Peek-a-boo
We see You!

On coming up out of the water he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

We have used the term Theophany several times in our teaching during this Christmas season. Last week we talked about the heavenly revelation experienced by the humble shepherds. This week, all who stood along the banks of the Jordan would experience heavenly revelation, the showing of God as He is, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Some of this might be lost on us. We encounter heaven weekly in this church. We know God as He is. In our worship, our Eucharistic experience, we are pulled into heaven and all of eternity is made real, graspable, to us. God’s Son shows Himself and we commune with Him. We are drawn together, in Him and with all who receive Him here on earth and in the heavenly kingdom. We don’t ordinarily recognize the wonder of this moment, we don’t see it because Jesus is so available to us. It wasn’t always that way.

This revelation of God, His manifestation in a way discernable by the senses only occurred a few times in the Old Testament. God walked with and spoke to Adam and Eve in Eden. He spoke with Cain, Noah and his sons, and with Abraham and Sarah. Moses first encountered God in the burning bush. Later, at Sinai, He spoke with Moses face-to-face, as one would speak with his neighbor, in clear sight and not in riddles. Because of these encounters, Moses was visibly changed. When Moses retuned from his second encounter with God on the mountain the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God.

Moses shined with the glory of God, and as Moses had been afraid before the burning bush, now the people were afraid. In fact, God’s glory was too much for them and they made Moses cover his face: when Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil on his face.

Imagine that – being so changed in the presence of God – that you actually retained that presence in your body and on your face. Yet, that is in fact what is happening right here! Today! To us!

God is revealed. He has come to us. We have met His glory. We should look in the mirror. Are our faces shining? Are we glowing with the radiance of the heavenly kingdom opened to us each week, right here?

We might say, I am not worthy. We might say, I cannot see it. We might say, not here, in upstate New York, in Schenectady. Yet here He is, revealed, real, present and active in our lives. It is not our worthiness, but His great love that makes us shine. Bruised, just smoldering? Perhaps, but here He is to ignite us and give us glory.

Time for
rethinking.

“Go, tell my servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD: Should you build me a house to dwell in?’ “It was I who took you from the pasture and from the care of the flock to be commander of my people Israel. I have been with you wherever you went, and I have destroyed all your enemies before you. And I will make you famous like the great ones of the earth. I will fix a place for my people Israel.”

So here we are. In about six hours we enter into the Vigil of the Nativity. Six hours after that, we join in the celebration of the Lord’s coming, His Nativity, in candlelight and soft tears – our hearts alive with the spectacle of extreme love made real.

When we face extreme love, when we experience the power of God, we are left to stand in awe. Wow, look what God did for me, look how He guided my steps. The next thing you know, we want to do good, to repay God. David felt that way. He was humbled by all that God had done for him and wanted to reward God. God was not amused.

God says, look at all I did, I have complete and ultimate power to accomplish all things. I took a shepherd boy from nowhere and made him king. I protect my people, and you’re going to build Me a house?

God proceeded to tell David what would happen. I am going to build the house. I am going to establish the kingdom. From your people, your lineage, will come the King, the Messiah. I will raise up your Heir after you, sprung from your loins, and I will make His kingdom firm. I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me.

The rest of today’s scripture flows from this promise. Paul, writing as an Apostle of the promise delivered, tells his people, Give praise and glory to Him who can strengthen you. Rely on God to deliver – because He already did. He will make you strong in the face of everything. Don’t worry about what you can do for Him – but rather just praise Him, glorify Him for what He has done.

That reaction, that praise comes from our attitudes, our hearts, minds, souls, and bodies. We are to be ready to give this witness of praise. Our praise is to be a living portrayal of the glory of the Nativity, the freedom bought by the Cross, the promise of the Resurrection, and the Ascension. It is living in advent expectation for His return in glory.

The end of our Advent journey is the beginning of a new and more powerful journey. It is time to rethink our reaction to God. God chose what would be done and He fulfilled all he promised to do. We can give Him nothing except to live differently, to listen like Mary and to react as she did – “Behold, I will do what the Lord asks, I will do His will. Let all things in my life be according to God’s word.”

Acceptance today.
The gift of glory.

But Jesus cried out again in a loud voice, and gave up his spirit.

We walked through Lent and have reflected on God’s conviction from all sorts of angles.

We started by reflecting on the necessity of choosing differently. Confronted by our conviction, we recognize that the natural outcome of our choices is a judgment of guilty and certain death. Yet, if we chose differently, with Jesus as our model, we are acquitted and receive the abundance of grace and the gift of justification.

We learned that our acceptance of conviction leads to moving from the conviction of guilt to conviction in righteousness. That acceptance and the righteousness that comes from it, allows us to move mountains, change the world, bear much fruit, and be truly victorious.

We know that God waits to meet us. That encounter offers the opportunity to accept our conviction – something that is never compulsory. If we accept our conviction we obtain immediate salvation and begin bearing the fruits that come from that acceptance. We witness and draw many to Jesus.

We found that in Jesus, wherever we come from or whatever we have done is of no account once we accept conviction. We move from who we were to being His children of light. The only reality that matters.

We realized that encounter and conviction, if accepted, provides a gift of faith so deep and powerful that not even death can diminish it. Not death, not disappointment, nothing! We develop a powerful ‘even now’ faith that actively trusts.

This Lenten journey and exploration begins its ending today. As we reflect on the road to the cross and grave we see many seeming to work contrary to God. We see a parade of human sinfulness and its apparent consequences. Those who failed to accept conviction held onto their alleged power. Judas, holding onto the purse, betrays Jesus. The disciples holding onto their perceptions of love and faithfulness, run away because their opinions do not stand up to challenge. The religious leaders hang onto external acts of religion over deep internal change. Pilate and the Roman soldiers hold unto political power, a power that only lasts for a time. The crowds hold unto whatever opinion is popular now. Jesus alone – the one who could never be convicted – accepts conviction.

Jesus submitted to the Father’s will, took up the cross, and staggered through a parade of non-acceptance powerfully displaying total acceptance. He fulfills His mission, opens the door for our ability to accept, and our entry into the powerful and glorious future we live today.

Reflection for the Solemnity of the Transfiguration

See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. — 1 John 3:1-2

Transfiguration IconA Solemnity Fighting Fear

Today we observe the Solemnity of the Transfiguration of our Lord. We read in the 17th chapter of the Gospel according to St. Matthew: Jesus took Peter, James, and his brother, John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, conversing with him.

Jesus chose this moment, before the great struggles, persecution, suffering, and death He was about to encounter, to reveal the blessing of His heavenly Father and His glory in Him. While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud cast a shadow over them, then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”

In our time the Holy Church is facing greater and greater struggles. In the Middle East, North Korea, Africa, and elsewhere Christians are actively being persecuted and martyred. Some Christians in our country are losing jobs for their beliefs and face other forms of prejudice. When faced with all this – and we may be in ways subtle or not so subtle – recall this holy day and let us say in confidence that our God is bigger and His promises are more important than anything anyone can do to us. Trust in Him and have NO fear for His promise is that “we shall be like Him!