the tentmaker

daily thoughts on the common lectionary

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Location: Sharpsburg, Georgia, United States

"...because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them, and they worked together — by trade they were tentmakers." Acts 18:3. Tentmaker is a title taken by bi-vocational pastors. As such, I am both a pastor and a project manager. I am a pastor of a local congregation of moderate, accepting and affirming people who worship in the Baptist tradition. We call our church "Hope Memorial Baptist" and we are about 40 in number. I am also a project manager of major construction projects for the State of Georgia. My home and church is in rural Coweta County, between Peachtree City and Newnan, with a mailing address of Sharpsburg, Georgia.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Sunday 2/26/06 Year B - Transfiguration

2 Kings 2:1-12
Psalm 50:1-6
2 Corinthians 4:3-6
Mark 9:2-9
Are You Listening?
Do you believe what you hear?


We have been following the Gospel of Mark in our scripture passages this year. We will go through the entire Gospel before the coming of Advent. But we will digress a little in our systematic study of Mark to observe the season of Lent that leads us to Holy Week and the Passion of Christ.

Our text today is the story of the Transfiguration of Jesus. The understanding of this passage is obscure and difficult and open to diverse interpretations. In my study this week, I have encountered literally hundreds of different interpretations of this passage.

I have cautioned you in the past that scripture cannot be read as a series of unrelated short subjects if we are to understand the message that God has for us. He gives us instruction and insight into His will in small bites because sometimes that is the only way we can handle the message, in small baby doses. But, God’s message is whole. It is complete, consistent and continuous.

Using this thesis that God’s message is whole, complete and continuous, let us go back in our story to pick up some passages that may seem unrelated to our story today, but are infinitely important to its understanding.

I have said to you before that one of the underlying themes in the Gospel of Mark is the burning question, “Who is this man...” It has been asked by all who have witnessed the authority of his teaching. It has been asked by all who have witnessed the power of his healing. The Disciples themselves, after spending three years of up close and personal time with our Lord, ask “Who is this then that even the wind and the sea obey him?” John the Baptist, Jesus’ mentor, sent messengers to Jesus to ask “Are you the Messiah, or are we to wait for another?” Jesus answered them by saying:
the blind receive their sight,
the lame walk,
the lepers are cleansed,
the deaf hear,
the dead are raised,
and the poor have good news brought to them.
Just a few verses before our present passage from Mark, Jesus asks the Disciples “Who do men say that I am?” They Answered: “John the Baptist, Elijah, or one of the prophets.”
Then Jesus turns the question on them in an up close and personal way: “But, who do YOU say that I am?”

Is this not THE question? Does this question not face you every day of your life? “Who do YOU say that I am?”

I imagine that the Disciples began to feel uncomfortable inside. They probably looked from one to another seeing who would be the first to speak and make a fool of himself.

You know the story. It was Peter. Bold and brash and full-of-himself Peter. “Thou Art The Christ.” Well and good. Peter was on the right track. So Jesus began to explain just what that meant in terms they could understand. Before this he had spoken to them in parables, riddles to help them learn to think for themselves. But now Jesus had to speak more plainly so that there would be no misunderstanding.
Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly.

And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.

In answer to Peter’s protest, Jesus responded gently and compassionately but also with the uncompromising truth.
For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels."

Listening to God

According to Mark’s Gospel, the Disciples were not good listeners. All through his Gospel he asks “Who is this man?” At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, at the Baptism, Mark answers this question for us. But we are not listening. It’s too early. The demons help us to understand, but who is going to listen seriously to a demon? The actions of Jesus tell the truth, but we are too dense to understand. Finally, at the end of Mark’s Gospel, Mark gives us the answer from the mouth of the Roman centurion at the foot of the cross.

Accepting What We Hear

But we are like Peter, and the other Disciples. We only hear what we want to hear: “Lord, what would you have me do with my life?” Oh, OK, I understand, you want me to be comfortable. You want me to be safe. You want me to be protected from the unclean of this world. You don’t want me to take any risks. You don’t want me to be seen by my peers as one who is foolish. You want me to be popular."

Jesus takes Peter, James and John up onto a high mountain, probably Mount Tabor in central Galilee. There they are privileged to witness a mystical event. Jesus is transformed into a heavenly being, glowing and dressed in pure white. Beside him are two other beings perceived to be Moses and Elijah.

Peter, and probably James and John along with him, is terrified. If they could speak at all they probably said to one another, “Did you see that?” Peter reacts as always with his mouth. And as usual it is something inappropriate. But as the scene comes to a close, a very important thing occurs. The voice of God coming from the clouds, repeats the Epitaph of the Baptism “This Is My Son, the Beloved One.” And this time an important phrase is added: “Listen to Him.”

Are you listening? Are you listening to the calling of Jesus to
bring good news to the poor.
to proclaim release to the captives
recovery of sight to the blind
and, to let the oppressed go free
Are you listening to what he wants of us?
"If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life?

Are you listening? Do you believe what you hear?

Deliver Us:

Deliver us, Lord, from our sins
and remember them no more.
Give us the peace of your forgiveness
and reconciliation with those we have hurt.
Set us free from our past
and from our paralyzing fears,
that we may go forward toward your future
with courage and with joyful hope
as we prepare for the full coming
of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory
are yours, now and for evermore.


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