31 Maple Street
Bristol, Connecticut USA
February 11, 2018
Rev. Kristen J. Kleiman
A place of sanctuary for individuals and families from abuse or from the cold; stomachs filled with homemade meals and fruits and vegetables; school supplies and computers for learning today and a better tomorrow; medical treatments that heal the body and more; and nurture and support for young people to discern and learn to use their gifts so that they too can make a difference in our world.
Over the last six weeks, we have heard about all of the ways our Christian community is transforming the world with Christ’s love, through our gifts of service and through our support of partner ministries. Ministries like St. Vincent DePaul, the Men & Boys’ Fund, the Family Resource Center, Project Lisa, the Prudence Crandall Center, Family Promise, Brian’s Angels, Smile Train, Bristol Youth Services, Silver Lake Conference Center, and all of local and global ministries of the United Church of Christ.
Throughout this season of Epiphany and Transforming the World with Christ’s love, we have heard heart-warming stories about how our gifts of time and money are making a difference in the lives of individuals and of families. It feels good to give. It feels good to hear those stories and know that we are making the world a better place.
As Christians, as disciples, as followers of Jesus Christ, we don’t give just because it feels good, although that is nice. We don’t serve just because it warms the heart. We love our neighbor because Jesus has called us to.
Throughout this season of Epiphany, we have heard stories of Jesus calling disciples to come and follow him, to come and see, and we have heard the stories of what they have seen – Jesus teaching and healing those in need.
This morning’s passage from the gospel of Mark is quite a bit different from those that have come before. Jesus takes Peter, James, and John up a mountain, and he gets their attention by being physically transformed – his clothes whiter than anything you could get on earth. (If you watched the Super Bowl, no, this isn’t a Tide commercial).
Jesus is transfigured, physically transformed, and with him appear Moses and Elijah. Jesus really has the disciples and our attention now – all so we can hear God’s voice. “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him.” (Mark 9:7)
It seems a little over the top just to make sure we would listen however we, humans, we don’t always listen to God as well as we could or should. Prior to our passage, Peter showed that even as he declared Jesus the Messiah, the Anointed One, the Christ, Peter only wanted to think about glory. Peter does not really want to hear Jesus’ teachings about the kingdom. Peter does not want to hear that Jesus will undergo great suffering, die, and then three days later rise from the dead.
Peter is interested in the feel good stuff. Peter is open to the heart-warming healings. Peter does not want to hear that the way of Jesus Christ is a way of love, a way of service, and a way of sacrifice.
Sacrifice – that’s a tough word. Sacrifice is a tough way. Giving is easy; giving can even be fun; giving warms the heart and feels good – however sacrificial giving makes us uncomfortable; it calls us to risk; it calls us choose love above all else; it asks us to trust God.
Sacrificial love is tough, and yet, that is exactly what God calls us to listen to Jesus about. This way that we have been called to is challenging. This way is one of love, and it is also a way of service and sacrifice. It is a way that will change us outside and in, as we seek to change the world.
Throughout this season of Epiphany and Transforming the World with Christ’s love, you have heard the stories of how individuals, how our partners in ministry, how our church is making the world a better place. What is your story? How are you transforming the world with Christ’s love? How do you dream of transforming the world with Christ’s love?
I would like to invite you to turn in your seat, get up from your seat even, and find two other people, hopefully not those you already know very well, and to share the answer to three questions:
As one of God’s beloved children, as Christ’s disciple, I pray that God’s unconditional love and grace transforms you inside and out, and I pray that as you are transformed by Christ’s love, that you might use your gifts, day by day, moment by moment, to transform this entire world with Christ’s love, always showing love of our neighbors.