Jesus has arrived at a turning-point. He is almost at the point of no return, but not quite. It’s not too late to turn back. Not too late to abandon what he has been doing and go home.
Home to Nazareth. Home to the carpentry shop. Pick up the tools. Finish that cabinet he was making. Earn a living. Get married. Have children.
He can still turn back. It’s not too late.
Or, he can continue on, toward Jerusalem, toward confrontation with the powers and principalities of the world … of his world.
And, should he decide to get on with it, to enter Jerusalem, he can do that a couple of ways.
He can do it the way he’s been conducting his ministry … in peace, with humility and enormous restraint, non-violently.
Or, he can shift course. He can join forces with the Zealots … incite rebellion against the occupying Roman Empire.
He can enter Jerusalem on a donkey, peacefully … or on a steed, thereby declaring war and inciting revolt.
Jesus has arrived at this turning point. He has decisions to make. Jesus calls his inner circle —Peter, James, and John — and they set out to ascend a mountain. Up and up they climb … until they reach the top.
And then, we are told, Jesus is “transfigured”. He is altered. He is transformed.
Which is great. Totally cool. Awesome.
Liturgically, that is what today is named after. This is Transfiguration Sunday.
But I’m far more interested in the other thing that’s happening on that mountain. The other thing that’s happening is this: Moses is there and Elijah is there–great, great prophets, great men of God, but, hailing from earlier centuries, from antiquity—and they are talking together. Moses, Elijah, and Jesus are in a meeting.
Theirs is a conversation that spans the centuries but occurs in real time! And that’s what’s interesting to me. This talking. This consulting. At this terrible and awesome juncture, Jesus is advised by the wisdom of the ages, by Moses (who is God’s best friend). Moses, who liberated an enslaved people. And by Elijah, one of the greatest of Israel’s prophet … known for his care for the poor.
It is in the wake of this conversation that Jesus sets his face toward Jerusalem. He will enter the city and he will confront the powers and principalities. But he will do so in peace, with humility and enormous restraint, non-violently.
And the rest is history.
Today, our nation is engaged in a long election season conversation, a rolling conversation and debate, ranging from state to state. A conversation carried on in caucuses, debates, primaries, and town meetings. But not only there. Not only where the cameras are trained. Also in editorials and op eds. In books, speeches, and colloquies. In classrooms and kitchens. In senate and house chambers. And in churches.
We are talking and debating our way through some of the most vexing matters of our time:
Capitalism and the market economy, the gap between rich and poor, taxation, the purpose and size of government, immigration, international relations, race and gender, whether to declare war against ISIS, gun ownership, and the 2nd Amendment, the deterioration of our nation’s infrastructure, the vulnerability of The Grid, the hard and desperate reality of 60 million refugees worldwide, climate change, mass incarceration, whether healthcare is a right or a privilege and how to pay for it, our tolerance for religious pluralism …
At every juncture, with every vexing and contested issue there is a behind-the-scenes question … a question raised by the presence of every Super PAC and every lobbyist and every resister of change and every proponent of change. Who benefits? Who benefits by this policy, or that law?
Today, soon, Old South Church in Boston will gather for our 346th Annual Meeting.
We will receive the Annual Report, detailing what we did for God, with God, for Jesus and with Jesus over the course of the past year. The contents of the Annual Report – the ministries and programs reported/represented in it – are the result of meetings, of talking … listening to each other and to God.
The truth is that every day we stand at terrible and awesome junctures, with choices to make: how will we be church together today, or this week, or this year? How will we choose to give witness to a merciful God? How to follow and give witness to the Prince of Peace in a manifestly violent world? How to embody God’s compassion for the alien and the sojourner, the prisoner and the poor? How will we participate in and take up the most vexing and contested issues of our day?
In the Annual Report, you will read about Old Southers visiting those in prison as a witness to the way of Christ: Vard, Lucy, Earl, Sean, and Margaret … visiting the prisoner.
And you will read about the tender ministrations of Boston Warm … providing warmth and shelter to unhoused persons against a cruel winter … and the kindnesses of Old Southers like Debbie, David, Rebecca, Anna, Sherry, and Ralph.
Read about our ministries of music. An unhoused person said to me recently: “I can’t afford to go to the Symphony … and, even if someone gave me a ticket, I’d feel ashamed … ashamed of my clothing, of the way I look, But here, at this church, you give me a symphony every week.”
Read about Old Southers talking turkey about race. Not about race out there. But about matters of race here, among us, in this beloved community. Leading us in this intimate and dangerous conversation: Sheila, Eleanor, Deb, Ruth, Tony, Tracy, Lawrence, Ros, Mercedes, June and more …
In the report of the Planned Giving Committee is a list, a long and growing list of those of you who have made planned gifts to this church. From heaven you will be supporting and funding these ministries of mercy, of justice, and of beauty! God bless you.
Not in the report, because of confidentiality: nurses Kay and Anna and attorney Larry, spending countless hours with frail elders helping them to find their way in a world that would prey on frail elders.
Maren and the Christians in Formation Committee are bent on forming us for Christ. They have brought Muslim leaders and scholars here so that we might reject the dangerous rhetoric of otherness and come to know American Muslims as our neighbors and cousins. There’s practically a beaten path now, between Old South Church and the Roxbury mosque …
Whenever we gather – whether its our 346th annual meeting or a simple committee meeting – we are at a juncture. We face choices. And we are not alone. When we gather, Jesus is with us, and Moses and Elijah … and all the saints who have gone before.
You see, every meeting is a time apart with God. Every meeting is a crossroads and juncture. We talk. We do a lot of talking, and weighing and pondering. And we do a lot of listening. Not to the loudest, most insistent voices. Not so much. Not to the brash, insistent, and strident voices of the powers and principalities of the world.
Rather, ours is a listening that privileges God’s voice … God’s still small voice … above the world’s cacophony.
That is our purpose. That is our destiny.
It is a high privilege indeed to have a front row seat here. To witness you, Old South Church, as you live out your faith with courage and conviction. Thank you.