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    • Sunday service - Holy Communion June 4, 2023 at 9:30 am – 11:00 am Grace Church 215 Pleasant Street, Sheldon, VT Website: www.gracechurchsheldon.comTime:  09:30 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)        Every week on Sun.Join Zoom Meetinghttps://us02web.zoom.us/j/83929911344?pwd=alZQTWZMN0ZkWFFPS1hmNjNkZkU2UT09Meeting ID: 839 2991 1344Password: Call for detailsOne tap mobile+13126266799,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (Chicago)+19294362866,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (New York)Dial by your location        +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)        +1 929 436 2866 US (New York)Meeting ID:…
    • Sunday service - Holy Communion June 11, 2023 at 9:30 am – 11:00 am Grace Church 215 Pleasant Street, Sheldon, VT Website: www.gracechurchsheldon.comTime:  09:30 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)        Every week on Sun.Join Zoom Meetinghttps://us02web.zoom.us/j/83929911344?pwd=alZQTWZMN0ZkWFFPS1hmNjNkZkU2UT09Meeting ID: 839 2991 1344Password: Call for detailsOne tap mobile+13126266799,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (Chicago)+19294362866,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (New York)Dial by your location        +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)        +1 929 436 2866 US (New York)Meeting ID:…
    • Sunday service - Holy Communion June 18, 2023 at 9:30 am – 11:00 am Grace Church 215 Pleasant Street, Sheldon, VT Website: www.gracechurchsheldon.comTime:  09:30 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)        Every week on Sun.Join Zoom Meetinghttps://us02web.zoom.us/j/83929911344?pwd=alZQTWZMN0ZkWFFPS1hmNjNkZkU2UT09Meeting ID: 839 2991 1344Password: Call for detailsOne tap mobile+13126266799,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (Chicago)+19294362866,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (New York)Dial by your location        +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)        +1 929 436 2866 US (New York)Meeting ID:…

The Day of Pentecost Year C June 5, 2022

Acts 2:1-21
Psalm 104:25-35, 37b
Romans 8:14-17

Our gospel for today is part of Jesus’ last talk with his disciples, his so-called Last Discourse. In this portion of the discourse, Jesus says that those who see him have seen God. Jesus also says, “The one who believes in me will also do the works that I do, and in fact will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.”

Jesus also says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the father and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you,” And then Jesus gives them his peace. his shalom.

After this, Jesus is crucified, rises from the dead, appears to various disciples—He walks with two of them on the road to Emmaus. He appears to Peter and the others on the shore of the lake for a fish and bread breakfast. Twice, he moves past the locked doors and comes to them as they wait in fear of the authorities.

Forty days later, he ascends to heaven to be with God. Before he leaves, he tells them to go into Jerusalem, stay together, pray, and wait for the coming of the Spirit. That is exactly what they do. They miss him terribly. They wonder what they are going to do without him, and they keep remembering that he has told them that in seeing him they have seen God, that they are to love each other and they are to wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth.

Our reading from Acts describes the coming of the Holy Spirit. They are together. They are waiting. They are grieving. missing him terribly, and wondering how they are going to do all the things he has asked them to do. It is the day of Pentecost, fifty days after the Passover. In their calendar this is a feast at the end of the wheat harvest. People have come to Jerusalem from all over the Mediterranean basin to celebrate this feast of Weeks.

A huge wind comes up, the ruach that molds and shapes the desert sands. Flames of fire dance over their heads. And suddenly, these uneducated folk who have never studied foreign languages, burst forth in all the known languages of the world. They proclaim God’s love heart to heart in all the languages of the known world. People from all of the regions surrounding the Mediterranean Sea hear about the love of God in a way that deeply touches their hearts.

People think the disciples are drunk, but Peter assures them that is not the case. God has given this group of people who are devastated at the loss of their leader the gift to share God’s love heart to heart. All barriers are dissolved. This little group of simple Galileans is going to turn the world upside down. Pentecost is the birthday of the Church, and we are here, two thousand years later, to continue to share God’s love heart to heart with everyone we meet.

