Sermon for the Last Sunday after the Epiphany

Exodus 24:12-18; Psalm 2; 2 Peter 1:16-21; Matthew 17:1-9 (NRSV) (KJV)

I always think that it is important to see our portion of scripture each Sunday in context. God commands Moses to come up to him on the mountain, but just prior to this he and 73 of the chief leaders of the people have seen God and eaten in God’s presence—close but not too close.

But now God wants to give Moses stone tablets with the law and commandments. We’re pretty familiar with the story but what we may not be as familiar with is that God has already told Moses the ordinances meant for the people.

These tablets then are to be reminders to the people of what they have sworn to do twice before Moses seals the covenant with blood. God then tells Moses to leave Aaron and Hur in charge—setting the stage for the people’s disobedience.

But, hey, Moses is gone for a truly long time—the proverbial 40 days and 40 nights. And however long it is, the people stray even as the mountain is covered by a fiery cloud—direct evidence of God’s presence.

Yet we are also challenged. Our experience of God is rarely as dramatic as the Israelites had or for that matter Peter, James and John with our Lord witnessing the transfiguration.

The Israelites go on to make the golden calf; Peter denies Jesus three times and James and John run like hell from the Garden when the Temple guards come for Jesus.

So to what standard do we hold ourselves? It is to trust in God—trust that God wants the best for us. When Jesus touches the three after the Transfiguration, he says to get up and not be afraid.

Throughout salvation history God or God’s representatives have told believers do not be afraid. The message is to trust.

As we gather this Sunday, as Lent beckons, the nations are in an uproar. The daily news out of Libya resonates with the verses of Psalm 2. Dictators who seemed invulnerable are gone or going.

It seems like things are spinning out of control. Gas is going through the roof. Government employees are facing major job cuts. In Wisconsin the governor has the state police trying to find the democratic legislators and all the while, needed legislation languishes.

In our state and many others there is active talk of cutting Medicaid reimbursements so even fewer doctors will take the poorest patients.

Jesus calls us to a standard of love—the one that Jesus talked about incessantly. Jesus calls us to love. And devote our lives to discovering how to live love as God wants.

Peter says it all—no one would come up with as thin a story to show the power of God as death on the cross. Hollywood would definitely come up with a better story line. For as Paul says the cross will be a stumbling block to Jews and Greeks. It remains a stumbling block to the Muslims who can’t conceive of God in self offering on a cross.

Peter still remembers the special moment at the Transfiguration when the Majestic Glory claims Jesus as the beloved Son. Beloved yet offered as a sacrifice.

How will we make a difference, how will we help bring in Jesus’ kingdom of love? Will we become more intentional in fulfilling the demands of our baptisms found in our baptismal vows? It is an expression of the trust we have in God.

It’s our choice.

Finally, I invite you to be in prayer this afternoon as your Vestry and Finance Committee discern the direction we need to take in completing the bell tower project.