Astounding Glory/Wholly Holy

Sunday 2-7-16

St Barnabas, Norwich VT

Sermon by Rev Jennie M Anderson

Lord, make us stewards of ourselves, that we may be servants of others. Take my words and speak through them, take our minds and think through them, take our hearts and set them on fire, for Jesus’ sake.  Amen.  Good morning!  Welcome!  

Astounding Glory/Wholly Holy

"The glory of God is a human being fully alive; and to be alive consists in beholding God." So said Irenaeus of the 2nd century.

"We are living in a world that is absolutely transparent, and God is shining through it all the time." Thomas Merton.

And my friend Kate says about this Sunday that we've come to the end of the season of Epiphany, when we're particularly attuned to the times that God is manifest in the life of the world. Here on the edge of Lent, as we turn with Jesus toward Jerusalem and the mount of Calvary, we pause on another mountain for one of those "peak experiences" as sought-after by post-Enlightenment, scientifically minded folks as by those who call themselves "post-modern." What is that about, that deep human longing to taste, however briefly, the transcendence of God? Peter, James, and John got much more than a brief taste. They had one of those ecstatic experiences that might have transformed their lives then and there, except that they didn't know what to do with it when it happened. Sleepy-headed Peter practically babbled, "not knowing what he said" (9:33), offering to put up tents and preserve the experience. We are sure that he was, of course, only trying to be helpful. 

Glory, Glory Halleluiah Lord we praise your holy name. Glory, glory halleluiah Lord we praise your holy name…

Those of us who think that every situation requires us to DO something, however well-intentioned our efforts, are called back to faithfulness (and perhaps simplicity) by the voice of God in the story: "This is my Son, my chosen, listen to him!" As usual, however, Peter is very much like us. We often try to talk our way into understanding, to process an experience so that we make its meaning part of who we are. But this story is, first, about Jesus and who Jesus is, and the disciples are invited into an incredibly intimate moment with him. In the midst of teaching and healing, Jesus has called his followers to stop and pray, to be open to and strengthened by God's unexpected and indescribable grace, instructed by the voice of the Still-speaking God, and empowered to continue on the path of Jesus, no matter where it leads. [The Rev. Kathryn Matthews]

Glory to God in the highest and peace to God’s people on earth. LORD God heavenly king almighty God and Father... we worship you we give you thanks we praise you for your glory…

I believe that we need always to be working on our process of understanding Jesus’ revelation to us and redemption of us as well as stepping out to make all of our existence a better endeavor! So I want to mention several traditions that we who are on the ground in a particular way, doing the work of redemption, freedom-making and even, on occasion mountain-top experiences!

First, let me explain a couple of things about our spiritual life. We are each involved in a spiritual journey individually, AND we are also connected to a community or corporate journey AND we are not set apart from the whole of humanity in its experience, we just don’t often connect to the whole humanity as a whole in a regular way outside academics and our imaginations. The season after Epiphany, the little ordinary time, is a time to see the revelatory Jesus how Jesus is uncovered for us throughout the gospel lessons and what that might mean to us. After the Mountain top experience, later this week, we come into Lent. Lent is a time and a great opportunity to go deeper into our individual spiritual journey in the light of the season after Epiphany, and it is a time and a great opportunity to go deeper into our corporate spiritual journey in the light of the season after Epiphany. In terms of a corporate spiritual journey, this year in particular, we can consider that, much of Lent 2016 happens in February, Black History Month…  I want to give a nod to the individual and corporate ways we can engage in our sinfulness, our redemptive opportunities and the great possibilities for building a better world!

Lord Jesus Christ only son of the father lord god lamb of god… glory, glory halleluiah lord we praise your holy name…

Second, the work of antiracism, economic justice, and social justice as a whole, are all both, individual spiritual work AND, corporate or community spiritual work. For example, individually, to change oneself from a pattern of giving only at Easter time, or giving only of our money and not our time, or giving only to our local missions and not our international missions… to make these kind of changes in our life patterns can be a simple thing, …or not. Sometimes to make a change in our giving can be something that is so challenging to us that is takes prayer, partnership and a whole community’s worth of support to get it accomplished. 

You take away the sin of the world have mercy on us… 

Another example of individual Lenten life changes in which we can have a social justice outcome is to practice a deeper connection to God and God’s own love in the world such as choosing to practice one new action that will bring you to a healthier way of being, and therefore closer to God… this may be kind of familiar to many of us who have been church goers for most of our lives but perhaps even YOU, you who are life-long church goers, can find a new perspective in how you live your spiritual life and how you might live it in a healthier way. For example, perhaps you might choose for Lent to walk every day and then you find out that in much of the world, over a billion people, mostly women, have to walk every day to get to clean water. This is something you might pray about while you walk each day for your better health. 

Perhaps you might choose a change in your life during Lent that seems small but when you begin your first few steps on that journey, you find that the “back pack” required to take that trip is waaaaaay heavier than you thought… and you need God’s help in order to bring you closer to God. Perhaps you might set out to change something in your life’s prayer practices by exploring a Buddhist Retreat Center, there’s one in Vershire, VT and find that you wind up doing just a totally tangential thing by exploring the Islam Community Center, there’s one in Winooski, VT and THEN you need God’s help in order for you to understand what God’s plan for your prayer life truly is for you and how it might lead you to visit a vision of social justice like the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program in Colchester, VT. Or maybe you just join the Tai Chi group that meets here at St Barnabas on Thursday mornings as a new thing to try… setting out to change something in your life’s prayer practices, that might just be some heavy “backpack!”

You are seated at the right hand of the father receive our prayer…

Third, almost all aspects of our spiritual lives that consist of practices or disciplines also involve finding a way to stay connected to each other along the way. We, here at St Barnabas, gather together and share our stories, sing, pray, work in the garden, eat breakfast at the grange and have soup here for lunch, we walk in the snow, and come in for something hot to drink… and eat together… again!, we build fires to celebrate our blessings and our sacred signs and we receive ashes to remember our mortality. Through these activities and gatherings we connect in a meaningful way that keeps us coming together. Sometimes we invite others to join us too! There are many ways that we stay connected to each other along the way here at St Barnabas or on behalf of St Barnabas besides Sunday mornings.

You alone are the holy one, you alone are the lord… you alone are the most high Jesus Christ with the holy spirit lord god lamb of god…

On behalf of St Barnabas, we volunteer at or donate to the Haven, and we play the recorder, the violin or another instrument in a musical group, and we show up at UVIP, and we provide for and visit projects supported by Episcopal Relief and Development, and we join Dan and Whit’s and give milk, and we bring hot cider and/or hot chocolate to the workers at the town dump, and we bring our dog to be with kids for therapy, and we bring our kids to be with dogs for therapy, and we visit our elders at Valley Terrace, the Norwich Home and at Kendal over in Hanover and in our fellow community members’ homes, and we walk in the woods with each other and we walk back out again… On behalf of St Barnabas, we do many, many things and by doing these things and being who we are, we stay connected. And so, I would like to bless each and every one of you with a Mountain Top experience here at the end of the season after Epiphany; and I would like to bless each and every one of you also with a deep and meaningful Lenten season beginning this week on Ash Wednesday.

Glory, Glory Halleluiah Lord we praise your holy name. Glory, glory halleluiah Lord we praise your holy name…

Let us pray. Eternal God, you revealed to the disciples the everlasting glory of Jesus Christ. Grant us who have not seen and yet believe, the gift of your Holy Spirit, that we may boldly live the gospel and shine with your transforming glory, as people changed and changing through the redeeming presence of our Savior. Amen.