Psalm 63:1-8

A Psalm of David, when he was in the Wilderness of Judah.

O God, you are my God, I seek you,my soul thirsts for you;

my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,beholding your power and glory.

Because your steadfast love is better than life,my lips will praise you.

So I will bless you as long as I live;
I will lift up my hands and call on your name.

My soul is satisfied as with a rich feast,[a]and my mouth praises you with joyful lips

when I think of you on my bed,
and meditate on you in the watches of the night;

for you have been my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I sing for joy.

My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me.

Luke 13:1-9

Repent or Perish

13 At that very time there were some present who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. He asked them, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them—do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem?No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.”

The Parable of the Barren Fig Tree

Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. So he said to the gardener, ‘See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?’ He replied, ‘Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’”

Growing up, we had a large garden that we shared with my Uncle who lived next door. My Uncle had what I’d call a recreational farm. He had a few cattle, a large garden, and about 10 acres of land. We didn’t have cattle, but we did have about 6 acres of land, so we let the cattle roam between the properties.

I remember growing up and playing on our adjoining properties. Lots of great battles were won and lost as I would run around those woods and fields. But, I always had to be on the lookout for cattle and for what they would leave on the ground!

Since we had a large garden, we also had one spot on our properties that I would especially try to stay away from…the manure pile. Of course, once a year, I couldn’t stay away from it because that was the day that we’d hook up the manure spreader on our tractor and go to the pile and shovel manure into the spreader. Then we would take it and spread it on the garden…which would then fertilize the soil, give it nutrients, and, with some careful cultivation of the garden, we’d have corn, green beans, squash, watermelon, and all sorts of vegetables when it came time to harvest. Because of the process that we had with the garden, and the care that my Uncle and dad would take with that garden… and really all of our family members as we all had to pitch in…we had an abundance of fresh vegetables every year.

The setting of the gospel lesson quoted above is in 1st century Palestine. Palestine is often referred to as an agrarian culture. It was largely rural and had many crops. With its location, it was prime land that the Babylonians, Assyrians, Persians, and Egyptians would invade and fight over because of its agricultural significance.

The folks who were with Jesus in this story knew about agriculture, as did Jesus. They had a shared identity that was tied to the land.

Within this text is a great metaphor around a fig tree.

The context is a group of folks sharing with Jesus about Pilate’s execution of some Galileans and intermingling their blood with sacrificial animals. Not only being killed, but having the shame of having their blood mixed. In a culture based on honor and shame, it’s not just death that is hard to deal with, it’s how you die…and that would have deeply held emotional responses. So, they were wondering if their sins had caused them to die in such a way. They may have asked this question out of anxiety or out of a sense in trying to trap Jesus, to see if he was pro-Roman or pro-revolutionary.

Jesus responds by saying, no, they were not worst sinners than anyone else. He even goes on to say that the same fate of being in an endless cycle of shame awaits them if they continue to live as they have always lived. They needed to have a change of heart and mind, they needed repentance which leads to growth.

Jesus also reminds his listeners that tragedy can fall on anyone. We can live life like we think we are supposed to, do what we think is right, but tragedy can come at any time. We all die, but we all also have grace in this life and it matters what we do with these lives we are given. In first century Judaism, tragedy would fall on the wicked. But, Jesus is saying that tragedy falls on us all, even on Jesus. Yet, how we grow through tragedy is what’s important. God shows mercy on all, those who are repentant and unrepentant.

The difference though, I believe, is that repentance can lead to new understanding, new growth, and can produce fruit in our lives and in the lives of others.

At first glance, we may think that Jesus is being harsh by saying that this tree should be cut down if it’s not producing fruit after years of cultivating. But, again, remember, this is an agrarian culture. What they hear is grace. This tree has been in a vineyard for a long time. The owner of the vineyard found that it wasn’t producing fruit. He calls his gardener, says that he’s been patient for 3 years, and it should be cut down. But, the gardener says to the owner, give it one more year. Let’s cultivate it, take care of it, and give it another year. If there isn’t fruit after a year, well then we can cut it down, dry it out, and use it as kindling for a fire or some other useful purpose.

The fig tree in this story is a sign of God’s mercy, it hasn’t produced fruit, but it’s still in the vineyard. The gardener has faith that the fig tree could stand a bit longer so that it can have the possibility of bearing fruit.

This story is about God’s faithfulness.

