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Fly Eagles Fly – sermon by Rev. Joe Moore

Isaiah 40:21-31

February 4, 2018

 

For the last two weeks, I have been driving my wife crazy. (Well, she would probably say that I have been driving her crazy for the last 22 years) But specifically for the last couple of weeks, I have been texting her or calling her or just asking her “Hey, did you hear that the Eagles are in the Super Bowl?”

Yes, I am an Eagles fan. I come by it honestly. As I mentioned last time I preached, our first church was in New Jersey. South Jersey to be exact. And South Jersey is basically a suburb of Philadelphia. We could actually see the Philly skyline from our house in New Jersey. So naturally, the Philly sports teams dominate the news. The Eagles, Phillies, Flyers, and 76ers are all anyone talks about.

So while we were living there, I adopted some of those teams as my own. I would root for the Phillies (if they weren’t playing the Braves) and the 76ers (on the rare occasion that I paid attention to the NBA) and I even had a Flyers t-shirt (despite knowing nothing about hockey). But the Eagles became my team, primarily since football is my favorite spectator sport.

While I naturally wanted to support the local teams, it also helped me as a pastor there. It gave me an instant conversation starter with the members of the congregation. It was kind of like what Paul meant when he wrote “To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law) so that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some.”

I’m not saying that I became an Eagles fan “for the sake of the Gospel” but it helped to establish some common ground with people that I really didn’t have much in common with otherwise. Being a North Carolina boy in New Jersey made me something of a stranger in a strange land. That is really the first steps in sharing the Gospel- finding something that brings you together, establishing a relationship, building trust. Coming together over things that are less significant allows you to then share about the more important things- like the good news of Jesus Christ.

From the very beginning of Christianity, followers of Jesus have been called to share the gospel- Jesus sent his 12 disciples out with the following instructions: “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Then the risen Christ expanded that mission when he said “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” and “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.”

 Sometimes I feel that we don’t really take that call as seriously as we should. We know that we are supposed to share the gospel. And we try to share the gospel. But it is not the driving force of our life and faith. We share it when it is convenient, or comfortable, or safe. But we seldom take risks to share the gospel, we seldom venture out of our comfort zones, we don’t have a sense of urgency or expectancy. We don’t feel like Paul does when he proclaims “Woe to me if I do not proclaim the gospel!”

That’s a pretty powerful statement. I don’t think that we have ever felt “great sorrow or distress” when we fail to proclaim the gospel. We may feel a little bit guilty, but it is a passing guilt that quickly fades. We may know that we should but we don’t really feel that bad when we don’t. We certainly don’t feel “woe”

I see three main reasons for this- 1) the sense of urgency isn’t as great for us as it was for the first Christians and 2) We haven’t had the Gospel “proclaimed” to us and 3) proclaiming the Gospel is hard! I want to spend a few minutes taking a closer look at each of these.

1)We don’t proclaim the Gospel with the same urgency that the earliest Christians had. Let’s face it, over time the sense of urgency will fade. Jesus’ original disciples, and other first century Christians, like Paul, believed that the return of Jesus was imminent. They believed that it would happen in their lifetime. Therefore they did not have much time to share the Gospel, the good news of Jesus, with the

Knowing both the command of Jesus to be his witnesses to the end of the earth and to make disciples of all nations combined with the belief that Jesus was returning soon, meant that they HAD to share the gospel as quickly as possible. I imagine that if we were living then, we would feel the same. But we aren’t living then. We are living now, and almost 2000 years have passed and believers are still waiting for Jesus to return. And we all know how that works. The longer we wait for something, the less urgent, the less immediate it seems. Sure, we still believe that it is going to happen. But instead of expecting it to happen tomorrow or next week or even next year, we just think that it is going to happen “someday” but who really knows when.

So we don’t feel that urgency to share the gospel. We know that if we don’t take advantage of the opportunities we have today, there is always tomorrow. And if not tomorrow, there is always the day after that and the day after that. For two millennia, there has always been another day, another opportunity, to share the good news of Jesus. It seems almost arrogant of us to think that this is THE day or this is THE time.

