Last Sunday in Epiphany

I gave the following sermon at my church, 15 Feburary 2015.

(The readings for this sermon are at the bottom of this post.)

Listen to this sermon

In our lessons during this Epiphany season, we have heard all about the different ways people experience epiphanies. Many times an epiphany is simply a personal revelation, a change in our perspective. It may be inspired by an idea we have read, or from a conversation we have had. Sometimes an epiphany is more startling, it results from a numinous experience, a manifestation of the divine.

In our lessons today we are given several examples of these big, flashy, divine manifestation epiphanies.
Flaming chariots.
Whirlwinds carrying people up into the sky.
Transfiguration – transformations of a person’s appearance and clothing.
Legendary prophets from the past appearing and speaking to us, big as life.
God’s voice out of the sky.

From our gospel lesson, Peter, James, and John were terrified when they witnessed the transfiguration of Jesus. Peter reacts as any of us would, and starts to babble, “It is good that we are here! Let us build three houses here for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah. Let us stay up here on this mountain, Let us hold onto this experience.”

But that is not how it works, we cannot stay up on the mountain. The moment passes, and we must go back out into the world,
back to our work,
back to our homes,
back to our regular lives, but with a difference, a true epiphany leaves us with a somewhat different perspective than we had before.

These big flashy miracle epiphanies just don’t happen so much these days. What if how we see the world around us, depends on what we believe?

In the past 200 years, humanity has experienced a revolution in our collective knowledge. The scientific revolution. We now know a great deal more than we ever have before about how to manipulate matter and energy; the physical world that is all around us. I wonder if all this knowledge of science has changed the way we think so that we just don’t notice the miraculous when it is right there in front of us.

As an engineer, I am amazed by what we can accomplish. With our modern industrial, and manufacturing technologies we can produce nearly anything, in enormous quantities. Unfortunately, our ability to produce the necessities of life does not extend to distributing those necessities to everyone who needs them.

Perhaps we need to believe, in order to perceive, what should be obvious to everyone.

I have had an epiphany, a revelation, about our society. In each of the last three Congressional elections – 2010, 2012, and 2014, more than three and a half billion dollars was raised and spent, just by senators and congress persons running for office. There seems to be plenty of money available in the United States, if such an enormous amount of money can be raised just for advertising and political organizing in each of these elections. My revelation is that also toward the end of that four year period, the United States government cut unemployment benefits, food stamps, and several programs which only exist to feed hungry children.

I believe that the Lord God has inspired the growth of our knowledge of the physical world. This knowledge has put into our hands and our minds the tools to provide for all the physical needs of our fellow men and women. There is only one thing we lack, our hearts are closed to God and to each other, we do not live with whole hearts, in service to each other.

In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

The god of this world. There are organizations in our country, which actively spread fear and uncertainty. I think that some of these organizations collectively believe their message of fear;
there is only so much food,
there is only so much money,
there is only so much hope,
some will have to do without.

The people in these organizations, have given up to their own despair and want the rest of us to join them. Other organizations, knowingly try to blind the rest of us to the truth just to make money from our fear or to gain the power that we give to them when we are afraid. It is very hard for us to ignore this constant siren song of fear: we fear to lose what we have, we are afraid of those who are different from us.

This is the task that has been given to us. Like Elisha travelling with Elijah, we need to hold fast to our beliefs, no matter who tries to persuade us otherwise, and not settle for anything less than a life with an undivided heart, so filled with the spirit that there is no room for fear.

It is our privilege as believers, to demonstrate to everyone the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ. To remind everyone that we are all the daughters and sons of the Light that shines out of darkness. When enough of us share this epiphany, we will be transfigured to be like Jesus. Not as Jesus was on the mountaintop, but in the way he performed his ministry among the people. We will cease to fear, because we will be too busy sharing all the good things of our hands, and our minds; with whole and open hearts.

2 Kings 2:1-12
Now when the LORD was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here; for the LORD has sent me as far as Bethel.” But Elisha said, “As the LORD lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they went down to Bethel. The company of prophets who were in Bethel came out to Elisha, and said to him, “Do you know that today the LORD will take your master away from you?” And he said, “Yes, I know; keep silent.”
Elijah said to him, “Elisha, stay here; for the LORD has sent me to Jericho.” But he said, “As the LORD lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they came to Jericho. The company of prophets who were at Jericho drew near to Elisha, and said to him, “Do you know that today the LORD will take your master away from you?” And he answered, “Yes, I know; be silent.”
Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here; for the LORD has sent me to the Jordan.” But he said, “As the LORD lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So the two of them went on. Fifty men of the company of prophets also went, and stood at some distance from them, as they both were standing by the Jordan. Then Elijah took his mantle and rolled it up, and struck the water; the water was parted to the one side and to the other, until the two of them crossed on dry ground.
When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me what I may do for you, before I am taken from you.” Elisha said, “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit.” He responded, “You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it will be granted you; if not, it will not.” As they continued walking and talking, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them, and Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven. Elisha kept watching and crying out, “Father, father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” But when he could no longer see him, he grasped his own clothes and tore them in two pieces.

2 Corinthians 4:3-6
Even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Mark 9:2-9
Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.
As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.

We can do better

My mother sent the following to the Marietta Times (Marietta, OH) on February 12, 2015. I come by my liberalism naturally.

Re: We can do better than this

Now that Obamacare is the law of the land and doing pretty well, some Republican governors are rethinking their negative position on the expansion of Medicaid. The problem is that if they expand Medicaid, they want poor people to pay a “fee” for the health care. Of course, there are still a lot of people without health care and we can do better than this.

It is quite evident that we don’t have enough doctors when we have to wait a month to see our family doctor or specialist. So if you have a serious illness and you need to be seen immediately, you have the choice of the ER or a walk-in clinic. We can now get immunized at the local pharmacy and some pharmacies plan to expand by caring for people with minor illnesses. Governor Kasich and the Republicans did not help the situation when they cut funding to Planned Parenthood causing many clinics to close and the loss of affordable health care for women. We can do better than this.

It seems like poor people just can’t win. All those churches that provide meals, the food pantries and other organizations that provide help are to be commended but wouldn’t it make more sense to raise the minimum wage so that people could take pride in providing for themselves? Cities now must take into consideration that if they close the schools because of bad weather, a lot of the children will miss the hot lunch that is provided; many families depend on the lunches that their children receive in school to help feed their children. While many states have raised the minimum wage because they know it will benefit their economy, we can do better by raising the minimum wage on a national level.

Our jails are like debtor’s prisons of the past where the homeless and poor are fined and then jailed when they cannot pay the fines. Many of these people are veterans and the mentally ill and most of the people in jails are no threat to society. Because of our “law and order” mentality, the United States incarcerates more people than any other country in the world. We can do a lot better than this.

Yes, businesses are the ones that “create the jobs” but is it asking too much for them to share the profits with their employees by giving them a raise once in a while? What about hiring more people instead of making their employees work 12 hours a day and making sure they get overtime pay when they do. We are the only modern industrialized country that does not give mothers (or dads) substantial time off to be with a newborn. We can do better than this.

So what do some of these greedy individuals and businesses do with their ill-gotten gains? They avoid paying their fair share of taxes in this country by hiding their assets in off-shore accounts and take advantage of numerous loopholes that they have helped Congress to create. Some of them like Carnegie try to make amends for past atrocities by building libraries and doing other “good works.” And they live in “gated” communities for protection against the growing population of the disenfranchised. Surely, we can do better than this.