“Life is a Journey”
Rev. Richard Feyen
recorded on 2 Mar 2014
READINGS FOR THE DAY:
First Reading: An Excerpt from A Journey with God in Time: A Spiritual Quest by John S. Dunne
“I tried passing over into the lives of the founders, passing over to Gotama, to Jesus, to Mohammed. I saw each of them as going into solitude to gain insight and then coming back to the human circle to share the insight with others. I say ‘insight,’ meaning ‘enlightenment’ for Gotama and ‘revelation’ for Jesus and Mohammed. It is as though there is a common underlying experience of going into solitude and coming back again into the human circle but in each one a unique insight into that common experience. Solitude for Gotama is being alone that is being all one, an aloneness that becomes all oneness in the enlightenment of ‘no self’ (anatta). Solitude for Jesus is being alone with the Alone whom he calls Abba, the Alone of ‘unconditional relation,’ as Martin Buber calls it, I and thou. Solitude for Mohammed is being alone with the Alone whom he calls Allah the Compassionate, the Merciful.”
Second Reading: 2 Peter 1:16-21 (from The Message by Eugene Peterson) We weren’t, you know, just wishing on a star when we laid the facts out before you regarding the powerful return of our Master, Jesus Christ. We were there for the preview! We saw it with our own eyes: Jesus resplendent with light from God the Father as the voice of Majestic Glory spoke: “This is my Son, marked by my love, focus of all my delight.” We were there on the holy mountain with him. We heard the voice out of heaven with our very own ears. We couldn’t be more sure of what we saw and heard – God’s glory, God’s voice. The prophetic Word was confirmed to us. You’ll do well to keep focusing on it. It’s the one light you have in a dark time as you wait for daybreak and the rising of the Morning Star in your hearts. The main thing to keep in mind here is that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of private opinion. And why? Because it’s not something concocted in the human heart. Prophecy resulted when the Holy Spirit prompted men and women to speak God’s Word.
Note: audio for this sermon is not available
There are moments in life when something special happens. These are moments when there is a flash of enlightenment, a moment of inspiration, a “revelation” of sorts pertaining to what one believes and where one is headed. John Dunne refers to this when he refers to the lives of Gotoma, Jesus, and Mohammed, in the reading quoted from his book, A Journey with God in Time: A Spiritual Quest. In the bible reading, Peter refers to his personal experience in his letter which became codified as part of the Christian Scriptures.
These transitional moments are like snapshots on a timeline; they are not destinations, or goals, or places where we can expect to end a journey. They are significant points of transition. If these moments are significant enough, they can be pivotal in our lives. Those are times when our “ship of life” is not just turned by a degree or two, but they are moments when that steering event changes things enough to impact our life-journey by fifteen, twenty, even thirty degrees – taking the future of our lives into a significantly different sort of place.
Transfiguration Sunday (which is today), is the last Sunday before the beginning of Lent. It celebrates one of those transitional moments in Peter’s life. This passage tells about his experience that day, how he felt, and how he pictured the moment, some thirty years later. In that mountain top experience (figurative or literal we don’t know) he experiences this momentous event and realizes just how special this man, Jesus, is. This man Jesus, that Peter has been listening to and learning from, becomes for him in that moment (and in his mind) on an equal plane with Elijah and Moses. He hears, figuratively or literally, again we don’t know but let’s face it probably figuratively, the voice of God saying, “This man is the focus of my delight.”
This event, along with a few others in Peter’s life, altered his life not just slightly, but significantly. So much so that, instead of being an unknown fisherman, we are reading a portion of his letter some two thousand years later. The experience, for Peter, James and John (who were also with Jesus and Peter) was such that they wanted to build a monument there, to mark that spot forever, make it a destination rather than the pivot point on the longer journey that it truly was. Jesus would not let them do that! In fact, he asked them to not even talk about it when they were back among the crowds of people. As significant as this realization was for them, it was still just another point on a longer journey of life. Had they been allowed to build the monument, the whole movement may have simply come to a dead end.
Personally, I have never been one to appreciate monuments because they can draw our focus to an event, or a life, or a moment, which takes energy away from continuing on the journey. (If I had the time I would expand on that and make some exceptions, but not now.) Now this story from Peter, and many events in the news lately, reminds me of some pivotal moments in my own life and in the life of the Christian church as a whole.
Some of you remember the summer of 1968. Race riots were raging and our cities were burning. The anti-war movement was hitting a fever pitch; the city of Chicago was home to the Democratic National Convention, and there was rioting around Grant Park. Blood of young people my own age dripped from wounds sustained at the hands of the city police, on pavement where I had walked with my grandmother. My grandmother, who was one of the stalwarts of the church for me, who had nurtured me in the faith and had been an example, along with my parents, for what the church ought to be. And that church of my youth – the one I grew up in and taught me how much God loved me. That Christian church supported segregation, it supported the war in Viet Nam, and it supported the action of the police in the City of Chicago!
That, and a few more similar events over the next couple of years, drove me away from the “Christian Church” as I had been taught to understand it. These were pivotal events on the journey of life for me!
So – when I read this week from the Huffington Post Religion section that “In a survey released Wednesday, nearly one-third of Millennials who left the faith they grow up with, told Public Religion Research Institute that it was ‘negative teachings’ or ‘negative treatment’ related to gays and lesbians that played a significant role in them leaving organized religion. And specifically, 17 percent of Millennials, or adults between 18 and 33-years-old, said negativity around LGBT issues in religion was ‘somewhat important’ to their departure, while 14 percent said it was a ‘very important’ factor. And, a majority of Americans, 58 percent, also said that religious groups are ‘alienating young adults by being too judgmental on gay and lesbian issues.’ Among Millennials, that percentage jumped to 70.”
Young people are leaving the church in droves.
I have to say I understand why they are leaving . . . I left as well . . . different issues, same impressions!
When the press gives the kind of attention to the Kansas legislation, and the Arizona legislation, and the movements in Georgia and Texas that they have this week; and when friends in Texas report that there are heavy ad campaigns there to try to do the same thing in Texas. And even here in Wisconsin where we have a constitutional amendment prohibiting same sex marriage, and many of the proponents stated at the time of passage that it was Christian Moral Values that motivated their action. I don’t blame young people for not wanting to be part of that.
I don’t either!
Anti-black, anti-Gay, anti-ANY individual or group of people, IS NOT and never has been part of the heart of Jesus’ message!
What all of this really says to me, is that we (myself, the UCC and other progressives theologically) are doing a really lousy job of getting our word out! I came back to the church a half dozen years later, but only after meeting a United Church of Christ minister and learning about the leadership that the UCC had taken against segregation, against the war, and for the rights of Gays and Lesbians by ordaining, in 1974, the first openly gay man into the ministry of the church. We have an obligation to speak out wherever we can on behalf of individuals and their right to love and marry the person of their choice, their right to go into whatever state in the country they wish and not be discriminated against for who they are; and we have an obligation to proclaim it as loud as we can as the message of love and acceptance that Jesus taught!
Because it is.
Please, do not let the Christian Church be on a dead end journey! It has risen out of the chaos of oppression before . . . we can do it again!
Blessings friends, on your journey.