In his last discourse with them, Jesus said that he would send the Spirit. And here we have a profound paradox. Jesus is not here in a physical, bodily sense. We cannot literally see him or hear him, but we can sense his call. We can feel his leading, especially when we take time to be quiet with him in prayer and ask for his direction .

Because Jesus has sent the Holy Spirit to lead us into all the truth of his love, he can do something he could not do when he was physically here. He can be everywhere at once. He can be with devastated families and loved ones in Uvalde, Texas and Buffalo, New York and Laguna Woods, California, Sandy Hook, Connecticut and Parkland, Florida, people huddling in a cellar under a hospital in Ukraine because their houses have been bombed, and Ukrainian soldiers fighting valiantly to preserve their country. He can be with all people who are trying to live the Way of Love all over the world.

He is here with us now. The Rev. Michael Marsh, the Rector at St. Philip’s Episcopal Church in Uvalde, Texas, has said that, as we contemplate the events of the past few weeks, there are two things. There is sorrow and there is love. There is indeed great sorrow. We are all grieving as the disciples grieved after Jesus left them. This grief has been almost unbearable. We pray for those we have died or have been injured and for their families and loved ones. We pray that the Holy Spirit will lead us into the truth of how to make lasting change. And, as we pray, we reach deep down into that everlasting and immeasurable well of God’s love. Come, Holy Spirit. Come in the wind and the fire of your cleansing energy. Help us to speak your love heart to heart. Come, Holy Spirit. Give us your healing. Give us and our legislators the courage to make the changes we need to make in order to keep children safe in their schools, to allow people of all races and creeds and classes and identities to shop for groceries, gather in their houses of worship, and be safe in their streets and neighborhoods. Come, Holy Spirit. Help us to build the shalom of God. Amen.

Easter 5C May 15, 2022

Acts 11:1-18
Psalm 148
Revelation 21:1-6
John 13:31-35

In our gospel for today, Jesus has gathered with his disciples for the last supper. He has washed their feet. He has told them that they and we are called to be servants. He has said that he will be going to be with God, and that one of them will betray him. At this point in the narrative, Judas has left, and Jesus says, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”

Biblical scholar Charles B. Cousar writes, “A new and unparalleled model for love has been given the disciples….In Jesus the disciples have a concrete, living expression of what love is. Love can no longer be trivialized or reduced to an emotion or debated over as if it were a philosophical virtue under scrutiny. Jesus now becomes the distinctive definition of love.”

Cousar says that this “new commandment” of Jesus also means that eternal life is not something to be realized in the future. It begins now. He writes, “At the center of the new era is the community established by Jesus, the intimate though at times unfaithful family, whom he affectionately addresses as ‘little children.’ What holds the family together and makes it stand above all the rest is the love members have for one another—dramatic, persistent love like the love Jesus has for them.” (Cousar, Texts for preaching, p. 311.

A short time after Jesus has given this new commandment and sealed it with his death, resurrection, and the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, we catch up with Peter. He has been called to meet with some believers in Jerusalem because they are upset that he is ministering to Gentiles.

And Peter tells his amazing story. He was in Joppa. He went up on the roof to pray, and he had a vision of all kinds of food, clean and unclean, being lowered from heaven as on a sheet. Then the voice of God said, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat.” Peter objected strenuously. “Lord, I have always followed the dietary laws. I would never eat anything that was unclean!” The voice of God came a second time, “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.” 

God has just thrown the dietary laws out the window. This happens three times. We recall that the number three signifies completeness. The dietary laws are now gone. Peter has lived his life by these laws, and now they are erased.

But the Holy Spirit is not finished. Peter has no time to think this over. Three men from Caesarea arrive. The Spirit tells Peter to go with them without question and to make no distinction between himself and them. Walls are tumbling down all over the place. Six brothers are with him, and they accompany him to Caesarea. 