God doesn’t give up on anyone or any church or faith community. But, it’s up to us to ask questions of ourselves as persons and as persons joined together: Can we stay committed to one another, do we share in God’s faith in us, can we cultivate in our own lives the practices that produce an awareness of God’s gardening work in our lives, cultivating growth?

God continues to give us another year, another chance at growth. This can give us opportunity to consider what is really important in our lives . How we can slow down and choose to spend our time and resources to achieve what is important in our lives.

I believe that the biblical notion of “Jubilee” fits well within this passage. Jubilee was about the forgiveness of debts, the restoration of land to its rightful owners. It’s about removing the barriers that keep us apart in community. It’s about restoration of relationship, of listening to one another and treating all with equity.

It also says a lot about “abundance”. We often look around at what we don’t have, we have a scarcity mindset that keeps us locked in old ways of thinking that lends itself to transactional relationships. When we slow down, take a deep breath, and take inventory of what we see around us and in us, we can begin to live out of a sense of abundance and that there is always beauty and opportunities around us for growth and connections.

If we live into a jubilee concept, we can have freedom to consider a wide range of choices, whereas before we may have felt like we had little choice.

Last weekend, we had our friend Peter Block lead us in some conversations at Fleming Road.

Peter Block in a “triad” at Fleming Road UCC.

It was a great time discussing possibilities and things we are passionate about. Much of those conversations were what I would even call “jubilee” imagination. How can we remove barriers from knowing one another, and how can do things to increase our connections to others.

Other jubilee conversations that I’ve had recently is how do we find ways to put finances together towards things that give us life through this jubilee mind and heartset. Maybe it means we start today, putting $20, $25, or some other amount together in a “dream jubilee fund” that we give to others in order to increase our connections and restore folks into relationship.

Our church, all of us together, also have an opportunity with Jubilee to think in new and exciting ways. I believe that Fleming Road UCC has been given a Jubilee year in 2019 to discern where God is leading us on how we can best use our abundance of time, talents, and resources to produce fruit as a church.

If we can ask those questions bravely and being in God’s vineyard together as authentic gathering of Jesus followers, then we can move towards living abundant, fruitful lives. We may want to avoid the manure piles that are necessary for growth, we may not like being pruned, but sometimes we have to get rid of unhealthy leaves in our lives, we may not enjoy being planted and replanted, but God has a vision for beautiful fruit bearing lives lived together.

If we can dare to live faithfully in God’s faith in us, if we can dare to live differently and in deep and inclusive love for each other and those in our neighborhoods, schools, and work places, we can move towards being people of Jubilee…we can take risks to love, forgive, and grow in our relationships…and change our world for the better while we’re at it!


Genesis 15:1-12; 17-18

15 After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, “Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” But Abram said, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?”[a]And Abeam said, “You have given me no offspring, and so a slave born in my house is to be my heir.” But the word of the Lord came to him, “This man shall not be your heir; no one but your very own issue shall be your heir.” He brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” And he believed the Lord; and the Lord[b] reckoned it to him as righteousness.

Then he said to him, “I am the Lord who brought you from Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess.” But he said, “O Lord God, how am I to know that I shall possess it?” He said to him, “Bring me a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” 10 He brought him all these and cut them in two, laying each half over against the other; but he did not cut the birds in two. 11 And when birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.

12 As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram, and a deep and terrifying darkness descended upon him.

17 When the sun had gone down and it was dark, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. 18 On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates,

Luke 13:31-35

The Lament over Jerusalem

31 At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” 32 He said to them, “Go and tell that fox for me,[a] ‘Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. 33 Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.’ 34 Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! 35 See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when[b] you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’”

What does the word “lament” mean to you? 

We’ve all experienced disappointment in our lives.  I know I have.  We can probably all think of times when we hoped for something, and then not have it happen.  


More than hoping for a new bike at Christmas, or warm weather, or even who wins a football or a basketball game, we have other hopes and aspirations for good recognition at work, paying the bills, going on a much needed vacation…or even more approval from others, for relationships to be healed, for connection with a friend or family member that you have not talked to for a while.  As a church, we often don’t know what we want to see happen other than the church to survive. Maybe we have deeper hopes for it to thrive….yet, our definitions for thriving may be hard to articulate at times. 

It’s safe to say that at our deepest hopes are with relationships.  We are wired for relationship with the world around us and with people.  It doesn’t matter if you are introvert or an extrovert, we all crave connection on some level and have some hope for relationships.  

