mariposas—con un propósito de escuchar, vivir, compartir, y ser nuevas criaturas. Amen.

 

Tag Cloud

My Journey 2 My Peace

Overcoming Anxiety and learning to live Positively

Deeper in me than I

eloquia oris mei et meditatio cordis mei

Mind Squirrels

Ideas that Work

Silence Teaches Us Who We Are

Silence, Centering Prayer, Contemplative Prayer, Jesus, God, and Life.

Casa HOY

On the road to change the world...

myrandomuniverse

a philosophical, analytic, occasionally snarky but usually silly look at the thoughts that bounce around....

"Journey into America" documentary

Produced by Akbar Ahmed

Interfaith Crossing

|||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||

Prussel's Pearls

An Actor's Spiritual Journey

The Theological Commission's Grand, Long-Awaited Experiment

Modeling Civility Amidst Theological Diversity

a different order of time

the work of a pastor

learn2practice

mood is followed by action

Imago Scriptura

Images & Thoughts from a Christian, Husband, Father, Pastor

the living room.

117 5th Street, Valley Junction__HOURS: M 9-5, TW 7-7, TH 7-9, F 7-7, S 8-5, S 9-4

the view from 2040

theological education for the 21st century