When they reach Caesarea, they go into the home of a man named Cornelius. He is a centurion in the Roman army, a devout man who loves God and gives generously to the people. An angel has told Cornelius to call Peter to come to see him.

As Peter begins to speak, the Holy Spirit falls on everyone gathered in Cornelius’ house, and Peter remembers how Jesus said, “John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

Peter concludes that the Holy Spirit can be given to everyone. He says, “If then God  gave the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?” When the followers of Jesus in Jerusalem hear this, they are silenced.

Jesus’ commandment to love one another as he loves us has created a new community, and in the Book of Acts we see that community growing by leaps and bounds. Walls come down, barriers are broken, lives are transformed. Love is spreading faster than they can keep up with it. The Holy Spirit is at work.

Two thousand years later, we are that community. Our Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry, is leading us in living and walking the Way of Love. He says “If it’s about love, it’s about God. If it’s not about love, it’s not about God.”

To return to the story of Peter, once the Gentiles in Cornelius’ home have received the holy Spirit, Peter asks, “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” And he orders the people to be baptized. Then he and the brothers with him stay at the home of Cornelius for several days. They will be spending time together sharing their faith and building a larger and stronger community of believers.

We are called to help God to create God’s Beloved Community, a community where all people are accepted as precious and equal. When Peter was having his vision of God up on the roof, walls came down and divisions between people were erased. When the people in Cornelius’ home received the Holy Spirit, Peter realized that they should be baptized. As Paul said so many years ago. “In Christ, there is no slave nor free, no Jew nor Greek, no male nor female. We are all one in Christ Jesus.” 

Lord Jesus, our Good Shepherd, help us to love each other and all others as you have loved us. In your holy Name. Amen. Alleluia!

Easter 2C April 24, 2022

Acts 5:27-32
Psalm 150
Revelation 1:4-8
John 20:19-31

It is the evening of the first Easter. The disciples are gathered in the house where they have been meeting. The doors are locked for fear of the authorities who killed Jesus. The disciples have every reason to be afraid. The authorities see Jesus as a threat because crowds of people have been following him, and who knows what those crowds of people might do to undermine the power of those in charge? So the authorities attempted to annihilate that threat.

There is one thing on the minds of the disciples. They watched Jesus die, some standing right at the foot of the cross and others in the crowd. A few of them have seen him risen—Mary Magdalene and the other women. Peter and some others have seen the empty tomb.

Could it be possible? Could he have risen? Could he have conquered death itself? Will the authorities come and find us and kill us? For many good reasons, the doors are locked.

Through the walls of fear, he comes to them, he comes to us. “Peace be with you,” he says. “Shalom be with  you, that peace that passes all understanding. That peace that calms our fears.  He shows them his hands and his side. It really is Jesus. He really is alive! “Peace be with you,” he says. “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”

He breathes on them. “Receive the Holy Spirit,” he says. Spirit is the Latin word for breath. To receive the Holy Spirit is to receive the breath of life itself. He gives them the power to forgive sins, to mend suffering hearts and lives. He gives them the ministry of reconciliation. He gives them the power to bring people together and to bring all of us into loving relationship with each other and with God.

One of them, Thomas, who is often called Doubting Thomas, was not there for this momentous encounter. They  tell him “We have seen the Lord.” And Thomas tells them he is going to have to see the marks of the nails in Jesus hands and even put his fingers in those marks and put his hand in Jesus’ side, or he will not believe. I wouldn’t say Thomas is a doubter as much as he is a scientific kind of person. He needs to see the facts, the evidence.

He is definitely a person of courage and deep faith, because when Jesus decided to go to Jerusalem, where he knew he would be killed, Thomas was the first to offer to go with him. But he felt he would really need proof before he could believe Jesus had risen.