But maybe we should. Maybe we should try to revive that sense of urgency and immediacy to share the gospel that motivated the first Christians. Because we have been entrusted with the same gospel that they felt such urgency to share. We have been given the same mission, received the same calling. And the news is just as good now as it was then. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son so that whoever believes in him will not perish but will have everlasting life.”

This news is something that we should never hesitate to share. It is news that can’t wait until tomorrow. It is news that requires being told to the whole world. For God did not send his son, the Word did not become flesh, just for us, or for some of us. But for the whole world and it is up to us to tell the world. So we can’t stop until we have made disciples of ALL nations, until we have been Jesus’ witnesses to the very ends of the earth. We need to reclaim that sense of urgency.

The second reason that we don’t proclaim the Gospel as we should is that we have never had the Gospel proclaimed to us. Yes, we are all believers but our faith is primarily an inherited faith. It is something that we have received from our parents and family and church. Our faith is not something that we didn’t have one day and were told about the next. But it is something that we have always had, and always known. It is something that we have cared for and nurtured over the course of our lives. And that is a good thing. But it also limits our understanding of what it means to have the Gospel PROCLAIMED to us.

Imagine what it would be like to hear about Jesus and his love for the very first time; to hear the Good News that you had never heard before. It would be news that was actually NEW. I would want to run and tell everyone all about it. Kind of like how I have felt the need to text Kelly every day about the Eagles being in the Super Bowl. It’s just something that is impossible to keep to yourself.

We need to treat the Gospel in the same way. We need to be so excited about it, so amazed by it, that we can’t help but tell everyone we meet about how exciting and amazing it is. We believe that, don’t we? We believe that the Gospel of Jesus is exciting and amazing, right?

The final reason that we fail to take our call to proclaim the Gospel as seriously as we should is that it is just hard to proclaim the good news. And I mean that very literally. It is hard work. It takes confidence and commitment. It takes patience and persistence. Like a Boy Scout earning his Eagle award.

To proclaim the Gospel, we need to elevate the gospel. We need to see it- not as something that is essential on Sunday morning but nonessential the rest of the week- but as something, actually the ONE thing that is essential always. We need to remember that we need the good news; that everyone needs the good news.

And we need to believe that it is up to us to share that good news. Yet, in the midst of our calling to share the good news, we need to know that even though everyone needs the good news, not everyone is ready for it. Not everyone is ready to hear the gospel, to receive the gospel, to believe the gospel. But we can’t let that deter us, we can’t let that defeat us. We can’t let that even slow us down or stop us.

We have to keep on sharing the good news of Jesus even with people who aren’t ready to hear it, or receive it, or believe it. We have to keep on doing it until God makes them ready. It’s not up to us to determine when and where people are ready to hear and receive the gospel. Our task is to proclaim it- to all people and all the time.

God knows how difficult that can be. God knows and God helps. The words we read in Isaiah make that clear. The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless. Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.

God gives us all that we need to fulfill the mission he has given us. God gives us power and strength. God allows us to fly like eagles, soaring higher and higher, as we seek to help the world claim the victory over love over hate, of light over darkness, of life over death. That is the Gospel, that is the good news. Through Jesus, love wins over hate, light overcomes darkness, life defeats death.

So let us regain that urgency that Christians once had because the good news is THAT good. Let us proclaim the Gospel that we have received. And let us walk and not faint, let us run and not be weary. Let us fly like Eagles and tell all the world the good news of their salvation. Do you not know? Have you not heard? We do know and we have heard, so now let us go and share what we know and tell what we have heard.

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A few pictures from our 2017 Lovefeast services taken by our church member, Denise Hunt:

 

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For the third consecutive year, members of New Philadelphia will have 12 chances to serve our community in a big way during the Advent season. This is the time for pulling out all of the stops as we discover new opportunities for meaningful service to men, women, children and families right here in our “neck of the woods.”

Our 12 Days of Service will begin on Friday, December 1st. Some familiar projects will be available, such as preparing lunch bags for City with Dwellings and taking a Lovefeast to Samaritan Ministries. We’ll also welcome children from South Fork Elementary School as they assemble a “putz” representing our neighborhood 100 years ago.

