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June 9, 2020

Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” They were greatly astounded and said to one another, “Then who can be saved?”

Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.” Mark 10:23-27

Understanding, appreciating, and most importantly, appropriating this passage begins with the question, “What does Jesus mean by the kingdom of God?” My guess is that the vast majority of people skip over the word kingdom and, in their minds, jump right off the page to their idea of  heaven. This view remains stuck at the level of the previous passage, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”

The problem with that is that leads us to think of the kingdom of God in spatial terms rather than relational terms. This misses the deeper point.

First century Christians knew nothing about modern democracy but they were as familiar with the concept of “kingdoms” as we today are familiar with “nations”. Kingdoms then, and nations now, are human constructs. They are ways of organizing our common life. They come and they go. They rise and they fall. They are accidents of history. They, like the borders between them, are created by people, not by God.

But, far too often, that reality is forgotten.

In Jesus’ day, that meant that a leader like Caesar was not just a political leader, he was pontifex maximus, the head of the Roman imperial religion. From there it was just a hop, skip, and jump to declaring himself divine. Which he did. Do you see the problem with that?

We should always be very wary of earthly leaders assuming any version of the divine right of kings. Of co-opting religion for political purposes. As the old saying goes, “Power corrupts, and absolute power…is kinda nice….” Do you see the problem with that?

When Jesus speaks of the kingdom of God or the kingdom of heaven, he isn’t speaking in oppositional terms. That is, he doesn’t offer himself as a new king in opposition to earthly kings or earthly kingdoms as if people have to choose one or the other – he speaks of the reality beneath the reality. He speaks in subversive terms. He isn’t going to attack the castle walls, he is going to remove the ground on which the castle sits.

The question isn’t “Will you serve Caesar?”, it is “How will you serve Caesar?” The recognition that we take our marching orders from God means that sometimes we toe Caesar’s line and sometimes we step on Caesar’s toes. Remember how Jesus taught that lesson using one of Caesar’s coins?

Finally, we know that it is very rare, if not impossible, for any but the wealthy to attain positions of power and influence. Whatever human governance structure is in place, wealth either props it up or brings it down. Wealth is never an end in itself, it is always a means to an end. Wealth gets its way – and in that – wealth gets in the way.

Unless we ask the right question. “Good Teacher, I have many possessions. How can I best use them to love my neighbor?

Let us pray: Dear Lord, we too have many possessions. As Americans, we live in the wealthiest place in the world. May we never forget how dangerous that is. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Mark 10:17-22

June 8, 2020

As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.’”

He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.”

Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions. Mark 10:17-22

This is such an interesting exchange – a man asks Jesus the second most common question anyone would ask a spiritual teacher (#1 is “Why do bad things happen to good people?”) and Jesus ultimately gives the most difficult, most challenging, answer of all. Get rid of all your stuff. It is getting in the way. Then come and follow me.

Why would wealth get in the way of someone’s spirituality? Martin Luther’s answer remains the simplest explanation of all. From The Large Catechism:

A god is that to which we look for all good and where we resort for help in every time of need; to have a god is simply to trust and believe in one with our whole heart. As I have often said, the confidence and faith of the heart alone make both God and an idol. If your faith and confidence are right, then likewise your God is the true God. On the other hand, if your confidence is false, if it is wrong, then you have not the true God. For the two, faith and God, have inevitable connection. Now, I say, whatever your heart clings to and confides in, that is really your God.”

That would be a personal answer – but there is also a broader, more communal answer – wealth has the capacity to divide us, dehumanize us, and deceive us. Wealth, possibly more than anything else, makes it more difficult to love our neighbor. We look and judge our neighbor based not on who he or she IS or what he or she DOES but on what he or she HAS.

Notice the commandments that Jesus lists. He skips the first three about our relationship with God. The ones he does list are those directing us how to love our neighbor. Not surprisingly, those sins most often connected to the acquisition and the protection of wealth. And he covers covetousness – the sin most closely linked with the power of wealth to spiritually sicken us – with his challenge to the man to get rid of the stuff that is getting in the way.

We always also notice – and are always surprised (and relieved) – that it says “Jesus, looking at him, loved him…” Why ought that surprise us? Do you think God doesn’t love rich people? Jesus loved him because Jesus loves everyone. But what a difference it would make if we would start our theology with that rather than falling back on it to justify ourselves.