Even when we’re not actually praying, Jesus hears our needs, knows what we need. And in his infinite love and kindness, he answers our needs. A week later, he comes to them again through the closed doors, moving through all the obstacles and reservations and questions and fears. “Peace be with you,” he says. Then he invites Thomas to touch the wounds, the scars of his battle with death and brokenness. But Thomas does not need to touch those wounds. He can see that it is Jesus. He bursts out in a prayer of adoration: “My Lord and my God!”

And Jesus asks, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

We were not in that room all those centuries ago. We may not have seen him then. But we have seen him in our own ways all these centuries later. We have seen him in the eyes of a friend comforting us in a time of grief. We have seen him as we gaze in wonder at a newborn baby. 

We have felt his calming and healing presence in times of profound fear. We have felt his presence when we are gathered to celebrate Holy Eucharist. We have felt his strong arm guiding us over challenging terrain in our spiritual journeys. And we have felt him carrying us when the going got too tough for us.

He has given us the ministry of reconciliation. He` has given us his love. In our reading from the Book of Acts, which occurs some time after the resurrection, Peter and the apostles tell the authorities, “We must obey God rather than any human authority.”

They have been given the gift of sharing the good news about new life in Christ, and they are compelled to share that good news. 

We have seen him, too, and we have felt his presence. He is in our midst right now.

May we continue to share the good news. May we continue to share his love with everyone we meet. May we continue to walk the Way of Love. Amen.

Pentecost 15 Proper 19 September 13, 2020

Exodus 14:19-31
Psalm 114
Romans 14:1-12
Matthew 18:21-35

In our opening reading for today, God’s people pass through the Red Sea. Scholars tell us that their route led though a part of the sea called the Sea of Reeds, a shallow portion. When it was very windy, the wind would push the water to one side, and you could pass through, if you were traveling light. The people of God were on foot. The Egyptians had chariots and horses, and they sank. 

The thing that strikes me about this passage this year is that the pillar of cloud, which symbolizes the presence of God, and the angel, who have been leading the people, now move to the rear and place themselves between the escaping slaves and the pursuing Egyptian army. God leads God’s people into freedom. God protects God’s people as they flee from slavery. God literally puts Godself as a barrier between God’s beloved people and those who would enslave them. And God protects us from that which would enslave us. God leads us into freedom.

Paul is addressing his letter to a congregation which has people from all kinds of different religious backgrounds. They have all flocked to this new faith in Jesus. Some are Jews, and they continue to observe the Jewish holy days and the dietary laws. Some have worshipped at the shrines of the Greek and Roman deities. There is a wide array of dietary and religious practices, and Paul is saying, please respect each other, continue to follow your dietary practices and religious observances, and do all of this to honor God and to give thanks to God. God is the one binding us together.

Over the centuries, we Christians have had many differences. Some of us remember the controversy over the new prayer book, published in 1979, and then the new hymnal published in 1982. We still have differences of opinion today, but the main thing is that we are gathered because our Lord has called us together, and, no matter what our differences, he calls us to be one in him.

In our gospel for today, Peter asks Jesus, “How many times should I forgive—as many as seven times? Scholars tell us that the rabbis told us to forgive three times, so Peter is being very generous in saying seven times. But Jesus says seventy-seven times. And then he tells a shocking parable. 

A king is settling accounts with his slaves. One slave owes him ten thousand talents. Scholars tell us this is a huge amount, a sum that is almost beyond imagining. One scholar says it is 3 billion dollars. Another says forty-six million dollars in today’s terms. The point is that it is an amount that no one could pay back. This slave cannot pay the debt. The king says that he will sell the slave and his family and possessions to get what money he can.

The slave is devastated. He falls on his knees and begs the king to have patience and he will pay everything. It would be impossible for him to pay this debt. The king has pity. Scholars tell us that the word translated as “pity” is the same word used of the compassion of our Lord for the crowds who follow him, and the compassion of the Good Samaritan for the man who had fallen among thieves. The king forgives the debt.

The slave goes out, and meets a fellow slave who owes hm a hundred denarii. Biblical scholar Thomas Troegher says the modern equivalent would be $12,000. The recently-forgiven slave grabs the man by the throat and demands payment. When his colleague cannot  meet the demand and pleads for mercy, the recently-forgiven man has him put in prison.

