a sermon to the people of Holy Cross Lutheran Church
in Lake Stevens, WA
When we were younger, James and I were very involved in a youth movement called “Happening”. It is a fantastic weekend of spiritual renewal for high schoolers…a little like “Cursillo” for the bubble-gum set. Entirely youth-led (and adult supervised) the event takes place over three days. During that time, participants hear ‘talks’, mini-sermons really, by other youth on topics like Jesus Christ, the sacraments, the church, and prayer to name a few. There are many, many surprises, lots of camp-like music, games, skits, and small group conversation. There is great emphasis on being who you are made by the Creator to be rather than who the world thinks you should be….which can be life-altering for a teenager. It is a time of intense friendship, laughter, tears, and sugary snacks. A time of very little sleep. A whole lot of fun. A whole lot of personal growth. A whole lot of acceptance. It is a mountain top experience.
Since those days of Happening, we’ve been lucky to have several mountain top experiences. We married one sunny day in early September. We celebrated the arrivals of our four beautiful, beautiful children. We’ve had a mini-getaway in New York City where we saw a Broadway show courtesy of Skitch Henderson of the New York Pops, in Key West where we swam in the bluest of water on a day in deep fall, and in Las Vegas where, well, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, right? We’ve seen wonders like the Painted Desert, the Redwood Forrest, and Monterey Bay. We’ve even been to Mardi Gras in New Orleans.
But those fun and exciting mountaintop kinds of things that have put wind in our sails and a spring in our steps have been just a day or two at a time in lives that have spanned thousands of days. They are all days we won’t likely forget, and sometimes, they are the days we desperately yearn for, but those days haven’t been the regular ones…the ordinary days.
But it seems to be human nature to want the mountain top experiences. After all, that’s where the jaw-dropping vistas are. And in today’s gospel lesson, Peter is loving the view. Six days earlier, Jesus told the disciples that he will die and die terribly. But instead of that ugliness, here they are on a camping trip up on a high mountain, just Jesus, Peter, and the guys. And then it gets even better. Moses and Elijah show up, Jesus is transformed into a really amazing light show even better than Broadway or Vegas, and Peter is in awe. He recognizes the specialness of the moment, and so he says, “Lord, it is good for us to be here.” And he asks if he can build dwellings so they can all stay for a while.
Alas, poor Peter, it is not to be.
The voice of God comes from deep within a brilliant cloud and says, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him.” Can you imagine? The shock of the voice of God booming out of the air…terrifying!
And the booming stops, and all the miraculous wonder ceases, Moses and Elijah disappear, and Jesus touches his friends, and says, “Get up and do not be afraid.”
And then, and then, Jesus simply walks down the mountain, wordlessly commanding his disciples to follow. And they do…somewhat reluctantly, I imagine. Camping trip over. Back to the sick and the hungry and the threat of death. Back to the grind.
See, Jesus and Peter and the guys couldn’t live on the mountain top, and neither can we. As much fun as it is to be there, eventually we have to come down. Weddings are one day. Vacations have to end. Mardi Gras is only a season.
But that doesn’t mean that the miraculous cannot exist on a Monday morning. There is sacred in the ordinary.
I have a triad of sacred sayings to help me remember this:
· "Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there also." --Jesus
· "When you wash your face, remember your baptism." --Martin Luther
· "Marriage isn’t all wine and roses. It’s also three meals a day and taking out the trash."—Dolly Parton
See, God is here in the little moments: when 7 year old girls tuck their hands into yours for no reason other than that you are there and they feel safe and loved with you, when you hold the door for a woman weighed down with packages at the post office on a rainy Wednesday, when you hand a hot meal to a lonely man on a cold night at the Salvation Army, when you hold a friend as he cries…and you lift his burden for just a moment, when you spend a Saturday with your spouse running errands, watching swim lessons, building cardboard armor, and cooking for hours in the kitchen (little peek into my weekend there). God is here.
Sure, God is present in the Painted Desert, too, and at weddings, (and in Vegas,) but in those mountaintop moments, it seems it’s a little easier to tell. But see if you can’t find God this week as you slog through the ordinary, too. Look for God as you trudge down the mountain into the certain gloom of Lent. As you wash your face, cook three meals a day, and take out the trash.
As we leave the festival of Epiphany and the bons temps of Mardi Gras, listen to Jesus, “Get up and do not be afraid.”
Don’t fear the ordinary. Don’t waste all those little moments with God and with one another wishing for the miraculous on the mountaintop. It’s here, it’s now, and it’s in the little things.
Get up. You are free. You are forgiven. You are loved. Don’t be afraid. Follow Jesus down the mountain and into the sacred of an ordinary day.