There will be new projects, too. Working with Chaplain Robert Wolfe and the Friends of Moravian Prison Ministry, we’ll hold a men’s clothing drive to provide gently used items that will help inmates transition into the workplace.

Start considering now how your small groups, your friends and your family members will participate in the 2017 12 Days of Service. As has been our experience for the past two years, the Advent season becomes even more special when we are strengthening our connections with our community and with each other through service.

Continue reading 12 Days of Service

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Provincial Women’s Board, Southern Province presents:
Fall Celebration at Bethania Moravian Church
Saturday, September 9 at 9 a.m. (Coffee) and 9:30 a.m. (Programming begins)

The Rev. Kelly Moore will be reviewing the Bible Study book for this Fall, “Bible Basics-Genesis” written by Sister Nancy Chandler of Hope Moravian in Indiana. The nine sessions in this book will challenge you with the study of Creation, The Fall of Adam and Eve, The Flood/ Noah, the Tower of Babel, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. Chapters 1 – 45 of Genesis are the targeted chapters. Plan to have a year of gaining knowledge and good discussion with this study.

The Rev. Victoria Lasley will review the Mission Study book written by John and Nancy Gilliland. (John passed away in early January.) John was a doctor and Nancy a nurse; they served in Nicaragua and Honduras starting in the mid 50’s. The book covers how they met, decided on mission work, their education, going to Central America to work in a clinic and raise their daughters.

Contact the PWB to make your group reservations today at (336) 722-4911 or pwbmcsp@gmail.com

 

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WE’RE ALL FULL!  REGISTRATION FOR VBS IS CLOSED! 

Vacation Bible School is offered each year during the summer months as a way to reach out to the children in our congregation, preschool, and neighborhood. The date for this year’s VBS is July 24- July 27, 2017 from 9am – 12 noon.   Children ages 4 years to 5th grade are invited to attend. Children will learn basic Bible stories through the ‘structured’ station model which will have Bible stories, games, snacks, music, and crafts.

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Sermon – June 4, 2017 – Rev. Joe Moore

Today is Confirmation Sunday. At the 11:10 service, 8 young people will confirm their faith in God-Father, Son and Holy Spirit- and they will state their desire to follow God with faith, love, and hope. This year’s Confirmation Class has been meeting together for several months as we talked about who God is, what God does, and how God calls us to respond. It has been a joy for me to be with them and lead them in this part of their faith journey.

One of the things that I love about teaching Confirmation is getting to choose each kids Confirmation text. It is something that I give a lot of thought and prayer as I try to find the perfect Scripture to serve as their own personal watchword, as a passage that they can keep in their hearts and minds as they go through their lives. Hopefully the texts that I have chosen for this year’s confirmands will be as meaningful and memorable to them as my Confirmation Text is to me. On Palm Sunday 1983, Craig Troutman gave me Philippians 1:6 as my Confirmation text- I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.

Over the years, as I have taught confirmation, I will often also choose a Confirmation Text for the class as a whole; a text that serves to capture the experience of the class as they came together and formed their own unique community, a text that really says something about them, about who they are and where they are in their life and faith as a group. I remember one class at Fries Memorial that left me no other choice for a Confirmation Text than that shortest verse in the Bible- John 11:35 “Jesus wept.” But that was all in good fun, they didn’t really cause Jesus to weep, at least they hadn’t at that point in their lives. It was also easy for me to choose a text for this Confirmation Class- “Be still and know that I am God.”

Now, you may chuckle and think that I choose that text for this class because they had trouble “being still” and while that may have been the situation at times, it is not why I chose that as the class Confirmation verse. One of the things that we did every week was to think about, and talk about, the ways that we had seen God at work among us, how we had experienced the presence of God as we went about our lives- moment by moment, day to day. We even had a group text message that we would use to share those times that we had seen and experienced God’s presence.

