Hang on to your crowns!

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Next Sunday we will be on the Mountain of Transfiguration with three of Jesus’ lieutenants, Peter, James and John, watching agog as a larger than life dazzling Jesus converses with the long-dead patriarchs, Moses and Elijah. This event traditionally marks the shift from the season of Epiphany to the season of Lent. Traditionally, the Christian faithful trade in their epiphany crowns as sons and daughters of the Highest for the sackcloth and ashes of introspective penitence leading to Easter. What a downer!

Ancient Christianity, I’ve just been reminded, did it differently, just by shifting the kaleidoscope. Same story, same drama, different perspective. You can hang onto those crowns – they are permanent!

Apparently, Transfiguration Sunday begins the Rite of Election, a period that embraces the journey through Lent, Easter and Pentecost. Enquirers intending to commit their allegiance to Christ participated in this drama of learning and preparation culminating in a mass Pentecost Baptism. It eclipses the Western journey that often leaves us stuck in Good Friday as the climax (and Easter Sunday, the day of resurrection, as an afterthought).

We had a saying where I last served – “We are an Easter People!” – meaning we lived in a state of Spirit-inspired resurrection vitality. We meant to take in the full story. As Lent approaches and many readers of this blog begin the 40 day period of introspection, remember not to cast your crowns aside. Yes, we must embrace our humanity and explore and learn humility through our weaknesses. We will follow the sombre procession led by the man with the cross and lament the high cost of love at the foot of that same cross. We will rejoice at the empty tomb and the alive Man who now walks in our midst. We will receive the Pentecost pouring of the Spirit and the reminder that we are now and always have been created in the image of the Highest. We wear crowns. We are Easter people!

Yield to the Energy of Epiphany!

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We are used to seeing Jesus’ utterances in the Sermon on the Mount, or in next Sunday’s Luke version, the Sermon on the Plain, as moral maxims to which to aspire. As day to day challenges catch us on the hop, we default to passive-aggressive pushback against those who cross us and we conclude that Jesus’ words are very nice but a tad idealistic.

It takes regular time out for cultivating awareness and attention to both our inner and outer worlds to become aware of the transformative energy that sees these words, not as a summons to exercise our determined will, but an invitation to surrender to a cosmic stance that living in Christ offers. As the season of Epiphany, (the revealed glory of all things in God) draws to a climax, we see its practical outworking, particularly with Luke’s emphasis with service to others on the road. Yield to the energy of Epiphany!

Doctors’ medivacs for offshore detainees. Blessing or curse?

20180325_130320For those who have lobbied long – a blessing on the long and steep slope as our country claws back some semblance of humanitarian treatment of those who come seeking help. For those who stand fast on border security and deterrence – a curse that weakens a tough stance that is mandated to sacrifice the liberty of the few to preserve the well-being of the many.

It is an interesting background for discussion on the lectionary gospel reading for next Sunday, Luke’s truncated version of Matthew’s Beatitudes seasoned with a series of woes. How are we to understand the nuances between Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount and Luke’s Sermon on the Plain? The difference lies between the purpose for which each gospel was shaped.  Matthew’s version has us seated on the mountainside reflecting on the call to a change of perspective. How do we respond to the revelation of the Cosmic Christ in Jesus in a way that alters our orientation to our life? This is our initial response to an epiphany (the unmistakable “lifting of the veil” to see all as it really is). Luke has us moving along the road of service and mission to the world in the name of the same Christ. The task is more urgent and our fresh perspectives are calling us to practical application. Blessings are immediate and so are the curses. It’s just the way of it, for we know immediately when we fail the epiphany. The good news is this immediacy of awareness, for it’s easy to see the way back onto the road. It’s not so easy for the will to catch up with the insight, but eventually, it can get there.

Yesterday, our parliament took a step in that direction. The blessings and woes, however, continue to remain part of the package. Epiphany keeps us on the road.