I like the story of Abram, before he was named Abraham.  Abram was a faithful man according to the biblical accounts of him.  His faith was based on a relationship with God and with others.  Abram was advanced in age, he wanted an heir, a child that he could pass along his family name and legacy.  

He went to God and lamented to God that he didn’t have an heir. 

Lament is an interesting word…it’s a passionate word that means to wail, to express deep sadness or disappointment.  Lament is an active expression of denial to the status quo as Walter Brueggemann, the great Old Testament scholar and friend, would say.  It has a meaning of involving your whole self, affecting you physically even. 

 When we are faced with something that deeply moves us, it can potentially lead us towards anxiety, or some kind of stress…it affects us, it can move us into situational depression even.  However, lamenting can come afterwards and be a positive movement towards healing and transformation.

Abram is in that place of lament.  He is sad.  But, there is a difference in this lament.  Abram’s faith is in a relationship with God and in community with others.  God hears Abram’s lament and affirms Abram and blesses him with a promise.  His children will outnumber the stars in the sky.  What happens next?  A deep darkness falls over Abram.  Not exactly what you’d expect after God gives him some news.  But, lamenting does lead to growth.  Growth happens in the midst of confronting one’s self, in the midst of struggle, which brings movement towards a deeper understanding of God’s purposes in your life and in your community.

God’s promised also leads to two sons: Isaac and Ishmael, and those descendants outnumber the stars in the sky. It may not have been exactly what Abram thought, but it certainly says that we are all brothers and sisters.

The text from the New Testaments finds Jesus lamenting as well.  Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem when some sympathetic pharisees, or religious rulers warning him that Herod wants to kill him.  Jesus calls Herod a “fox”, which is interesting to note.  The understanding of a fox in this text is not that Herod is cunning, but that Herod is a small animal that does not have power, is impotent.  Jesus says in affect, I’m casting out demons and have the relational power to overcome unseen forces.  Herod has no control over me.  Jesus then goes on to say that he must he has work today for the next couple of days and that it will be finished on the 3rd day.  This could be a reference to Jesus death and resurrection.  

Jesus certainly gives his hearers a reference that he cannot be killed outside of Jerusalem.  Jerusalem has a hold in the imagination of Israel at the time. It is the center of Jewish faith at that time, the city where the temple of God is.  Jewish folk believed that God’s Presence on earth dwelt there.  It is also the place where prophets are killed.  When prophets came with a message of lament, of a need for change, repentance, relational restoration…the established system, those in power, felt threatened, they would be killed.    

Even though persons in the religious establishment may not have been very joyful, they still had control and did not want to give that control up.  They were in a place of broken relationship with each other, themselves, and with God.  They were what I’d call “resistors” and resistors have roadblocks that can often thwart their growth, their joy, and the growth and joy of others. Yet, resistors do have a part in the story as well.

Jesus laments, deeply, with great emotion for Jerusalem.  Jesus understands the important of “place”, that people are deeply rooted in a  community and that has potential for great things, but when not living up to it’s potential, when resistant to God’s desire for genuine relationship and community, a place can be destructive.

So, Jesus laments, describes a God who longs to take God’s people, all people, under God’s wings like a hen protecting her chicks.  A God who longs to be in loving relationship with God’s people, to protect them, to bless them beyond measure with friendship and Presence.  

Jerusalem not only signifies the center of religious life for Israel, it can also be descriptive of the church.  God longs for the church to be a place of deep relationship, not only for those inside the church, but for those outside.  Jesus represents all of humanity, and Jesus demonstrates that God is not limited to a building….Jesus goes to places outside of the temple, the synagogue, and continues today to go outside of the church walls.  Jesus says that the temple, the house, is abandoned by God, but God does not abandon God’s people.  

And, Jesus laments that Jerusalem kills its prophets.  But, God keeps on sending those prophets.  There is a flow in and through God that cannot be stopped.

Friends, hear this the good news, lamenting can come out of being dark places in our lives, but lamenting leads us towards growth.  Jesus loves Jerusalem, and Jesus loves his church.  Jesus has promised, and demonstrated, that even though he aches for us, he also aches with us.  He is with us in all that we experience and is with us in the lamenting and in the darkness.  We also know that God, through Jesus, demonstrates that darkness doesn’t win and that we can grow and move towards the promise of blessing as Jesus comes to us.  Lamenting can produce faith.  Faith in and through God’s commitment to us even in the midst of life’s hard places.  


