OK ... let's try this again! Sorry about the chaos at the end of last week with my positive COVID test and stuff. I am feeling fine today, but life, Church and God's plans move on.
I have had some time to reflect about being "on-board" 100% for Jesus this year and have had a few thoughts that were tweaked a bit by Nicey's Sunday School class yesterday. By the way, the class, preparation and participation was wonderful. If you want to join next week's (Sunday the 8th at 10 AM) lesson, click here!
Yesterday we were talking about Mark's account of the Transfiguration (Mark 8:2-7). On either Mount Tabor or Mount Hermon (there are arguments for both) Jesus and the disciples are met by Moses and Elijah. This is largely considered the second greatest miracle in the Gospels (after the Resurrection). The disciples are highly impressed and Peter wants to build three shelters, one for Moses, one for Elijah and one for Jesus. This statement indicates their reverence for Moses (representing the Law and Patriarchs) and Elijah (representing the prophets). It seems Peter is placing Jesus and the other two figures on equal footing. Then a cloud appears and covers all of them and a voice (God's voice) from the cloud says something profound that we should learn from in our current state of things. "This is my Son whom I love ... listen to Him!" proclaims God from the cloud. What should this mean to us?
First, God is saying that Elijah and Moses, the Law, the Patriarchs and the Prophets all point to something bigger than them ... Jesus. It is not only "Jesus 2020" ... it is Jesus all the time. I hear often "are you a New Testament or Old Testament Christian?" At least in Methodism, we are full Bible Christians that believe what Jesus said when he said He had come to fulfill Scripture (Matthew 5:17). The Sermon on the Mount expresses this in Jesus often saying ... "You have heard ... but I say." Jesus is expressing, clarifying and amplifying God's Word. He is making sure our ability to proof-text, fit the Scripture to our agenda and make God in our image has no foothold in what Jesus is saying. He is clear ... "Do unto others what you would have them do to you (Matthew 7:12)." "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul and all your mind. And a second is like it ... you shall love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:37-40)." Jesus said the Law and the Prophets "hang" on this commandment. Are you starting to get the point here!? Jesus, and what Jesus commands us in primary.
Second, as we enter a contentious election time I hear people invoke Scripture that leads them to aggression, anger, nationalism, hyperbole, intimidation, demonization of others who disagree with them, and all sorts of behavior that are never condoned, commanded or led by the "author and perfector" of our faith, Jesus. The words and ideas Jesus uses (click here for link) include Follower, Lover, Prayer Warrior (the only kind of warrior I see mentioned), Light (we are to be a city on a hill), Humble, Watcher, Rememberer, Forgiver, Seeker, Giver, Worshiper and Servant. Compare these to what you are hearing from angry voices and those who are trying to stir you into a frenzy. Compare these to a Jesus that said "God so loved that He gave His only Son so we could believe and be saved" [John 3:16]) snd "I didn't come into the world to condemn it but to save it" [John 3:17]). What I am asking is for all of us who follow Jesus and take a transcendent step back (step outside of yourself and honestly look at YOU). Ask yourself ... Am I following Jesus or am I following a god I have made into the image I like? Am doing what God told 12 disciples up on a high mountain as they are faced with seeing the real Elijah, the real Moses and hearing the true and living God say ... "This is my son ... listen to HIM."?
It is easy to follow the god we have created to fit our rhetoric. Jesus faces Pharisees who loved their authority and power. He faced teachers who knew the Law and Prophetic writings intimately. He faced His own disciples who were nationalists and zealots for forceful takeback of their nation. He faced Romans who wanted to maintain their hold on Israel. He faced familiar people who made fun of this "wannabee" preacher. He faced the politics of a time of great division and turmoil, and God knew this when He told 12 disciples to listen to Jesus ... not even the most revered people of Jewish history. Do you see these factions in our political scene today?
We feel self righteous and self justified. That is because often our God IS self. God is asking for something better. He is asking us to do something really hard. He is saying that we are to follow, worship and serve the God who actually IS! He is telling us and 12 disciples that Jesus is above all, because He is our Lord ... our master ... our teacher. And back to what Moses said in Deuteronomy 30:20 ... "The Lord is your life and He is the key to living long in the land God has given us." Jesus 2020