We have been forgiven so much. We have received so many gifts and blessings from God. And our loving God is calling us to extend to others the compassion we have received. Our Lord is calling us to forgive each other countless times, to throw out the calculator and not even bother to try to keep track. This parable is addressed to the community of faith. We have been called together by our loving and forgiving God. Beyond and through all differences or controversies, we are one as Jesus and the Father are one. I think our Presiding Bishop, who is teaching us the Way of Love, is calling us to extend this practice to all we meet. Whatever our differences may be, God is calling us to genuinely care abut each other and to work together to find a loving way forward. 

This may seem impossible, but escaping slavery in Egypt seemed impossible, too. God is calling us to explore the many kinds of slavery which hold us in bondage. Africans were brought here beginning in 1619 and held in slavery, but we white people have also been enslaved by our implicit racism and our assumption of white privilege. When we fail to extend to others the gifts of freedom which have been given to us, we are like the forgiven slave who refused to give that gift of freedom and forgiveness to his brother.

Here we are, on September 13, 2020. We have just passed the nineteenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks which we will never forget. We are still in the midst of the Covid 19 pandemic. We also have an economic crisis which is hurting great numbers of people. In the richest country in the world, people are going hungry. We are facing many challenges. They may seem like a Red Sea that we may not be able to cross.

This year, I find the image of the angel and the pillar of cloud inspiring and helpful.  God is leading and protecting us. And we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, all the saints who have followed God’s leading over the centuries and who serve as inspiring examples to us. And always we think of our Good Shepherd, out in front leading us. 

God is with us. The risen Christ is with us. The Holy Spirit is with us. The creativity of God is in our midst. The redemptive healing and forgiveness of Christ is with us. The Holy Spirit, God at work in us and in the world, is with us. God is surrounding us with love, filling us with grace, and energizing us for the work ahead. We have received God’s love and forgiveness. Let us share it. Amen.

Let us now pray the Prayer for the Power of the Spirit.

Pent 13 Proper 17A RCL August 30, 2020

Psalm 105:1-6, 23-26. 45c
Exodus 3:1-15
Romans 12:9-21
Matthew 16:21-28

Last week, we read the inspiring story of the birth of Moses. The new Pharaoh was a cruel tyrant, but Moses’ parents, his sister, the midwives, and the princess all showed profound courage, and Moses’ life was saved. When he grew older, he was adopted by the princess and went to the palace to live.

Much has happened between last Sunday’s reading and our lesson for today. To summarize, the young man Moses leaves the palace and sees the sufferings of the Hebrew people. Though he is a prince, he still identifies with his own people. He sees an Egyptian trying to kill a Hebrew man, and he kills the Egyptian and buries him in the sand. His sense of justice calls him to defend his fellow Israelite.

A short time later, he goes out again, but this time he sees two Hebrew men fighting each other. He confronts the man who is at fault and tells them not to fight. He is trying to teach his people to work together, not against each other. But the man who is at fault confronts Moses and asks him whether Moses is going to kill him the way he killed the Egyptian. Soon, Moses realizes the king is looking for him. He escapes and goes to Midian.

He stops by a well and meets the seven daughters of Reuel, the priest of Midian. Some shepherds harass the young women. Moses defends Reuel’s daughters and waters their flock. Once again, he is defending and protecting those who are vulnerable. Moses fights for justice everywhere he goes. The young women see him as an Egyptian, but he sees himself as an Israelite.

The young women arrive home early and their father asks them how they watered the flock so quickly. They tell him about the Egyptian young man who protected them from the shepherds and watered the flock in record time. Reuel realizes that this is an extraordinary young man and welcomes Moses to visit the family. Eventually, Moses marries Reuel’s daughter Zippporah and becomes a shepherd.