But it wasn’t always easy. It is often hard to be aware of how God is present and working in our lives. That is why we need to “be still” and pay attention to what is going on around us, to allow us to know that God is God and God is present with us. “Be still and know that I am God.” is one of God’s ways of telling us to “Pay Attention.” That’s what Pentecost is about. It’s about God telling us to pay attention. The followers of Jesus had gathered, after his crucifixion and death, after his resurrection and ascension, they were all together in one place. And God told them to pay attention. It wasn’t in a silent, peaceful, reflective, “be still and know” kind of way. But more like a shout of “Hey! This is important!” The sound of a rushing wind filled the place and tongues of fire appeared and rested over each one of them. And they were suddenly able to speak in languages that they had never spoken before.

And that was a pretty good way to get people’s attention. It was a pretty good way of letting people know that something important was happening. It was a pretty good way to let them know that the Holy Spirit was among them. I imagine that if the same thing happened here this morning- if the sanctuary was filled with a rushing wind, if tongues of fire appeared on each of us, if we suddenly began speaking in languages we had never spoken before, I think that we would pay attention.

Pentecost was when it all came together for those followers of Jesus, it was when they became the “church”. It was when they realized that God was with them- God the Creating Father, God the Redeeming Son, God the Blessing Spirit. It was when they knew that they had all that they needed to do what God was calling them to do- what God had created them to do, what Jesus had redeemed them to do, what the Holy Spirit would bless them as they did, it was when they knew that they had all that they needed to be his witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

Pentecost and Confirmation is when it all comes together for us, too. It is when we are reminded to Pay Attention, for the Spirit is among us. It is when we are reminded
to Pay Attention, for God is creating, God is redeeming, God is blessing — right here and right now. We are called to pay attention to what God is creating, to who God is redeeming, to how God is blessing. God creates in faith, God redeems with love, God blesses in hope. God’s faith is in us, God’s love is for us, God’s hope rests upon us. God is here- God is creating. God is here- God is redeeming. God is here- God is blessing. God is among us, God is calling us, God needs us. And God is blessing us with all that WE need- to be who He has created us to be, to become who He has redeemed us to become, to do what He has blessed us to do. God is here. So Pay Attention.

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“Ride On! Ride On…”
Palm Sunday April 9, 2017  
Pastor Joe Moore

Today has been a Sunday that I have been anticipating for a long time. I just love Palm Sunday. It is one of the most joyful days of the year. It ranks right up there with Christmas Eve and Easter Sunday. So I was all geared up to preach a resounding, upbeat, joyful Palm Sunday sermon today.

I mean, how could I not be? Just look at this place! It is amazing how it has been changed from our beautiful sanctuary into a beautiful prayer garden. It is the perfect place for us to celebrate the coming of our Lord and Savior. Today, of all days is a time to focus on the joy; the joy of Palm Sunday, the joy of welcoming our Savior, the joy of preparing the way of the Lord, the joy of singing Hosanna! Blessed is he that comes!

For weeks now, I have been ready to “rejoice greatly” and “shout for joy” as we welcomed our Savior into our midst. And up until now, throughout all of this service, I was really feeling it. From the band prelude gathering us for worship, to the music of our choirs, to praying our Palm Sunday liturgy- “Sing O heavens and be joyful O earth for the glory of the Lord shall be revealed!” Hail to the Lord’s Anointed!, to welcoming new members into our church family, right up to hearing that familiar story of Jesus’ triumphant, yet humble, entry into Jerusalem. I was really feeling that joy!

Until just a couple of minutes ago, as we sang that last hymn, Ride On! Ride on in Majesty! It is one of my favorites, I can’t imagine Palm Sunday without it. But it’s not exactly joyful. It’s melancholy at best, and maybe even a bit depressing. The tune is beautiful but certainly not joyful. And the words…

Ride on! Ride on in majesty! In lowly pomp ride on to die;
O Christ your triumphs now begin o’er captive death and conquered sin.

Ride on! Ride on in majesty! The winged armies of the sky
look down with sad and wond’ring eyes to see the approaching sacrifice.

Ride on! Ride on in majesty! In lowly pomp ride on to die;
bow your meek head to mortal pain, then take, O God, your power and reign.

As powerful and beautiful as they are, they make me, in the middle of this Palm Sunday joy, wonder about Jesus. I wonder about what he was thinking and feeling as he rode down the Mount of Olives. Riding on and seeing the crowds so excited by his arrival, so filled with hope and promise and anticipation and joy. Riding on and knowing that in order to meet their hopes and fulfill that promise, to live up to the anticipation and make their joy complete, it would require his death.

