We've seen another week of people taking up sides. Depending on where we want "the truth" to lie, we tend to hear the facts in ways that will point to that result. It's part of the human nature ever since the start. (Remember how Adam was sure it was the woman who made him eat of the fruit and she was sure it was the serpent who caused their sin. Remember, also, how God wasn't fooled by any of them?)
Forty in the Bible is a number representing completeness or a sufficient amount of time for whatever needs to be done to be accomplished.
For forty days and forty nights it rained in the flood story in Genesis. For forty years the Hebrew people wandered in the wilderness after the exodus. Moses was on the mountain with God forty days receiving the commandments, while the Israelites waited those same forty days for him to return.
If you're planning a trip to Westcliffe, Colorado to see the Milky Way (this is related to my sermon from yesterday), be advised that they get a lot of clouds in that valley. It's possible that you would go to a place that has done what they can to make the glory of the night sky visible and while you're there, all you see is a dark blanket of clouds. We can set the conditions just right for the night's glory to be revealed and it still not be visible to us.
This Sunday we will celebrate Jesus' transfiguration. It's another holiday when you won't get a greeting card. Even those of us used to odd, mostly unrecognized church days don't have cards for this one. Maybe I'll start a line. A blindingly bright outside with the greeting inside, "Have a dazzling Transfiguration Sunday" or "Jesus is really bright. Listen to him." We'll see.
In his sermon about sharing the good news of Jesus Christ, Rev. Cattenhead quoted part of Isaiah 52:7, which says, "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation, who says to Zion, 'Your God reigns.'"
St. Paul tells us he has no choice but to proclaim the gospel. It is "an obligation laid on me, and woe to me if I do not proclaim the gospel" (1 Corinthians 9:16).
When one is so compelled, he or she will do most anything to fulfill the mission. Paul said, "I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some." (9:22; part of the sanctuary reading for this Sunday: 1 Corinthians 9:16-23). If you'd like to read a version of the gospel message Paul preached - Acts 13:13-41 is a representative sermon.
His authority would become a source of conflict between him and religious leaders, including the scribes. Early on, Mark introduces the conflict by noting that Jesus taught as one with authority, and "not as the scribes" (1:22).
Matthew places Jesus in a teaching role, opening up his public ministry with the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). Luke wants us to know that in Jesus the needs of the oppressed will be met as he fulfills prophetic anticipation (Luke 4:16-21). John shows his power through the miracle at the wedding at Cana (John 2:1-11). Mark 1:21-28, the gospel lesson for Sunday, shows Jesus teaching and expelling a demon as part of the same scene, establishing his authority among us.
I pride myself on having a good sense of direction. I have used that to get myself, my family, and my friends lots of places. Most of the time they seem to appreciate it. Sometimes they seem to be annoyed by it. My friend Michael has, for 8 years now, relished the time in Atlanta that I went the opposite direction than we should have gone (he was certain we needed to go to the left, I was equally certain we needed to go to the right; he was correct and hasn't gotten over it). A wiser me would realize I don't know Atlanta's roads at all and would have been humble enough to seek assistance.
One of the reasons I don't like the pulpit to be full of "do's" and "don'ts" is it makes the preacher sound as if he or she has it all figured out. He doesn't. She doesn't. I don't. I struggle plenty with knowing and doing what's best. (Did you hear Sally's hearty "Amen!" to that?)
Another reason is life is often more complicated than simplistic do's and don'ts.
Everywhere I've wanted to go for the past several days has been safely passable. On just a few occasions I have had to slow down to navigate a small icy patch, but it was quickly passed.
Since the places I've wanted to go and the things I've needed to do were alright, it's easy to think others should be able to travel well, too.
After a couple of weeks of unusual schedules, I'm hoping this Sunday's schedule will be normal - two services at 9am; Sunday School at 10am; another service at 11:15am.
I've enjoyed the break and the snow, but, now that Christmas is concluding (today is the 12th day of Christmas), it's time to resume a more typical schedule - not that this Sunday will be ordinary.