St. Paul in Pozzuoli or Puteoli

In our Bible Challenge readings, we have just finished the book of Acts.  The last two chapters talk about Paul making the grand journey from Jerusalem to Rome, and the shipwreck in Malta.  The last time I read the whole chapter was some years ago, but I was struck by where Paul landed before making the land journey to this city in which I now reside.  Paul and his companions landed at Puteoli, or as it is known today, Pozzuoli, on the north end of the Bay of Naples.

The last time I read this, I had no context in which to reflect on the landing point.  However, I have now been to Pozzuoli myself.  In fact, it served as our port of departure the Monday after Easter when I set out with Jill and Tia Kim to visit Ischia.  The city was much like any port city, but once we got onto the ferry and in the water, the views were unique and stunning.

Today after finishing chapter 28, I kept thinking about what St. Paul must have felt when seeing the shoreline of Pozzuoli.  He knew his final destination was still an overland trip away, but he also must have had an inclination that he might never set foot in a boat, or be tossed by the waves, again.  The water is so blue and majestic in the Bay…I can imagine him peering into the azure mirror and considering just how far he had come in such a short time.  From zealous persecutor to convicted evangelist…what a turnaround.

As we get ready to delve into his own words, the letters he wrote to the churches and communities he loved, prayed for, and sought to build up, I am hoping that we here in the church named after him might be open to such a radical conversion as he experienced.  I am praying that the deep waters, those that bore him finally to shore in Pozzuoli, and the waters of baptism which brought him from death to life might carry us along in this new season.

When Institutions Go Bad

The Rios family has rediscovered the Little House on the Prairie series.  Watching these episodes as an adult is certainly different from watching them as a child, but they are just right for Aja, and bring up several moral dilemmas that are worth discussing.  We just began season 4 after making our way through the last month+ of previous episodes.

Last night we watched the episode, Times of Change, where Pa gets invited to attend The Grange convention (in place of Walnut Grove’s sick rep) in Chicago, where John Jr. (the orphan poet who was adopted by the Edwards’, got a scholarship to attend college in Chicago, and is currently engaged to young Mary Ingalls) is working at a paper in town.  Illusions are about to be shattered, as the nice, telegraphing 70’s music lets us know (let the viewer understand:)!

Pa soon finds out that The Grange is no longer an organization of farmers, but a vipers nest of graft, controlled by the railroads who are sysymatically buying votes for their preferred legislation.  It becomes clear that the nice railroad car Pa and Mary shared from Walnut grove, and the suite they were given, which is triple the size of their farmhouse, is an attempt to get him to vote no on regulation measures.  Even worse, John Jr’s paper is in cahoots with the railroads to not publish “unseemly” material about back room deals and the “desperate women” (care of Simonetta Ciccolini:) that have been brought in to appease the male clientele and curry favor.

This macro commentary on institutions is the backdrop for the withering relationship between Mary and John Jr, as he has fallen prey to the double dealing of the big city, taking another girl to cotillion while still trying to go with Mary.  His scheme falls apart when Pa comes back from an impassioned speech at the convention and finds him kissing another girl.

So, we’ve been reading about the building of the tabernacle, ark of the covenant, table, etc. along with the Gospel of Mark.  Jesus today confronted the Pharaisees who were watching him to see whether he would break the sabbath rules by healing on the day, or obey their rules (ostensibly God’s rules) and do nothing.  Of course, he heals him and the text says, “He was grieved at their hardness of heart.”  How had the people who in Exodus had been lifted up from bondage under Pharaoh, who had witnessed the effects of a powerful monarch/institution “hardening his heart” to God’s cry of freedom, have come to represent the oppression from which they ran?

As a member of an insitution called the Episcopal church, I am aware of the challenges that come when people who have gathered together to do good in greater numbers, have to face the reality that some of their members will seek to exploit that good will.  Most people of my generation or younger have a healthy to neurotic fear of institutions, which many older generations cite as the reason more of us are not in church on Sundays.  It is not hard to understand why.  Governments break their promises to the governed after gaining votes, religious institutions at times seem awfully more interested in maintaining their own rules and structures rather than engaging the daily challenges of peoples’ lives, and it seems inevitable that the more we invest in growing an institution, the more we invest in division, disappointment and deception.  We have seen how corporations remain slaves to the stock market and investors, while playing Pharoah with national economies and regulations.  We have seen environmental degradation continue because politicians do not have the will to stop it, nor mass scale polluters the conscience to quit.  What are we to do?

Institutions are faceless.  They are amorphous conglomerates in which identity is subsumed into “the brand.”  The church has an institutional role to play, but perhaps, as Israel was called to be post-Exodus, and as Jesus called the disciples to be in Mark today, we are called to be first and foremost, a community. I’m sure that is obvious, and seemingly simplistic, but hey, “I’m just a dumb hillbilly from Asheville.”  When the church works, and I have seen it work, otherwise I wouldn’t proudly do what I do now, we can help remind the world just how powerful community action and values can be.  And those values can be shared across faith traditions and ethical traditions other than our own, while we still retain our Christ centeres reasons and motivations.

The hallmarks of community as I see them, are: mutual trust and respect, care for neighbor, truth-telling, and all under the banner of celebrating diverse yet shared experience/destiny.  I am convinced that this can only happen when people know each other on a deep level, because of shared hardship and joys. And it takes time and energy to cultivate, which in an instantaneous world is truly counter-cultural.  However, when we stop caring about our neighbor with a withered hand, or a slave stacking bricks for monuments to “Egypt’s” glory, or the plight of “dumb farmers” in our midst, then we have lost the reason for becoming an institution in the first place.  We have lost our sense of community.

