Annual Meeting Sunday
February 11, 2018
In the name of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
There is a house on my street. The biggest house with the biggest lot. And it’s clear that the people who live there (I don’t know them, personally) like Christmas. Actually, they must LOVE Christmas. Because, the day after Halloween, their house gets lit up. It gets lit up, well, like a Christmas tree. Lights, and wreaths, and garlands are hung, and much like Rockefeller Center, a 20’ tall pine tree gets imported into the center of their lawn. The final touch comes when a life-size stable, complete with a camel, wise men, Mary, Joseph and of course, baby Jesus arrive. Whatever makes you happy, I say – not really, I say, think of how many people you could feed with the cost of those decorations – but even more, the problem I have with it is that it is ALL is still there. Today. Yes, almost Valentine’s Day. Almost Ash Wednesday. Almost Lent. And that little baby Jesus is still lying there in the manger, staring up at the stars in the night sky.
Of course, here in the church, we’ve moved on. Jesus has moved on. Completely out of diapers, he is all grown up and baptized, and has started his ministry in earnest. He’s called his disciples, and been teaching and preaching. He’s fed the hungry. Healed the sick. Sent demons running. And now, Mark tells us, Jesus has taken his closest friends, Peter, James, and John, to the top of a high mountain and there, he is transfigured.
This moment is the pivot point of Mark’s Gospel, literally in the middle. The chapters before focus on his mission and ministry; the chapters after, on his journey toward Jerusalem and to his death on the cross. But on this day, in this moment, there is sheer radiance, a connection between fellow missioners, the powerful presence of prophets past, and the sound of God’s voice sending them down the mountain into the future.
This passage from Mark is the perfect overlay for our Annual Meeting reflections. Because looking back at where we’ve been as a congregation, and looking ahead at where we’re going, we find the same. Sheer radiance. Connection between fellow missioners. Powerful presence of prophets past. And, the sound of God’s voice for the future.
So first, I’d like to consider just a few of our moments of radiance, keeping in mind that Jesus’ transfiguration was just a flash, a glorious moment, which didn’t last forever. Peter’s bumbling confusion shows us that. It’s possible, I suppose, that if they had blinked for too long, they might have missed it. But they didn’t. And neither should we. Part of the reason we gather together, week in and week out, is so we can practice keeping our eyes peeled for these moments, and then share them with one another (we will spend more time with this during our meeting after worship). Just to name a few, Jesus was transfigured before my eyes:
• During our “It’s My Turn” camp [for children on the autism spectrum], when one camper, who did not speak or interact in any obvious way other than counting the ceiling fans throughout the building each day, was so moved by our music and singing that he suddenly got up, grabbed my hands, and started to dance. Watching our campers feel ‘safe’ with us and with one another, and by extension, feel ‘safe’ as God’s children was truly a moment of radiance.
• Then there was the Sunday in July, when my son Ryan – who was hit by a car and critically injured in May – came to church because he wanted to stand up and say “Thank you” to everyone for the prayers, meals, and get well notes you shared with him and our family.
• There was a flash of light, a moment of transfiguration, during Marjorie [James] and Chris’ wedding, when they stood there, facing each other, and offered us a glimpse of God’s love and commitment, and renewed hope for the future of that love.
• Jesus was brilliantly transfigured when Dave, and our seminarian, Chris knelt to offer themselves and their lives during their ordination vows.
• It happened in so many hospital rooms and at nursing home bedsides, where God’s power was revealed in weakness, and of course,
• Here in worship, through choir anthems and congregational singing, and as we share God’s Peace and Jesus’ Body and Blood in the Eucharist together.
So many moments – flashes of God’s brilliance among us – far too many to mention here, but for sure, Jesus has been and continues to be Transfigured in our midst.
Secondly, the fact that Jesus didn’t travel to that mountaintop alone testifies to the importance of traveling this journey together. And this year, perhaps more than any other, we have been companions on this journey. We have mourned and grieved together for our prophets, past. Jerry Evans. Peg Collander. Charles Hutchinson. Brian Canivan. Jo Ann Bradley. Bruce Ferguson, and Chris Mills. You have been prayerful, and loving, and supportive as I have struggled with my own health. And we connect, like perhaps no other place does, across the generations. I feel it and am incredibly grateful for old and young, teens and toddlers, all worshipping together. Today for example, little William knows the gift of being baptized into a multi-generational community. This is a gift that was given to us by those faithful Episcopalians who began worshipping together at Fish and Game over a century ago, and one that I pray we will be able to offer the generations yet to come. They will look back and remember us for our commitment to accessibility and inclusion of all ages.
And, like Jesus and his disciples, we too, will continue to listen for God’s voice. One thing for certain, here, is that we hear God’s voice through the voices of our children. Time and time again, we hear the sound of children praying . . . and praying loudly, over and above our voices. It is a glorious reminder of Jesus’ mission, inviting the least of these to the most cherished place at the table – let the children come to me. It is glorious and radiant. And I believe that the reason our children do so well here in worship is because they view this as their church. They fully participate here. They fully WORSHIP here. Now, sure, they may not know the definition of $10-words like “incarnation” or “transfiguration,” but they know what they mean, and come with joy to the communion table with grateful hearts and outstretched hands.
Finally, Mark’s Gospel doesn’t really give us any insight into the conversation between Jesus and his disciples on the way down the mountain. But I have to imagine that somewhere along the way, Jesus said, “Thank you.” Thank you for being my disciples. Thank you for walking this path with me. Thank you for pouring your hearts out to one another. Thank you for caring. And I want to say the same to all of you. Each and every one of you. Thank you. For walking his path, for offering your hearts. For caring.
But we can’t – won’t – rest here, in this moment for long . . . Because Jesus is on the move. Both here at St. Paul’s, and in our lives in this community and in the world. He is neither contained to the cradle nor captured within these walls. He has led us up the mountain, transfigured himself in our lives, and no doubt, will continue to call and walk with us on the journey ahead. May it be so. Amen.