Thursday, February 8, 2018

Witness to Wonders - Mark 9

Witness to Wonders.
Tony E Dillon-Hansen
11 Feb 2018

A Sermon based upon 2 Corinthians 4:3-6: 12-20; Psalm 50:1-6; Mark 9: 2-9

For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Will you pray with me?  Let God guide our senses, our hearts and our ears to receive the lessons given to us.  May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our Rock, Our Redeemer.

And All God’s Children Say:

I remember the first time I was in the mountains as a youth. My uncle, who was my confirmation sponsor, decided that it would be neat to have me along for a ride out to Seattle from Ames and back.

Oh the mischief that could be.

There were some parts of the trip that seemed to take forever, like most of North Dakota (with brief exception to the Badlands). Then somewhere around Billings, Montana, I can remember the first time I could spy the snow caps on the horizon and how they seemed to just magically appear.  The anticipation was growing to see the Rockies.  Then we got to around Bozeman heading towards Butte where we have been driving a steady set of rising and rolling hills.  I kept thinking of the old TV show “Highway to Heaven” because the clouds were hanging low and hiding some of the road in the middle of this small valley.

Then, we went over this one hill and there was no looking back.  The mountains were just towering walls around us.  There was a true speechless moment followed by a series of “Whoa” moments.  In fact, I am not entirely sure how far we travelled in my feeling of absolute astonishment.  Yet, I could finally understand what people meant about “purple mountain majesty.” Still, those words do little to describe the sheer awe and wonder of seeing massive towers of rock while looking down long stretches of the mountain side, observing giant trees that looked tiny from our height .

We both remarked that we could almost see and touch God around us.  I had my camera with me, but I don’t think I could capture the immense presence of these mountains in a picture frame. Perhaps, it is better that way because instead of fumbling around with a camera angle, I was more focused upon the moment, and I (and my uncle) could truly understand the presence of God. We also observed how quickly weather can change in the high mountains and how real lightning looks when you are in the clouds.

During these few days, and the really the entire trip, my uncle and I had some great conversations about how beautiful the world really was (as we saw more of God’s creation). We also talked about family, directions and a little about faith. We were also having discussions about our next steps in life. He was considering going to grad school, and our family was getting ready to move from Kansas back to Iowa. While this wasn’t the only awesome spectacle of the road trip, going through the mountains may have helped to yield insight to us in our lives.

So when we look at this story from Mark, I wonder about the story of the transfiguration and ponder the many parallels to my own trip to the mountains. I have to think, the mountaintop experience is one great opportunity to experience God.

In Mark, Jesus with a few select disciples have decided to go on a hike (albeit without motorized transportation). This cadre have been travelling up this mountain and certainly are tired.

We are not told which mountain (some scholars point to Mt Hermon or Mt Tabor). I have never been to Israel.  Yet, if you look up Israeli mountains, there seems to be plenty of points where one might find awesomeness.

Between the view and the effort to get to the top, there is likely much already to be amazed.

Like my uncle and I discussing many aspects of life and faith, this squad of faith leaders has likely also been in deep conversations about life, direction and faith.  They are reminiscing upon history including the powerful icons of Hebrew faith.

Then, Jesus decides to do a show. This spectacle and homage to icons of faith provide us an explanation of who Jesus is and purpose. God’s faithfulness has passed from Moses to Elijah, to Daniel to Jesus and through Jesus, now to us. God is showing us full presence in the mountaintop.

God is dazzling us and illuminating paths before us.  This is a powerful and intense display. This is also a way that some describe enlightenment. Yet, like enlightenment, there is a bit more in this vision.

There is a command  that we need to listen. That is a loaded word: “listen.”

You can imagine that my own mother told me to “listen” a few times in my life.

When you hear someone talk, like a yappy preacher like me, do you just shrug off the words as nonsense? I could understand if you think that about me.  You don’t have to listen to me.

Yet, when Jesus tells us to love one another, what do you make of this? When Jesus tells us to have compassion for the poor and the sick, what do you do? When Jesus tells us to be inclusive of all our neighbors: black lives, Jews, Muslims, queers, refugees or Immigrants, what do you do? Does Jesus tell us to be a welcoming spirit - no matter where people are on life’s journey?

Do you hem and haw? Do you shrug off something that is hard to understand? Do you shrug off Jesus?

Is that really listening?

When you “listen” to the words of Jesus, we are called to do something.

Yes, The words of Jesus may cause you to examine your own beliefs and prejudices. If you do not listen, you close up and you do not grow in love of God or of neighbor.

When you listen, you may find yourself in dazzling enjoyment and enlightened presence of love, of faith and of life here on Earth.

The transfiguration is about showing God, but the command to listen tells us how to really understand this show.

Life struggles are real, but our faith and trust in Jesus will see us through those struggles.

You might think I am little crazy to think this, but
You can have a personal mountaintop experience - here and now.

Just quiet your mind, breathe, and just be.
When you read the Gospels, listen to what Jesus is saying.
Don’t just hear Jesus once and shrug.
Hear Jesus speaking to you.
Let Jesus move you, tickle you, and provoke you.
Let Jesus teach you again and again.

In our mountaintop experience, here and now, and through the Gospels,
We can witness these wonders in our lives, if we are willing, first, to listen.
We can witness these wonders when we listen with our ears and our hearts.
Then let your hearts and minds be moved by those words of Jesus.

We can witness glory when we welcome.
We can witness the “dazzling” when we have hope.
We can witness the Child of God in each of us —when we are love.

That is why we are here: to love God and to love our neighbors.

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