Lingering in the Light (While We Can).
Mark (8:22-38) 9:2-9
©2021 Rev. Dr. Elisabeth R. Jones
Here we are again.
Earlier this week, my screen,
like my mind, was blank.
So to get me rolling on this week’s sermon,
I took a look at what I preached last year.
It made me laugh out loud.
I called last year’s sermon “Nebulous Visibility”
and in it I contrasted holy mystery
that contrasts with the human hubris of
wanting everything neatly planned with 2020 Vision.
I said, and I quote and you may join in my wry twisted laughter,
”we never get the map, and that’s a good thing!”
It would most likely scare us, because it will, of necessity,
take us through troubles uncountable,
and lead us as disciples of the Crucified Christ,
to a cross before it takes us to Easter.”
Oh! Boy! How unknowingly prescient I was!
Here we are again,
not six days later, as the story says,
but 360 or so days later.
360 days of living the most unpredictably awful year;
where climactic catastrophe is not even our top headline,
as one viral species does global battle with us,
and it feels like we’re not winning.
Thank God, Jesus is calling us up this mountain peak,
again, by ourselves for a while,
for a high holy moment.
The sun bursts through swirling clouds,
and the heavenly voice intones words of love and wisdom.
We’ve been astounded yet again at this
homespun healer’s humanness,
cloaked for an instant in holiness and light.
We watch, only daring to half-believe,
half-see that this liminal moment is for us.
I think we’re bit like the blind one Jesus healed
six days before the mountain-top moment;
we’re just not sure what it is we have just seen
with our new-healed eyes:
“Yep that was 2020 that just stalked by,
like an Ent in LOTR,
stomping and stalking,
limbs thrashing and flailing
sickness at us,
hurling heart-numbing death tolls,
lockdown, breakdown, meltdown
Like that blind man, Jesus,
we’d like a do-over,
a second vaccine would be good!
Or at least a long linger up here
on the mountain, above the fray, please!
We’re also a lot like Peter too, aren’t we?
Like Simon Peter we have easily,
habitually called Jesus
“Messiah, Christ, Lord, Leader, Truth and Way”
and that’s worked pretty well, in easier times,
when the road of faith and life
seemed to follow well paved roads,
sail smooth seas,
and rest pleasant in pastures green.
But until these last 6 days, these last 360 days,
well, we didn’t fully fathom
the implications for us, did we?
We were not prepared for global warming, rising seas,
political shenanigans, and Covid pandemics
to so thoroughly, exhaustively,
invade even our faith space,
rocking our boats,
tripping us up,
felling us with fear,
and gripping too many of us in such unrelenting grief.
If we’d seen that road map?!
If we knew this was coming,
we’d have been right there with Peter
demanding that the Human One
lead us by another kinder route
to the Kin’dom of God!
And we’ve have been similarly rebuked
by Jesus, too.
But here we are, up this mountain, again,
with Jesus and the two giants of Judaism,
Moses the Law bringer, Elijah the Prophet,
lingering in their collective light and wisdom,
and boy do we, like Peter, want to stay here!
To linger as long as we can,
build shrines, tents, dwellings, whatever they’re called,
breathe this cold clear virus free air,
to re-inspire our faltering faith,
be vaccinated against the doubt and despair!
And from Jesus, tellingly,
there is no rebuke, not this time.
Maybe, because Peter wasn’t so wrong after all.
He names what we all crave
in times of unrelenting trouble.
A glimpse of something brighter, better,
holier, more hopeful.
Jesus knows from experience;
we mortals all need these interludes,
to linger in the light and liminality for
the short while that they exist.
The short pivot moment that is enough
to fill a heart, a soul a memory,
a determination, and a courage
to make the journey down again
from pinnacle to plain.
To put our feet on the path
via Gethsemane and Golgotha
to Kin’dom Come.
I know that sounds hard and harsh,
but we know it’s true;
we know enough about this road of life,
this world where wanton treachery
is expediently, politically, ignored.
where we know that if Black and Indigenous
and Gay and female and disabled and refugeed lives
we’d better say so, and act so,
even and especially when it hurts us to do so.
This road where,
if people un-homed or unemployed by all the troubles
of the past year are going to survive, recover,
we’d better get busy and help.
where mental illness, stress, and fentanyl addiction,
and poor public health policy are taking
and breaking lives that need not be lost.
where helping those in the food-bank line involves not
only bread and fresh vegetables, but advocacy for liveable wages.
where we will need to stop countless times
with a healing touch, a listening ear, a cup of cold water,
a consoling presence, a placard waved high,
a truth that must be spoken,
a hatred that must be called out,
if we as a species, we as a people,
we as a planet,
are to reach Resurrection.
So, if we need to linger, once in a while,
once a day, once an hour,
to see the clouds part, the light shine,
to breathe river-cold air,
and to hear the wind whisper
with a voice that sounds like God’s
calling us “Beloved”,
then for God’s sake,
for the sake of God’s Dream
for this battered, bruised, blessed planet,
Jesus won’t rebuke you!
Just don’t build a shrine,
because we’ve all got a journey
to make together,
through the valley,
On y va.