14 And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.[a]

16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

17 “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. 20 For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. 21 But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.”

John 3:14-17

A few years back, I had a running injury that needed some attention.  It didn’t keep me from running, but it was a nagging tendinits injury that didn’t seem to go away.  Luckily, my spouse, Debbie, is Physical Therapy Assistant and works at a physical therapy office.  Many of the Physical Therapists there are runners and are simply great to work with and have become friends over the years.  

So, I set up an appointment with my friend Andy, who’s a Physical Therapist and a runner.  He told me to wear running clothes for the appointment as he wanted to analyze my stride to see if that was causing some of the issues.  

When I got there, we went through some dynamic stretching and checking of my tendons. Then he had me get on the treadmill to look at my stride.  I thought that it would be a fairly short jog, so I kept my warm-up on and started running on their treadmill.  Their treadmill was about 3 feet off of the ground so that the PT’s could have a better view of your running. 

Image result for cartoon treadmill image

After about 3-4 minutes of running, I asked if they had seen enough.  Andy said no, he wanted me to run a few more minutes.  I started to warm up a bit more and, without thinking, I began to take my pullover off.  While pulling it over my head, and still running on the treadmill, it got stuck a bit on my head…I lost my stride, hit the back of the treadmill and somehow lifted off the back of it!  I got some serious airtime, but I nailed the landing! 

When I looked around, the whole clinic was looking at me, kind of like,
“wow, that guy is still alive!?”.  Andy just said, well, that’s a first!  At that point, I put my hands up in the air and simply said “thank you” to all in the clinic as they began to clap!

Today, we’re talking about being lifted up…not like my treadmill misadventure that day…no, we want to be lifted up in our everyday lives, out of the mundane, the ordinary, the routine.  We so often get caught up in days upon days of wondering, is this it?  Is this all there is to life?  We get caught in ruts where we possibly make decisions or begin to think in ways that are  not helpful.  Oftentimes, these decisions and thoughts, especially when made in isolation or without a sense of intentional and positive growth, change, or maturity could lead to destructive patterns.  

This is true in our own lives, as well as our life together as a community of faith.  It happened to Israel.  They were stuck in the desert, both physically and metaphorically.  They were losing faith and getting tired.  They decided to look for fulfillment in behaviors that led to destruction.  

A good question for us as a church universal:  Have we gotten tired of waiting on God, of having faith?  Have we sought after other things such as a consumer based church where we chase after program after program or worry about worship styles?  Have we chased after theologies and ideologies that are more closely related to cultural systems rather than radically inviting those systems towards a “re-functioning” or reformation?  Have we become more focused on ourselves and our way of doing things rather than practicing hospitality and reconciliation with our community?  I wonder what folks in this community, or the communities in which we live, think of churches throughout their neighborhoods? Would they notice if they shut their doors?

Within this tiredness or rut that the church finds itself in, and in the ruts of our every day that lead us to make personal decisions that may not be healthy, we get to the point where we finally realize and hope for something  more.  We want to be lifted up.

The good news is hat God wants to lift us up, but it starts with us looking towards God for deliverance rather than the systems of this world or the unhealthy places we may find ourselves.

With Israel, God told Moses to put up a pole with a snake on it.  He did and folks were saved from death.  Now, I’m not sure exactly of all the symbolism of a snake on a pole besides what I vaguely remember from seminary or commentaries, or if it’s simply a metaphor or a writer in antiquity trying to convey a deeper message…but I do believe that the writer of this story was saying that Moses went to God and God gave Moses a sign of deliverance.

Our gospel lessons finds the writer referring to this lesson from Numbers and saying that Jesus is being lifted up and we are called to look to him for deliverance, for justice, and for the way to to live.  

As Jesus is lifted up, literally on a tree at calvary, but also lifted up daily in our lives through a deeper understanding of the Christ and how we find our find our salvation and personal and corporate agency. 

Christ shares with us humanity and Christ is also eternal in Christ’s being, we can find that our identity is wrapped up in Christ.  As Christ is lifted up, we are also lifted up.

Colossians 3:3 gives more evidence of this, “our lives are hid in God through Christ”.  We are being lifted up with Christ.  We are given eternal life.  Now, we may be thinking, do I want to live forever if this life is a reflection of the life eternal?  Well, the folks listening to this reading in John had an understanding of eternal that, on the surface, we might not understand.  Eternal means the quality of life, not just quantity.  And, eternal tied in with Jesus, the Christ, means amazing quality that does last forever, and it starts now, or rather, it started with a bang from the very beginning!

