God's Word: Live It!

“Get up...don’t be afraid."

Yesterday, we got to watch from afar as Jesus ascends a mountain with some of his pals only to find that they were in for the experience of a lifetime! Jesus’ garments turn dazzling white; Elijah and Moses show up. God’s voice is audible as He blesses Jesus and, not surprisingly, the disciples run for cover scared out of their wits. Most poignantly, in this frightening and confusing moment when the disciples are cowering in fear,  the Bible tells us “But Jesus came and touched them. Get up, he said. Don’t be afraid.”

In the midst of the mystery and majesty of The Transfiguration, Jesus leans over and touches his disciples to allay their fear. An intimate moment in an otherwise almost otherworldly experience. Jesus, knowing this moment means the beginning of his path to his own crucifixion, is nevertheless more concerned about this disciples.

His understanding of power is to use it to calm our fears, to touch us, to understand us. Our mountaintop Jesus is not full of himself, but fills himself with us. This is the Jesus who can hardly wait to have little children leap into his arms and sit on his lap. This is the Jesus who is overcome by grief siting on a hill over the city of Jerusalem crying over its eventual demise. This is the Jesus that can’t help himself and has to heal everyone despite their religion or national origin. This is the Jesus who sobs near the tomb of his old friend Lazarus. This is our Jesus.

This week, on Ash Wednesday, we can all experience this Jesus when we take the opportunity to humble ourselves in the face of such kindness and compassion. The smear of ashes, the body and blood, the kneeling before the altar are all ways of losing ourselves, of burying ourselves in the depths of the heart of a Savior who knows exactly what it’s like to love and laugh, touch and be touched, to be afraid and alone. His one shining mountaintop moment strengthened him for the long journey to Calvary and the even longer journey into the middle of our lives.

A Persistent Faith

Sunday, we ran smack into one of Jesus’ most difficult discipleship expectations: “Turn the other cheek.” Added to that, he asks us to pray for our enemies, not to seek revenge, give money to everyone who begs —the list just keeps on growing. All of it is difficult and some of it, for a lot of us, is impossible. Why does Jesus keep heaping these demands upon us? Are his expectations too high? Is he out of touch with the world we live in? Doesn’t he understand the complexities of this world, its demand for vengeance and blame, and brute strength? 

Yes, he does. He does have high expectations because he is willing to die for us. That’s how highly he thinks of us – that we’re worth his agony and sacrifice. He is asking us to persist in living on the higher ground, listening to our better angels, leading our friends and family, co-workers and neighbors and fellow church members to a place of forgiveness, gentleness, understanding and generosity. We cannot always accomplish this, but we’re being asked to persist in TRYING to accomplish these attributes as a way of life. We have nothing to gain by holding onto grudges, being unforgiving, blaming or name calling. Jesus knows we are children of God. We are marked by the cross of Christ forever. He knows we are equipped with the Holy Spirit and the 10 Commandments. He knows we can live up to the hard work of making peace with our past, with those who have hurt us, and try to prayerfully accompany those who upset or frighten us the most. Let us begin anew each day to persist in living out our baptismal promise. 

  • Pray for the strength to be forgiving.
  • Let things pass.
  • Use words thoughtfully.
  • Give, give, give, share, share, share.
  • Use “we” instead of “they.”
  • Be merciful, grateful and non-judgmental just as we hope people will be towards us.

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