Riding on knowing that he would have to capture death (his own death) before he could conquer sin, the sins of the people around him and even the sins of all the world. Riding on knowing that even the angels in heaven couldn’t save him and sadly wondering why it was all necessary. Wondering why he must be the sacrifice for them, for all those following behind him. Riding on and seeing his cross and his death, his brutal and painful and humiliating death, and knowing that it was necessary before he could take his power and reign.

I wonder what that was like for him. It couldn’t have been fun or joyful, for Jesus knew where he was going. He knew where that procession would ultimately lead. But I wonder if he knew then what we know now. I think that he probably did. He told his disciples what would happen, that he would rise again after three days. But still I wonder if, riding on in majesty, riding on to his death, I wonder if his humanity got in the way of his divinity.

I wonder if he wondered, whether it would really happen, if he really would rise after three days. By then he knew that his death was inevitable but did he know that his resurrection was as well? Jesus was, as Paul wrote, in the form of God though he did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited. Instead he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. He humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Did he fully and completely believe that once he humbled himself, to the point of death, that God would then exalt him and raise him from death to eternal life? Riding on into Jerusalem could he see past the cross and the grave to the empty tomb? Could he see his Father on his sapphire throne awaiting him? Maybe he could. Maybe he had full and complete confidence that he would rise from death.

That confidence, if it is there at all, seems to falter as the week goes on, as he draws closer to the cross. Just before his arrest, Jesus prays in the garden, “Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me.” Certainly that request could be more about the fear of the pain of crucifixion than about any doubts of resurrection. Whatever it is about, it serves as a great reminder to us. It reminds us that Jesus was human, just like us; that he had doubts and fears, just like us; that he felt pain and sorrow, just like us. Yet, even though he was just like us, he rode on, rode on in majesty.

Jesus knew where he was heading, he knew where the journey would end. And he rode on anyway. In lowly pomp, he rode on to die. He rode on to approach the cross as the sacrifice, not for his sins, but for ours. He rode on and bowed his head to mortal pain. Despite his doubts and fears, despite the pain and sorrow he knew was waiting for him, Jesus rode on.

That is indeed reason for us to celebrate today, to celebrate with great joy. The fact that Jesus loved us, and all the world, so much, that he rode on is great cause to celebrate. For Jesus knew that everyone would desert him, betray him and deny him. And he still rode on! That is the paradox of Palm Sunday- that sorrow underlies the joy, that there is fear beside the hope, that death accompanies life. It is why the rest of Holy Week is so important.

We could easily go from the anticipatory joy of Palm Sunday to the overwhelming joy of Easter Sunday and miss all that comes in between. We could go from “Hosanna, Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord!” to “the Lord is risen indeed!” … just like that. However that would be kind of like reading the first and last chapters of a book or watching the beginning and end of a movie, while skipping everything that happens in between.

Doing so during Holy Week, we would miss out on some of the most important teachings, some of the most important events in Jesus’ life. It’s no accident that right after Jesus says “Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites” and proceeds to tell them why they are hypocrites, it’s no accident that right after that, he tells them what they should be doing instead: feeding the hungry and giving water to the thirsty, welcoming the stranger and clothing the naked, caring for the sick and visiting the prisoners, doing for the “least of these”. It’s no accident that Jesus is sitting in the Jerusalem temple, just days away from his betrayal and arrest, his crucifixion and death, when he says that the greatest commandments are to love God and to love your neighbor. All of this is why Holy Week is important, it reminds us why we don’t want to miss out on all that happens in between Palm Sunday and Easter. The word “holy” means to be set apart. And the days of this coming week are meant to be holy and set apart. It is why we have set our sanctuary apart from its normal appearance and transformed it into this beautiful prayer garden. So that we can have a place to come as we set this week apart from our daily routines and schedules and we make time to come and worship. It is place that we can meet as we journey from Palm Sunday to Easter. It is where we can come and ride on with Jesus into all that lies before us- the sorrow and the joy, the fear and the hope, the death and the life.