You see, Jesus is also lifted up as the one true human that we are all called to live in, just as Christ lives in us.  Now, we are not perfect, we mess up…hang out with me for a while, crawl into my head, and you may have some deep reservations about me!  Of course, the opposite is true, if I were to know your deepest thoughts and faults, I may be wanting to get away from you as well.  But, our lives are wrapped up in Christ and Christ redeems and saves all of us, our thoughts, our actions, and, well, everything.  Nothing is outside of God’s reach.

God also says that we can live in deep love with and through Christ’s love for us and be lifted up.  We are given opportunity after opportunity to cultivate an understanding of ourselves, to find appropriate and safe places or communities where we can take off our masks, be vulnerable, and to grow.  Jesus got that.  In Jesus’ being he lived in community with the father and the Spirit, what we’d call the Trinity. Three in One community.  Jesus also called a group of folks around him that were committed to him.  They weren’t perfect, they fell away and disappointed themselves by their infidelity.  Yet, God lifted them up and they changed the world.

Our text this morning talks about belief.  In our culture, we seem to put a lot of emphasis on believing the right things.  However, I would say that this text is calling us towards something deeper: trust.  We are called to trust God and even to trust each other.  Which, can be hard and we need to make sure we “walk in wisdom” with others.  But, yes, we should grow towards building trusting relationships. 

Sometimes, even with the best intentions, that trust can be broken.  Yet, as we see with God, God continues to put his trust in us.  Even after Jesus is crucified, Jesus comes to his disciples and shows them amazing trust.  

As we do this, as we trust and risk, we can experience deliverance and become “lifted up” people. I believe we will grow stronger as persons and we will grow stronger as a church.  We have potential to be agents of good, of change, of hospitality and of deep friendships as we experience God lifting up Jesus, lifting up us, and lifting up the community around us.  All of the community, not just those that are similar to us, but everyone…that’s good news…may we all do the lifting up of Christ in our communities, following Christ’s example of radical hospitality, friendship, and inclusion and, in so doing, all be lifted up together.


Luke 9:28-36 (37-43) The Transfiguration

28 Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. 29 And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. 30 Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. 31 They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. 32 Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. 33 Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah”—not knowing what he said. 34 While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. 35 Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” 36 When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.

Ever had something happen to you that was overwhelming?

Training for a marathon is hard work…lots of hard work… and it’s a bit overwhelming, but I know it takes one day at a time…each workout leads to something more…and, there’s change and growth in the process. When I first set out to train for a marathon with the goal of qualifying for Boston, it brought a lot of change in how I structured my day, what I ate and didn’t eat… it also brought change in my body….most of it welcome.

After getting to the Boston Marathon, running it while injured, finishing in that crowd, I was overwhelmed. I didn’t know how to process it. I cried and called my daughter.

Qualifying for the Boston Marathon at the Wine Glass Marathon in Finger Lakes, NY in 2015.
Getting our race packets for the 2016 Boston Marathon.
Post Boston Marathon after a trip to the medical tent during the race…overwhelming, and so good to finish!

The Luke story of the Transfiguration comes days after a series of events where Jesus is going around sharing the good news of God’s Presence, a message that was about a different narrative or story that was being lived at the time. A narrative of God’s desire for us to be in deep relationship with one another.

At one point in previous stories, Jesus is asking what others were saying about him. Some said that he was Elijah, John the Baptist. Peter said that He was the Messiah though…he had also healed some folks, one story right before this was a healing from blindness. He’s also beginning to share some hard things about his own suffering that was soon to come, that he would experience deep pain, and that he would die and rise again. As more and more crowds were following him, I’m sure it was hard for them to understand, and even harder for Jesus to convey this message.

We see that Jesus is getting away from the crowds, as he often did. He went up to a mountain with three of his friends. These were good guys I’m sure, but not always on top of things, and they had some issues, like we all do…I guess that’s why we can relate to them so well. Peter seemed prone to making big statements that he couldn’t always back up. He denied even knowing Jesus during his darkest hour a short time later. James and John were concerned with greatness and arguing about who would sit where in eternity. They seemed to be way more concerned by another life other than the one they were living, which, to this day is unnecessary and unhealthy conversation in the church. They seemed consumed with theological discussions and fantasies on power rather than helping those around them.