Maybe then the man’s question would be “Good Teacher, I have many possessions. How can I best use them to love my neighbor?” which is a very different question than the one he asks.

Let us pray: Gracious Lord, you invite us to pray for our daily bread. You invite us to live one day at a time. But we want so much more and often lose ourselves in our stuff. Open our hearts to ourselves, that we might see what truly drives us, what truly drives us apart. That we might see the love which can alone bring healing. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Mark 10:13-16

June 4, 2020

People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.’ And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them. Mark 10:13-16

If these verses are giving you a bit of déjà vu it is because this is the second time in two chapters that Jesus reached for children to make his point. In the 9th chapter it comes on the heels of his teaching about servant leadership. Here, it follows his teaching on divorce.

The disciples don’t like it. They don’t want to be interrupted. Which also might mean that they are not really open to being challenged or taught by Jesus. But Jesus steams ahead anyway.

As I said yesterday, absent a home full of violence and abuse, the impact of divorce on the lives of children is profound. There is no escaping that or pretending it away. I have no doubt that “What about the children?” enters into the thinking of any parent contemplating a divorce. That is a good thing. It means that the parents will be open to talking, reassuring, partnering, and seeking professional help where it is needed.

But that is certainly not the only time when the question “What about the children?” is vital.

The story says that people were bringing little children to Jesus so that he might bless them. We don’t know what that was about other than a sign that those parents wanted the very best for their children – which could very well include the blessing of a holy man. We all want the very best for our children, don’t we?

In these turbulent days in which we live I am particularly mindful of the ongoing effects of the coronavirus and all that we are seeing and hearing in the aftermath of the tragic murder of George Floyd. These mark both fresh trauma and deep-seated long-term trauma. We are seeing how people react – commonly they resort to fight, flight, or freeze. They lash out. They blame and deny. They get stuck in shock. We are seeing this all around us.

Increasingly I’m wondering how the lingering effects of childhood and parenting bear out in issues like systemic racism. Children aren’t both with an innate knowledge of the social constructs around skin color or the other things that differentiate people. How do they learn? By observation. Chance comments. Emotionally charged statements. What people find humorous. How parents react in different environments. What they see on TV. What they discover on the internet. Children pick up on all of that.

Sometimes children adopt the worldviews of their parents. They usually get rewarded for that. And sometimes children react against the worldviews of their parents. This creates conflict. It sometimes leads to an even deeper level of trauma. Again – fight, flight, or freeze. It takes an awful lot of work, education, and life experience to grow beyond the patterns instilled in childhood.

No wonder Jesus picked up the children and blessed them even if it bugged the disciples. Let those with ears, hear.

Let us pray: Be with us, Lord, as we come to terms with how deeply impacted our lives have been, for good and ill, from the experiences of our childhoods. No one comes out unmarked, even wounded. Help us grow. Help us heal. Help us always consider what is best for children. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Mark 10:1-12

June 3, 2020

He left that place and went to the region of Judea and beyond the Jordan. And crowds again gathered around him; and, as was his custom, he again taught them.

Some Pharisees came, and to test him they asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her.” But Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote this commandment for you. But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

Then in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.” Mark 10:1-12

A literal reading of this text says that my wife and I have been living in an adulterous relationship for the past 12 years. Both of us have been previously divorced. We’re not proud of that. Frankly, for both of us, there is an element of guilt, shame, and regret that we will live with for the rest of our lives. We have complicated the lives of our children and grandchildren. Yet it wasn’t all bad. Their stepparents have enriched their lives. We do the best we can to learn from our pasts as we live and build our future together. Life is messy. This passage makes us mindful that divorce cuts much deeper than a legal proceeding to end a marriage contract. It humbles us.

But I don’t really think that this passage is simply about divorce. It too seeks to cut much deeper. It isn’t about real human beings finding their way through life. It is about the Pharisees trying to test Jesus, to trick Jesus, and to divide Jesus from those who would follow him. What better divisive topic to choose than divorce?

Jesus’ culture was absolutely patriarchal. All the rules were set up to benefit men and subjugate women. Divorce was easy for men. You don’t like your wife for any reason at all? Kick her out of your tent. Send her back to her family. Note it on a piece of paper and she is hung out to dry while you go and buy yourself another wife that might be more pleasing to you. That is how it worked.