These events have a deep connection with Grace Church because Keith’s ancestor, Reuel Keith, founder of Virginia Theological Seminary, was named after Reuel, the priest of Midian, who welcomed Moses into his family and thus became a mentor and protector to the man who would lead God’s people out of slavery in Egypt.

This brings us to today’s reading. God has heard the cries of God’s captive people in Egypt. Moses is faithfully going about his daily work as a shepherd. He is alert.  He pays attention to the world around him. And he notices a most unusual thing— a bush that is on fire but is not consumed. He goes to investigate. And God calls to him. Moses realizes he is on holy ground. He is in the presence of God, and God is calling him to lead God’s people out of slavery.

Like so many people called by God over the ages, Moses does not feel up to the task.  And God tells Moses something very important.  God assures Moses that God will be with Moses every step of the way. God does not call us to do difficult things and them leave us alone. God walks with us, God leads us and guides us.

God helps Moses understand who God is—“I am who I am.” And the wonderful thing about Hebrew verbs is that they are all tenses at once—I am who I am; I was who I was; I will be who I will be. God is dynamic and eternal. God will guide Moses as he leads the people out of slavery into freedom. God has chosen a leader who sees the suffering of God’s people, defends his own people, protects those who are vulnerable, and tries to bring justice in every situation. As we know from reading the Scriptures, leading God’s people to the promised land was not easy, but God was with Moses on the journey.

In our gospel, Peter cannot bear to think of Jesus suffering. In his effort to banish this thought, he gets in the way of our Lord’s accepting his own cross, and Jesus admonishes him and tells him to get out of the way. He even calls him Satan because he is so upset that Peter, in showing compassion for our Lord’s suffering, is actually deflecting our Lord from his vocation. Each of us has our own cross to bear. Each of us will suffer in one way or another as we try to follow our Lord and be faithful. We may have rifts with family members. We may lose friends. We may not achieve success in the world’s terms. But in the end these crosses also lead us into life in a new dimension.

Our epistle for today is addressed to a community which is suffering persecution. “Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor….Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer….Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly…Live peaceably with all….If your enemies are hungry, feed them.” This is the vision of God’s shalom which Jesus expresses in the beatitudes and which his mother, Mary, sings about in the Magnificat.

What are these readings saying to us in this time of Covid 19? Moses was the person God chose to lead God’s people out of slavery. He did not feel that he was up to the job. When God calls us, most of us do not feel adequate to the task. We are part of a long line of people, a “great cloud of witnesses,” who say Yes in spite of all our misgivings and, with the grace of God, do our ministries to the best of our ability, depending solely on the grace of God.

Jesus came to show us what a life centered in God’s love looks like. Paul, born a Pharisee, a persecutor of the Church, met our Lord on the road to Damascus and was blinded for three days by the light of that love. In our epistle for today Paul offers us a poetic blueprint of living the life in Christ and being ministers of reconciliation.

Jesus has called us to live the Way of Love, and I’m pretty sure that not one of us feels that we are up to the task. But we are in very good company. Moses, Jeremiah, Isaiah. and so many heroes and heroines of the faith felt inadequate, too. Nowadays, sharing God’s love with others involves being careful not to spread Covid 19. It has been difficult to do all the things the medical experts are telling us to do. but here in Vermont we have the lowest statistics in the country, and, as our Presiding Bishop reminds us, keeping people safe and saving lives is our first priority. 

This means that we will not be able to hug each other, or share Communion, or sing together, or have a coffee hour with actual food—for a while. We don’t know for how long. In the meanwhile, “Let love be genuine, love one another with mutual affection, rejoice in hope.” Live the Way of Love. Amen.

The Last Sunday after the Epiphany Year A   February 23, 2020

Exodus 24:12-18
Psalm 2
2 Peter 1:16-21
Matthew 17:1-9

Today is the Last Sunday after the Epiphany. This coming Wednesday is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. We move from the Epiphany season, a time when we celebrate the showing forth of the light of Christ to all people, a time when we focus on light and mission. And we enter the season of Lent. 