Yet, through it all, through their anxieties, image issues, and failures, Jesus counted them as friends and believed in them. He invited them into events and life experiences with him that were transformative and meaningful, he extended grace and presence to them.

This event, this mountain top experience had a profound impact on Peter, James, and John. They saw before them Jesus, their friend, changed, transfigured, beautiful. In Jewish understanding from the Torah, when someone’s face or countenance changed, or there is comment about one’s clothes being radiant, that’s a statement about one’s relationship with God and others, it’s symbolic of where their heart is. The disciples are seeing Jesus for who Jesus is.

How did they react? Well, they were overwhelmed, but they were glad to be there, they knew they wanted to be there. Peter was so caught up in the moment, that he wanted to create three dwellings or set up tents for Jesus, Elijah, and Moses. Somehow he wanted to contain that moment. He was terrified, as they all were. They didn’t know where to go or what to do, yet, they knew that things had changed.

It’s interesting that Elijah and Moses were the ones that Jesus was talking to…the author of this passage is making a statement about Jesus. Jesus, like Elijah, engages in prophetic ministry. Elijah’s ministry was marked by a passion for those on the outside of the “elect” or Israel, those on the margins, the poor, and how God had a purpose for them and loved them, and included them.

Moses gave us the law, our relational rules for how to treat one another and God. Jesus embodies the law and demonstrated to us how to live.

Moses also represents the exodus and Jesus’ exodus is representative of us, of everyone being released from bondage to whatever is holding us back from being the persons we were created to be.

Then, the clouds came. Maybe that’s to say that things aren’t always clear. Yet, God says, this is my son, part of me, I love him, LISTEN to him.

They left the mountain. But, notice that Jesus is with them. He’s not distant. Jesus told them not to tell anyone, they don’t have to validate themselves, just wait, there’s more to the story. Jesus would die, but he’d rise again.

I think that this story has a lot to say about us as persons and as a church. We are being changed, all of us. We experience change throughout our lives. It’s inevitable. Sometimes that change can be overwhelming. It can be confusing and also exciting. We know we want change and need it. When it comes, we’re not sure how to respond or the way for us may not be clear. But God says that we are not alone, that he’s with us, going through change with us, and to listen to his son. This Jesus is also rising up within us. He is alive and is working in and through us, calling us to have confidence in ourselves as his friends…to be made aware of ourselves, of God, and of others.

That Son lives in us and his Spirit is moving all around us. I sense that in this church and community.

I believe that Fleming Road UCC is going through a transfiguration. I also believe that each of one of us, together, are experiencing transfiguration in our relationships with one another and those we meet. We are being changed into something beautiful. We are inviting in conversation partners to help us see through the clouds of what that change will bring, we are practicing listening skills to each other, our community, and the word of God. I know I’m listening.

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I want to see this church filled with people of all sorts of ages, color, economic backgrounds, thoughts, opinions, beliefs, orientations, etc.. Folks all being called to live life together in the way of Jesus and folks seeking out a Jesus who is pursuing them. I hope to see all of us living into Jesus, a Jesus who was changed before the eyes of his disciples where they could see him in even deeper ways. It will take time, hard work, and some suffering, overwhelming at times, but it will also be dazzling, encouraging, and wonderful.

I don’t know what is in store for the church that I pastor, Fleming Road UCC, but it will be beautiful, it will be good for you, for me, and for everyone in this neighborhood and in other neighborhoods, wherever we find ourselves in some way. We will be changed, and we will be glad to be on the mountaintop as that change happens. We won’t change overnight more than likely, and we will grow over time together. But, isn’t it so good to be together as we go to the mountaintop and hear God’s voice telling us, I love you, I’m with you, I am present.

Fleming Road UCC.

As we approach Lent, may we use those 40 days as a time of repentance which simply means transformation, growth, of a changing of our minds and hearts and move towards renewal. Just as spring time will arrive, delivering us out of the death of winter, God wants to bring us into new life, deeper awareness, and to know that God has faith in us.

Jesus calls us friend, and invites us to be overwhelmed with something new, his love for us that transcends time and space and is present with us today and everyday. This love is demonstrated by Jesus’ pouring out his life for us and being broken for us and is symbolized in the Lord’s Supper which we participate in with remembrance of God’s action on our behalf and God’s invitation for us to come to the table of life that God shares with us, all of us.