Jesus knows that so he turns their test back on them. “For your hardness of heart” he says. For your stubborn refusal to admit your fault. Your closemindedness to the errors of your ways. Your devotion to twisting life to your own selfish ends. All of that and more is what hardness of hearts is all about and the Pharisees are vivid examples of it.

Jesus’ response is also a call to justice rooted in the oldest of stories. It is his attack on the systemic oppression of women and the dark side of patriarchy. Today divorce remains widespread. Half of all first marriages end in divorce. Divorce laws today are much fairer, much more focused on the good of the children. Yes, everything can be made much more difficult when driven by greed or resentment. Laws can be twisted toward injustice. But even something as difficult as divorce can be redeemed.

Let us pray: Gracious Lord, draw near to people who share their lives together in marriage, to those preparing for marriage, to those struggling with the possibility of divorce, and to those ever-healing from the pain of divorce. May your grace abound and your guidance be present. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Mark 9:38-50

June 2, 2020

John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” But Jesus said, “Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. Whoever is not against us is for us. For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.

“If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell, where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched.

“For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.” Mark 9:38-50

For far too many years, my focus on the faith was one of finding all the ways that Christianity was right and good for the world, over against other world religions that were wrong and not good for the world. Such a way of looking at things was a simplistic, over-generalized, setting up of easily knocked down straw men. I wasn’t alone. It seemed that everyone thought that way.

How did we get there?

Jesus had plenty of room in his imagination for people who blessed and served others without checking their tribal identity at the door. How was that so easily left behind in the forward march of the Christian faith from a beleaguered minority dedicated to love of God and love of neighbor to an official apologizer for the Empire?

By the way, that didn’t end in the dusty bins of history. There are still corners of the Christian movement that bask in the glow of official governmental and cultural sanction. Such corners rejoice at the picture of the President of the United States holding a Bible in front of the sign for an Episcopal church. Is there any consideration in that for how a Jewish or Muslim or Hindu or agnostic or atheist American citizen feel in seeing that picture? Not to mention that every religious community is now suffering in an age when we are all cut off from the most meaningful thing we do – gathering together for worship.

People of all faiths and no faiths are suffering the face of the current social unrest. Quite likely people of all faiths and no faith were among those hit with tear gas to clear a path for that picture to be taken. A picture that is about as close as this president gets to actually reading a Bible or entering a church door.

Jesus says that “salt that has lost its saltiness” is no longer good salt. His words of warning are not addressed to an unbelieving world but to disciples who are so inwardly-focused and self-righteous that they are blind to God’s loving movement in the world. They can’t see beyond their own noses and their own privileged status as “Jesus insiders.” A thirsty person receiving a cup of cold water doesn’t care about the tribal identity of the hand that brought it to her.

Let us pray: Gracious Lord, bless those who bless others with care, with humble service, with open hearts, open minds, and grace. May we follow in your footsteps of love. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Mark 9:30-37

June 1, 2020

They went on from there and passed through Galilee. He did not want anyone to know it; for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again.” But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him.

Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest.

He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.” Mark 9:30-37

On the way, they were arguing with one another who was the greatest.” Often, if we read the Bible at all, we race through it or we nibble on it. We hear pretty large chunks in church on Sunday that mostly pass without reflection or commentary. Or, in our personal spiritual practice, we read a verse here or a verse there, seeking pithy little nuggets of wisdom that might help us get through life. Or allow us to skip the challenging stuff.

But if we slow down, we might see what we might have otherwise have missed.

It is easy to pick on the disciples for arguing who among them is the greatest. It seems so trivial, so childish, so self-centered. And it is. But slow down and consider the context, consider how Mark frames their argument.

They just left a scene where Jesus healed a young boy after the disciples have proven their own incompetence and inability to do anything for him. They had just heard Jesus describe where his life would lead him – to betrayal, arrest, and death. Not exactly a rosy picture for anyone. And then, after noticing their arguing, Jesus picks up another child and puts her before them as an object lesson of where their concern ought to be. NOT on BEING the greatest BUT on DOING GREAT THINGS for the sake of the most vulnerable, least powerful, people of all.

The world would be a much better place if we took those words to heart. No longer would 25% of American children live in poverty. No longer would 33% of children grow up without a father. No longer would any parent fear a child getting sick when they don’t have the money to pay for their care. No longer would some children be treated differently than others because of the color of their skin or the zip code in which they live.

The world would be a much different place if the first question we ask would always be, “How will this affect children?”