Lent comes from the Old English word “lencten”, meaning “spring.” Lent is a time when we take on disciplines that will bring us closer to God and a time when we let go of any things in our lives which draw us away from God. Lent is a time when we engage in self-examination and preparation for the great feast of Easter. In the early Church, Lent was a time in which people were prepared for the sacrament of Baptism. It is a penitential time in which we examine our lives and repent. 

Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary says that to repent is to be sorry for our sins and to dedicate ourselves to the amendment of our lives. Another way to say it is that during Lent and other times of penitence, we experience metanoia, a process of transformation which leads us closer to God and allows us to let God into our lives so that we grow more and more into the likeness of Christ.

Lent is a time when we walk the Way of the Cross. We walk in the shoes of our Lord and we gain a more profound understanding of who he was, what it means to follow him, and how we can live the Way of Love.

Our opening reading today is from the Book of Exodus. Moses goes up the  mountain to receive the Ten Commandments. Back in those days, the thinking was that you could not look into the face of God and live. So the fact that Moses could go up there and come back down was quite amazing to people. Herbert O’Driscoll says that back in those days Mount Sinai was an active volcano, and that certainly adds to the terror of Moses’ journey.

In our gospel, Peter has said that Jesus is the Messiah. Our Lord takes his closest followers, Peter, James and John, and leads them up a high mountain. This is not Mt. Sinai. Scholars say it could be Mount Tabor or Mount Hermon. Others suggest other possibilities. Some say we should not search for an exact location but consider this a symbolic Mount of Transfiguration.

In any event, Jesus and his three companions go up the mountain. His face shines like the sun, his clothes are dazzling white. He is transfigured. The great prophets Moses and Elijah are there, talking with him, showing that he is in the fulfillment of the law and the prophets.

We could say that this is an awe-inspiring scene, and perhaps a bit scary. It is definitely what we would call  a “mountaintop experience.” Peter is is extremely flustered and is not quite in possession of his logical faculties. He wants to build three booths to preserve this moment of intersection with the eternal. When we have those mountaintop moments, we all want to do this. We want to save the moment forever.

As in the baptism of our Lord, God says, “This is my Son, the beloved; with him I am well pleased;” and then God adds some very good advice: “listen to him!” The disciples fall on the ground, overcome by fear. You know how it is. In a terrifying moment, we became paralyzed. And then Jesus comes and touches them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.” And they look up and see no one but Jesus. The text says, “himself, alone.” He is the Son of God, and yet directly after that moment, he comes and touches them, calms their fears, and brings them back to reality. Then they go down the mountain.

As we get ready for Lent, there are so many things we can remember from this transfiguration experience.  One is that we can now look into the face of God and live. We can look into the face of Jesus and from the power of his love and light we can gain the courage to take the next steps of our journey.

 As we move into Lent, we can remember the glorious illumination of his transfigured presence. We can keep in mind that he is calling us to grow into his likeness, to become more and more like him.

We can feel him touching us in our moments of fear or grief or despair, and saying, “Get up, and do not be afraid.”

The author of the First Letter of Peter, probably a disciple of Peter, is so close to his teacher that he can recall this moment as though he actually lived it. This faithful disciple writes, “You would do well to be attentive to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.”

The morning star is often thought of as a symbol of Jesus. In hymns such as number 497: “How bright appears the morning star; with mercy beaming from afar; the host of heaven rejoices; O righteous Branch, O Jesse’s Rod! Thou Son of man and Son of God! We, too, will left our voices: Jesus, Jesus! Holy, holy, yet most lowly, draw thou near us….”

For the next two days, we can hold in our hearts this vision of our transfigured Lord and his call to us to open ourselves to his transforming power and love. Then, on Ash Wednesday, we will resume our journey with him, the journey to the cross.

As we make that journey, may we hold this vision of who he truly is, May we be strengthened to bear our cross. May we be changed into his likeness. In his holy Name. Amen.