Brothers and Sisters, let us set apart this holy week and ride on with Jesus. Let us be here, with him and with each other.

Ride on! Ride on in majesty! In lowly pomp ride on to die;
O Christ your triumphs now begin o’er captive death and conquered sin.

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Transfiguration Sunday – February 26, 2017
“Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes” Rev. Joe Moore

 

It has taken awhile but I’m finally starting to feel comfortable preaching from up here in this high pulpit. Like almost everything else involved with coming here to New Philadelphia, it was a big change. Only once had I ever preached from such a high pulpit. When I was in seminary, serving as the student pastor at Nazareth Moravian, their sanctuary had a pulpit that was probably even higher up than this one. It was rarely used. But on one Sunday, when I was going to be preaching, the pastor told me that I needed to try out preaching from the high pulpit. He said, You never know, you might end up serving a church that has a high pulpit.” And here I am.

 

Like most changes, even insignificant ones, it seems daunting at first, but then with time, you begin to adjust, you begin to get used to it, you start to feel comfortable. Today is Transfiguration Sunday and it is a Sunday about change, specifically about change in appearance. One year, I even kind of had my own transfiguration Sunday, though it didn’t happen on the actual Transfiguration Sunday” it did happen on an important Sunday about 7 Sundays later. My transfiguration Sunday was Easter Sunday 2015.

 

That Easter was a big one for me. Earlier in the year, I was elected the Chair of the Salem Congregation Board of Elders. Among other things, that meant that I got to preside at the Easter Sunrise Service in God’s Acre. Having grown up attending that service, and having several generations of my family buried in that cemetery, it was a pretty big thrill for me to get to lead that service. But after leading 8,000 people in proclaiming the resurrection, it was a bit anticlimactic to lead the morning worship at Fries Moravian. So I decided to make a little change.

 

So, are you ready for this? On Easter Sunday, I wore a bow tie for the first time ever. Now that may seem insignificant but for me, it was a big deal. I had spent years rolling my eyes whenever I saw someone sporting a bow tie. I just didn’t like them and thought that they looked kind of silly. They definitely weren’t for me. Until that Easter Sunday when I decided to transform my appearance by sporting a bow tie. And I can’t really tell you why I changed my mind about bow ties. I can’t really give you a reason why I changed that part of my appearance but I can tell you that I liked it enough to keep on wearing bow ties. I haven’t really worn one here because I’m not sure how it would look with a preaching robe. But I still wear them when I can.  So change, even in something as trivial as me wearing a bow tie, can happen.

 

Change may take a long time to come about, or it may be instantaneous but when it happens it can be good and it can be lasting. In our Gospel lesson today, Jesus is transfigured”. He is changed. His appearance changes. It begins as he takes Peter, James and John up on a mountaintop to pray. While they are there, while Jesus was praying, his appearance changes. His face becomes different. His clothes become dazzling white. And he just looks different.

 

While there is more to the story the fact that Jesus changes is the essence of Transfiguration Sunday. That is what it is all about. That is why we call it the Transfiguration.” That is what transfiguration means. It is a change in appearance that signifies more than a physical change. It is also a spiritual change. Actually, the physical change is just a sign of the spiritual change.

 

Think about that for a second: Jesus (the Messiah, the Savior, the Son of God) Jesus himself underwent a spiritual change. I think that sometimes that idea kind of gets lost or overlooked in this story. We tend to focus on the physical change in Jesus–the altered appearance and dazzling white clothes- or on the sudden appearance of Moses and Elijah. Or even on the reactions of Peter, James and John; Peter wanting to build a shelter so that they could stay there forever. Or we focus on the voice of God, speaking from the cloud: This is my Son, the beloved, listen to him!” We focus on all of those important, amazing and exciting parts of this story. And, when we do, we overlook what it is really all about: that Jesus himself experienced a spiritual change.

 

The Gospel doesn’t go into the details of the spiritual change Jesus experienced. We don’t know the what or the why of the change that took place within him- the spiritual change that was seen in his transfigured appearance. But we do know that a change happened. And we know that very soon after Jesus was transfigured, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.” Prior to this moment, he had spent most of his ministry in and around Galilee. It was there, away from the center of religious and political power, where he preached and taught and healed. It was there where he proclaimed the coming of the kingdom- where the meek will inherit the earth, where the deaf will hear, where the blind will see, where the world is turned upside down.