Instead, what do we do? We crow about being the greatest even as we flee from paying the price, and making the sacrifices, that Jesus challenges us to.

Let us pray: Dear Lord, forgive our self-centered and self-interested desires to protect ourselves and our own interests without consideration for the most vulnerable, and least powerful, among us. Keep us ever mindful of children – all children – and what would be best for them. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Mark 9:20-29

May 29, 2020

And they brought the boy to him. When the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth.

Jesus asked the father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. It has often cast him into the fire and into the water, to destroy him; but if you are able to do anything, have pity on us and help us.”

Jesus said to him, “If you are able! —All things can be done for the one who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out, “I believe; help my unbelief!”

When Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You spirit that keeps this boy from speaking and hearing, I command you, come out of him, and never enter him again!” After crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he was able to stand.

When he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” He said to them, “This kind can come out only through prayer.” Mark 9:20-29

There is good news in the midst of this pandemic. Even as millions get infected and hundreds of thousands die, many more people recover. They get better. For some, the recovery is relatively quick. For others, effects linger for weeks. But they get better too.

The mystery of it is “Why?” Why do some recover and others don’t? Why is Covid 19 mild for some and devastating for others? The best medical minds in the world are chasing down answers to those questions. Answers that may, or may not, come.

In our imaginations, we put ourselves into this father’s sandals. We sense his desperation and heartache in watching his son suffer horribly since he was a little boy. Imagine his joy to see his son restored! Imagine his son, gripped his entire life by a power greater than himself, suddenly released by a power even greater than that. Jesus does his thing and the boy is able to stand.

The father speaks for all of us with his words, “I believe; help my unbelief!” Isn’t that where we all are?

Jesus told his friends, “This kind can come out only through prayer.” Could this be a lesson that they would have done well to spend less time arguing with the scribes and more time in praying for the boy? That idea hits close to home for me.

It isn’t an “either-or” – it is a “both-and.” The old wisdom goes both ways – “Pray as though it were up to God and work as though it was up to you” as well as “Pray as though it was up to you and work as though it was up to God.” In the end, we do both.

We do both even as we are caught in our belief and our unbelief. We trust in God’s healing power, in this life or into the life to come. We strive to doubt our doubts as much as we might doubt our faith. We pray. Then we do what we can to make life better.

Let us pray: Gracious Lord, today we pray for all the parents whose children do not get better, whose lives are not restored. Be with them. Surround them with the love that will see them through. And we rejoice with those who are being restored to good health. Help us always, in our belief and our unbelief, to trust you in all things. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Mark 9:14-19

May 28, 2020

When they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and some scribes arguing with them. When the whole crowd saw him, they were immediately overcome with awe, and they ran forward to greet him. He asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?”

Someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought you my son; he has a spirit that makes him unable to speak; and whenever it seizes him, it dashes him down; and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid; and I asked your disciples to cast it out, but they could not do so.”

He answered them, “You faithless generation, how much longer must I be among you? How much longer must I put up with you? Bring him to me.” Mark 9:14-19

Notice that no one answers Jesus’ question. It was obvious that the scribes (experts in religious laws and social culture) were arguing with the disciples (followers of Jesus) who were not included in the hike to the top of the mountain. The argument was strenuous enough to draw a crowd. So Jesus asks them, “What are you arguing about with them?” They don’t answer.

Instead, a man calls out from the crowd that he has a very sick son who needs help. This isn’t a new problem. The man is desperate, and Jesus’ followers weren’t able to help.

Why? Maybe because they spent their time arguing instead.

Then Jesus asks a question of his own. Irritated to see people who ought to have known better wasting their time arguing with one another, he asks, “How much longer must I be among you?” That question doesn’t get answered either.

Instead, Jesus tells the father to bring the boy to him.

Today the number of deaths from Covid 19 will pass 100,000 people. Most of us now personally know someone who has died. On the one hand, there has been a whole lot of arguing going on. Lots of blaming and blame shifting. Lots of “Yeah but whataboutism” going on.

On the other hand, the family and friends of over 100,000 people are grieving the loss of loved ones, many of whom died with no one beside them but the courageous hospital workers who cared for them to the end.

While privileged people like me sat at a computer or used my telephone from home instead of my office, others put their game faces on and went to work in hospitals, grocery stores, gas stations, mailing centers, delivery services, construction sites, police stations, and the list goes on.

