I worked with Kevin Armbrust again to put together some Lenten music. I think of it as reflections on a few of the great hymns of Lent and offer it for any who are interested:
Praise the Precious Blood
A big thank you to Steve Blakey for the use of the image. Too often the “precious blood” is thought of as something of the past, long ago, far away. No. As near as the holy chalice. “Take and drink; this cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you, for the forgiveness of sins.”
09 February 2017
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Reading: Exodus 34:29–35
"When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand as he came down from the mountain, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God. Aaron and all the people of Israel saw Moses, and behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him. But Moses called to them, and Aaron and all the leaders of the congregation returned to him, and Moses talked with them. Afterward all the people of Israel came near, and he commanded them all that the Lord had spoken with him in Mount Sinai. And when Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil over his face.
Whenever Moses went in before the Lord to speak with him, he would remove the veil, until he came out. And when he came out and told the people of Israel what he was commanded, the people of Israel would see the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses' face was shining. And Moses would put the veil over his face again, until he went in to speak with him. "
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
So when he spent time in the presence of Yahweh, Moses was changed. And changed in a way that he himself didn't realize or know at first. But others noticed it about him. And it scared them. Maybe particularly those, like Aaron and Miriam who knew him best. And they were afraid to come near to him.
Fallen man senses that there's something, well, threatening a man who has spent time with Yahweh. It may be glory shining on the face like Moses. It may be a new limp like Jacob sported after the Jabbok wrestling match, up close and intimate, grabbed by Yahweh and grabbing him back. It's the odor of resurrection. It's the sense that Yahweh, good and glorious, is DEATH to things that we are not ready to have destroyed, but also compellingly that He is life and His presence, His grabbing hold of us and changing us, is what we were made for. So this glory that frightens us also at the same time, curiously draws us. It leaves one in that wondrous state called "awe." Frightened, intrigued, curious, but above all frightened. Freaked out.
And it's not just that something is "out of the ordinary," something that shakes up our world and turns upside down our sense of what is normal. It is that. But it is more. It is that haunting sense that we're looking at normal for the very time and realizing in its presence how abnormal, and dark, and dull, and twisted, and well, how hopelessly off base our usual thoughts about normal are, indeed, we ourselves are.
You see, don't you, that Moses here doesn't manifest a miraculous exception. Moses manifests what humanity was created to be, what indeed by God's grace it still may become, when it experiences the gracious presence of God: our bodies were made to be transfigured, we were meant to shine.
Jesus on the mountain top, then, gives the disciples a taste, but even bigger, of what Aaron and the Israelites had. Moses' glory wasn't permanent, as Paul does the midrash on this story in Second Corinthians. Moses' glory would fade. It was always a borrowed reality. A glory that came from being in the presence of Yahweh. Not something he had natively or that he could possess. Only always receive. You know, the way tans fade when you no longer spend time in the sun? So this glory faded. And because it was a borrowed light, kind of like the moon borrows light from the sun, it could be veiled over. Covered up. But in the Transfiguration there is no borrowing. The source of glory has come into human flesh. "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among...and we have seen His glory, glory as the Only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth" one of the eye witnesses would later write. And so even His clothes shine, His garments become light-bearing. The light isn't ON Him, but IN Him, from HIM. And in that glory Moses and Elijah appear. And the disciples freak out.
And this time the glory for Moses doesn't fade because He with unveiled face now beholds the glory of the Lord, beholds his Jesus. And this is what you were made for, and what you fell from: "all have fallen short of the glory of God." But this is precisely why Jesus has come to you. Come into your flesh to make YOUR flesh shine. And to do so He is headed to the Tree where instead of being wrapped in garments of glory he will bear the naked shame of the human race. Naked, not clothed in glory as humans were meant to be. Naked because He will own all our alien normality that is really foreign to the creatures He made us to be. He will own it all. All our inexplicable "no's" to divine love, all our fleeing and running away from glory and our embrace of shame and sorrow, cruelty and death. He will own it all. He will get into another wrestling match. This time with sin and death and He will hug them tight. So tight He'll squeeze the life out of them. All to effect the sweet swap, to hug YOU so tight that He can now give you the glory that Moses had but a taste of in his life, the glory that Aaron and the Israelites found so compelling and so terrifying, and the glory that Peter, James, and John saw that night on that mountain.
We wrap the newly baptized up in garments of white and cover coffins in white to hint at and suggest it: you've been embraced by Christ and now you are his and your destiny, son of Adam, daughter of Eve, is to shine with the glory of being a child of God! It's weird, scary, spooky, and all that. Yes. But it's where you're headed.
So grab it. Look at it. This stuff. This skin. Kin now to the Son of God, baptized into Him, fed with His immortal body and blood, it will shine! When He returns and you see Him as He is this will shine. And sometimes even now, a hint of the light sneaks through and people sense it, they smell the odor of resurrection on you, intuit a glory hidden underneath the very present sin and struggles of your life that both draws and repels them. It's the mark that you've been in the presence of God and sometimes, you know, it just shows.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Hymn: "Jesus On The Mountain Peak" #415
RP 1 p. 282
Remember, kind Father, in Your infinite mercy all Your children who call out to You in time of need, especially Allen, Jan, Roger, Paula; Jonathan and his doctors and care givers; Joel and Krista; Randy and all who mourn the passing of his mother; Donna as she mourns the passing of her brother. Grant them a share in Your peace and the hope of Your promises. Remember also Vicar Paul Flo, serving in the Dominican Republic, and bless his time of service and learning in Your name. We ask these things through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Posted by William Weedon at 4:27 PM
05 February 2017
And the feeblest among them on that day shall be like David. I believe that the meaning of this passage is very simple, for in Christ's kingdom the merit of the faithful will no longer be looked at, but only the mercy, grace, and goodness of God, because of which Christ's kingdom is also called the kingdom of grace. In sum, the meaning is: All things work together for good for those who believe, because they are the children of grace. All things are forgiven them. They can't go wrong. Even if they have been foolish and weak at times, divine goodness shuts its eyes to that.—Luther on Zechariah 12, AE 20:137
Posted by William Weedon at 8:03 PM
For, when any one is brought to the font of baptism, not by the sweetness of preaching, but by compulsion, he returns to his former superstition, and dies the worse from having been born again. Let, therefore, your Fraternity stir up such men by frequent preaching, to the end that through the sweetness of their teacher they may desire the more to change their old life.—St. Gregory the Great, Book I, Letter 47
Posted by William Weedon at 7:29 PM