 

Jesus had been there and he had done that. And now he was transfigured, he was spiritually changed. His face was set and he was ready to go and accomplish” what he needed to do in Jerusalem. He was ready to enter the city in humble triumph, to cleanse the Temple and confront the Pharisees. Jesus was ready to share a last supper with his disciples and to tell them to take his body and blood and to ask them to remember him in them. Jesus was even ready for Judas to betray him and lead his enemies to him to arrest him. He was ready for his trial before the Chief Priests and Pilate. He was even ready for his crucifixion.

 

After Jesus was transfigured, after that spiritual change had occurred, JESUS WAS READY. He was ready to die and rise to new life. And we all know what happened when he did. So, what about us? Are we ready? Are we ready to be transfigured? To be spiritually changed? To be transformed? Are we ready to die to our old lives and rise to new life?

 

We may think that we don’t need to be changed, to be transformed. But if it was necessary for Jesus, then it is probably necessary for us. And while we don’t know the what and the why of Jesus’ transformation, the what and they why of our transformation is easy to see:  we need to change to be more like him. We need to change to be more like Jesus.

 

As followers of Jesus, we are called to live our lives in such a way that when people look at us, they see Jesus. They see grace. They see forgiveness. They see compassion. They see faith. They see hope. They see love. So the change that needs to take place within us, the transformation that needs to occur, is for us to live as imitators of Jesus.”

 

Living our lives as imitators of Jesus is what the weeks to come are all about. The season of Lent, which begins on Wednesday, it is a time for us to examine ourselves. It is an opportunity for us to determine the what and the why of our own spiritual change. It is a chance for us to begin our own transfiguration. We do so as we ask ourselves what we need to do to be imitators of Christ, as we examine what we need to change so that we can be more like Jesus. The season of Lent is the time for us to set our face to Jerusalem” It is when we confront  those things  in our lives that we need to allow to die, in order for God to bring new life.

 

The next six weeks give us the chance to change to be more like Jesus. It may seem daunting at first, the idea that we can change to be more like Jesus. It may be something that we even resist. Being like Jesus looks like it is something that is hard to do. Living like Jesus looks like it is something that is hard to do. Loving like Jesus looks like it is something that is hard to do. Serving like Jesus looks like something that is hard to do. Can we serve others before we even take care of our own needs? Because that is how Jesus served. Can we love unconditionally? Because that is how Jesus loved. Can we live, not for what we want but for what God wants? Because that is how Jesus lived.

 

Those are tough questions. They represent changes that are difficult for us to even see, much less for us to make in our lives. But that is what the season of Lent allows us to do. It allows to see how we need to change to be like Jesus. During the next six weeks, the time between now and Easter, we have opportunity for prayer and reflection. We have the chance to study and learn. We have the chance to worship and serve. We have the chance to change to be more like Jesus.

 

Change is not easy. Transformation is hard. And it can’t be done alone, we need each other to help each other as we change and grow. The day of my transfiguration”,  that Easter Sunday when I wore my first bow tie,  there was one thing that I didn’t tell you about it. But I needed help to do it. I couldn’t tie my bow tie. I watched videos online and I tried and I tried and I tried. And I came close but never got it quite right. So I asked for help. I brought my bow tie to church and one of the church members helped me to tie it.

 

That’s important to remember.  No matter what change that we need to make in our lives. No matter what it is that we need to do to be more like Jesus. No matter how hard it is to do that, there are people who have already done it. People right here in this church. And they can help us. We can help each other. That is one of the reasons that God has brought us together.

 

As we enter into the season of Lent, let us set our faces to Jerusalem. Let us get ready. Let us get ready to change, so that we can be more like Jesus. So that we can live like Jesus, so that we can love like Jesus, so that we can serve like Jesus. The only way to be it is to do it. It is time to face the strange” things in our lives, those things that prevent us from revealing the image of God that dwells in each of us. It is time to face the changes that we need to make. It is time for us become imitators of Jesus. It is time for our transfiguration.

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