31 Maple Street
Bristol, Connecticut USA
February 19, 2017
Luke 7:18-23, 9:28-36
Rev. Kristen J. Kleiman
“Are you the One?” It’s the question John the Baptist sends his disciples to ask of Jesus. “Are you the One?” It’s a question that we as people of faith ask. Is this God’s voice calling me? Is this event the will of God? Was that a God-incidence?
We ask the question for the same reason why John the Baptist asked – because God’s presence, God’s will can be hard to discern, can be revealed to us in the most unexpected of ways, the most unexpected of places. We ask the question because it is very easy to fool ourselves and substitute the voice of the world, the voice of our wants for God’s voice.
Are you the One who is to save us? Are you the Christ, the Messiah? Is this the voice of God? Is this the will of God? Is this the presence of God?
Over the next few weeks, our sermons will center on deepening our relationships with God so we can have a better sense of when this is God’s voice calling and when it is not.
Over the next few weeks, we will focus on the ways we can fill ourselves up with God and maybe – just maybe – as we fill ourselves up with God, we will find ourselves letting go of other things – things that are not healthy for us, things that we hoped would satisfy our wants and needs but never really do, things that hold us back from our God-given purposes in life.
I’m calling this sermon series “New in Christ”, and my hope is that as we grow spiritually in our relationship with God and deepen our Christian faith journeys, we will also grow healthier- physically, emotionally, and mentally.
So we begin today with making space for God.
In our second passage from the gospel of Luke, a passage called “The Transfiguration”, we hear of a miraculous, almost supernatural event. Jesus takes Peter, John, and James with him as he climbs a mountain to pray, and while Jesus is praying, the appearance of his face changes and his clothes become blinding white. And then, two men are there talking with him: Moses and Elijah!
I love the translation from The Message “and what a glorious appearance they made!” (Message, Luke 9:31)
It seems amazing that Peter, John, and James were not startled wide awake by such a sight however scripture tells us they were drowsy and slumped over in sleep. I imagine it was like trying to force yourself to stay awake while watching a really good movie or reading a really good book. Every once in a while, you catch yourself nodding forward – or worse, you wake up and the movie is over, the book is on the floor.
When the disciples awake, they see Jesus “in his glory and the two men standing with him” (Message, Luke 9:32) and Peter, in his sleepiness, blurts out the desire to building three shelters, three houses, three memorials – one for Jesus, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.
It’s hard to understand at first why this would be foolish, why this wasn’t a good idea. Most people love memorials and plaques. It makes us feel good to have a tangible reminder of loved ones, of those who have given their lives and time in service to our country, of those who were tragically lost too soon. We like memorials and plaques, but here’s the thing about them, they are things. They are fixed in one place. We cannot carry them with us every where we go, and so when they are out of sight, they can often be out of mind – and worse, sometimes, they can become such a part of the landscape that we walk past them without even seeing them. As we prepared for demolition last summer, we had to carefully walk through all of the spaces to make sure we got all of the plaques that were hung in the hallway and on the backs of doors.
So why is Peter foolish to have suggested building three memorials for the Christ, Elijah, and Moses? Because Peter is trying to hold on to this holy moment and keep it in one place. Essentially, Peter is trying to put God in a box – and God cannot be limited. And God lets Peter know it. As Peter “babbles” on about building memorials, the men are enveloped in a cloud and “become deeply aware of God” (Message, Luke 9:34-35), and God speaks clearly and loudly to them, saying, “This is my Son, the Chosen! Listen to him.”
Rarely are our messages from God that clear and easy to understand, however just as God spoke to the disciples on that mountain, God is still speaking to us – we simply need to make space and time to hear.
You are in worship today so you are already making time for God. Each week, we gather to praise God, to thank God, to offer our joys and concerns to God, and each week, we take time to listen for God’s still speaking voice.
But what happens when we leave here? Have we made this Sanctuary, this Meetinghouse, into a memorial for God and Jesus Christ? When we are not here, are they out of sight and out of mind?
If we were to be honest, yes, sometimes. Too often? So this week, I am going to invite you to make space in your life for God and Jesus Christ. This week, I am going to invite you to fast. Not fast in the traditional sense of the word but yes, to give up something that is filling your life and distracting you from Jesus, crowding out God.
For me, that is the iPad at bedtime. Years ago, after a youth led worship service, I moved my TV out of the bedroom. I was staying up too late – getting sucked in to waiting for the big reveal on whatever home renovation show I was watching. In general, I was not being a good steward of my time and not getting enough sleep, thus not being a good steward of my body. So out the TV went and out it has stayed, except now, I can get every cable channel on my iPad.
So not only am I exposing myself to blue light before sleep and I’m sure you’ve heard the research on how bad that is. I’m also not honoring the intention I set for myself at the CREDO conference last April, to thank God for five blessings every night before going to bed.
So this Lenten season, I am setting myself the intention to fast from the iPad before going to sleep, to set aside time for God at the end of a busy day and to take care of myself by getting a better night’s sleep.
What do you need to fast from to make room for God? What is distracting you from God’s still speaking voice?
Is it technology for you, too? Do you need to ban your smart phone from the dinner table? Or sit at the dinner table instead of in front of the television? So you can make space to pray and give thanks to God for this food? So you can be mindful in your eating?
Mindful eating is the concept of being thoughtful about each bite you put in your mouth, and it’s about more than counting calories. Mindful eating is about acknowledging, tasting, savoring each morsel of food.
Health magazines are filled with the numerous benefits of mindful eating. Just think of the extra food and calories we eat when we sit down on the couch with a bag of chips. And not just the quantity of food we thoughtlessly eat. Our digestive processes can be slowed down as we watch TV or surf the internet. (Shape Jan/Feb 2017).
So it’s good for our bodies to get away from technology when we are eating, and it is also good for our bodies to slow down while we are eating. Research from Perdue University found that when people “chewed almonds 40 times, they absorbed more healthy fat than when they chewed them just 10 times.” (Shape Jan/Feb 2017)
The research is not encouraging us to be become like cows chewing our cud, but there is something to be said for eating slowly, for savoring the food God has provided you, for enjoying the presence of God in the company of those gathered with you or in the silence.
Fasting from technology at certain times in our day can be a great way to focus on God and make room for God in our daily lives, as well as a great way to improve our sleep, our digestion, and our overall health.
What do you need to fast from to make room for God? What is distracting you from God’s still speaking voice? What thing do you need to let go of? Or begin doing, so that you can create time and space for God in your life?
Lent begins in 10 days on Wednesday, March 1st. Set yourself an intention to create the time and space where you can know God, hear God’s still speaking voice, and be made new in Jesus Christ.