Where would Jesus direct his attention? Would he be any less impatient with our incessant arguing?

Let us pray: Lord, direct our attention today to those who are sick and their loved ones who are desperate that they get help. Push us past and through our self-centeredness. Make us far more mindful of WHAT is right rather than WHO is right. For in that, we will more clearly see through your eyes. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Mark 9:9-13

May 27, 2020

As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead could mean.

Then they asked him, “Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” He said to them, “Elijah is indeed coming first to restore all things. How then is it written about the Son of Man, that he is to go through many sufferings and be treated with contempt? But I tell you that Elijah has come, and they did to him whatever they pleased, as it is written about him.” Mark 9:9-13

I think about writing a daily devotion every morning. I’ve tried to do it again. But the simple fact is that I got stuck here in the 9th chapter of Mark after the story of the transfiguration. I don’t know what to make of the fact that the last time I posted a devotion was also on a Wednesday. In that last one, I called Wednesday – like the Transfiguration itself – a tipping point. Maybe that is what it is. So here we go.

We have been told, our whole lives, that we need to talk about Jesus with other people. Talk about Jesus. Talk about Jesus. Talk about Jesus. Talk about Jesus. You get the point.

So how does that square with Jesus’ words as he leads his friends down from the glory of their mountaintop peak experience into the real broken world in which they lived? “Jesus ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.”

What does Jesus know that we forget? Maybe it is this – as important as words are, as important as the Word is, the bottom line is that talk is cheap.

As we will discover later in the story, Jesus’ followers are there, not for the good of the world, but for the prospect of their own privileged position in what they believe to be God’s coming earthly, majestic, all-powerful, glorious, kingdom. Like a corrupt Senator trading on inside information to dump a stock before the market crashes, they are IN baby and they want to stay there.

But Jesus will have none of that. Watch what I DO, because ONLY THEN will you have the slightest understanding of what I have been saying to you all along! This isn’t, by the way, anything new. Have you READ the story of Elijah? Do you REMEMBER how the king and queen – yes, the politicians of the day – sought to kill Elijah?

What will be new? Jesus will rise from the dead. And his disciples will learn not just to talk the talk but to actually walk the walk. That, whenever and wherever it happens, will always be new.

Let us pray: Dear Lord, as we find ourselves today in this surreal experience of a worldwide pandemic, make us mindful of empty words that don’t lead to actual action. Give us the patience and the perseverance that you modeled as you fulfilled your purpose among us. Give us opportunity today, not to talk the talk but to walk the walk. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Mark 9:1-9

December 11, 2019

And he said to them, “Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.”

Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus.

Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He did not know what to say, for they were terrified.

Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus. Mark 9:1-9

I don’t “time” these readings each morning. I don’t even wake up any more feeling obligated to think aloud about the Bible in writing daily devotions. Some days I do. Some days I don’t. So I find it very timely that these verses are the ones that popped up on a Wednesday morning as we slowly walk through Mark.

Wednesday is hump day. The middle of the week. Like a little chronological mountaintop experience as we move through the calendars of our lives. This story, the story of the transfiguration, is like Wednesday in the story of Jesus.

Some scholars suggest that this is a misplaced “post-resurrection” story. Whatever. I personally think that Mark put this exactly where he thought it should go. And even if that wasn’t a conscious decision, I believe the Holy Spirit thought so too.

Immediately after Jesus’ radical call to discipleship and surrender, and immediately before the clamoring crowds wanted another piece of him, Jesus takes his disciples to the top of a mountain. The view was probably beautiful. It usually is. But what they saw wasn’t just once familiar land off in the distance, they saw the history of God’s presence among people. God mediated through God’s mediators – Moses and Elijah – and now God’s only son as well.

Peter wants to stay. But there is no staying. There is only full speed ahead or beating a hasty retreat. It is a tipping point. They were terrified – not an unknown feeling when we reach the edge of our capabilities and understanding. The unknown is always scary along with interesting.

Then thunders, or whispers, the voice: “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!”

And they do. The story continues. Trembling, they make their way down the mountain. Trembling, we too keep the faith. We keep following. We keep listening. This reminds me of something else Peter has to say in another gospel: “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”

Let us pray: Lord, you give us glimpses of the beauty of your way in the world, often when we can only see the struggle. Still our fears. Speak your encouraging words into our spirits when we falter. You have the words of eternal life. In Jesus’ name. Amen.