May our churches be know as communities where these sorts of values reign, and  let our denomination/church institution be known as a community of such communities.  What can each of us do to build up the communites we serve and of which we are a part today?  May you have the strength and will to do so dear friend.

Faceless institutions without community conscience and values may be able to dominate the world, but they will never have the power to transform it, nor will they be able to win hearts and minds forever.  That is the promise of God.   Ask Pharaoh and Egypt, ask The Grange in Little House.

Or better yet, ask Pa!

Blood of the Covenant

For the last two days we Bible Challengers have been reading about the details of the appointments for the tent of meeting, altar, and priestly vessels and vestments post Exodus event (Exodus 25-30).  The details of how the walls of the tabernacle should be put together with gold and bronze clasps is interesting, albeit a bit less so than the narrative sections.  I have been wondering how many times people have tried to recreate this liturgical space in the past.

Of course, in reading the account of the last supper and crucifixion alongside this, it was hard for me avoid connecting the “sanctification” of the tabernacle/altar/garments through ram’s blood with Jesus’ words accompanying the communal cup.  Whether blood is “dashed on the side of the altar,” rubbed on the horns of the altar, or put on Aaron and his descendants’ right earlobes and toes, it is obvious that blood was very important to the ancient Israelite understanding of the sacred and covenant-making.  A stark difference between that understanding and Jesus’ words, of course, lies in whether the blood of others (in this case animals) makes something holy or dedicates it to God, or if it is our own blood that does so.  Granted, we could say that Jesus’ blood is special in this sense, and that it is not our blood but his (as the symbolic Lamb of God) which inaugurates the new covenant, and makes us and the world “holy.”  I don’t know how you feel about that, but I’m interested to hear.  Taking this specialness of Jesus’ blood too far has always concerned me (watch Mel Gibson’s The Passion for a taste of what I mean in terms of a grotesque fascination with Jesus’ actual blood), almost as much as animal sacrifice, as a way to please God and be in communion with the divine.

I have to admit that the more I read about the nature of worship in ancient Israel, the more distant I feel from it.  I read this with the knowledge that most of my friends–Jews, Christians and otherwise– probably feel similarly.  But it begs the question, how are we drawn today into a connection with the sacred…with the holy?  Where do we get so lifted out of the normalcy of our lives to experience awe and wonder in community?  The design of the tabernacle surely must have inspired this, and the blood of bulls and rams, along with smoking entrails and incense must have been awe-inducing indeed.  We seek to approach such awe in our liturgy today…with incense and even the body and blood of Christ in Holy communion.  What is the connection between awe and sacrifice here?

The implications that come from self-sacrifice (or alternatively from “other” sacrifice) are vastly different.  Several of my friends have posted on their Facebook pages the youtube clip of Pastor Worley from Maiden, NC talking about how LGBT’s (or as he says, the queers and homa-sex-yuhls) should be corraled in an electrified fenced-in area, and since they can’t reproduce, they will eventually die off.  I read the above mentioned parts of the Bible in conjunction with Worley’s idea (a prevalent one sadly) that “other” sacrifice will somehow make God happy and be efficacious…whether it be LGBT’s, undocumented immigrants who face deportation and the Minutemen, African-Americans facing Jim Crow legislation, the Jews in Hitler’s Germany, or countless groups who have been seen as “the others” and been targeted and “sacrificed” in thought, word or deed on the religious and cultural altars of history.  For me, the defining (and awe-some) aspect of Jesus conception of sacrifice is that it does not ask us to place others upon the altar, but invites us to offer ourselves instead, and when need be, face the knife of those who would sacrifice them as “other” together, in solidarity.  I think of the Muslims and Christians surrounding each other at protests in Nigeria, protecting each other from the violence they each fear will be perpetrated upon the other in the name of God.  What is more awesome than that?

Which makes it doubly frustrating to see those who claim to follow Christ, and his example, so easily offering others on the altar of sacrifice, almost without conscience, or worse, with a kind of perverted joy.  Loving enemies, especially ones who claim friendship with God like Pastor Worley and preach such ignorance and hatred, is a challenge indeed.

I hope and pray that God will teach me how to resist this form of other sacrifice, and give me the strength to see daily how the holiness I seek comes from giving over to God the only offering I truly have to give in this world.


Plagues, Wages and Servanthood

Our reading today from Exodus (Chapters 7-9) had to do with the first plagues that God sends through Moses upon Egypt in an attempt to convince Pharaoh to let the Hebrew slaves go, so they can worship God freely in the wilderness.

 There are a lot of ways one could reflect on these plagues.  Like why can the Egyptians magicians duplicate them so easily?  Does God actually harden Pharaoh’s heart?  You get the idea.

I am most interested today in the connection between slaves of an empire, the laborers from Jesus’ parable in Matthew 20, and finally Jesus’ statement to the disciples, “Whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave.”  I imagine you could get into some slippery territory if trying to apply Jesus’ statement in a forced way (rather than as a freely chosen orientation) .  It seems clear to me that God doesn’t approve of the slavery his people face in Egypt, a slavery that not only perverts their work lives, but affects their ability to worship.  However, we all know that generations not too far removed from our own have justified slavery through using the Bible.  What is a faithful reader to do?

Well, I can’t speak for you, but I will say that today I found a new connection among these readings.  When I read the story of the laborers who are hired at different parts of the day but paid the same wage by the landowner, I can not help but think of a scene that I first saw in Austin, Texas during seminary, and which was played out several other times as I worked with undocumented immigrants in North Carolina.  I saw Latinos, primarily Mexicans, standing on a corner in East Austin, clamoring into the back of pickup trucks that needed workers for the day.  Those that were slow, injured, or old weren’t always able to get into the back of the trucks, and were often left behind, unsure whether or not they would be able to make enough money in the day to provide dinner for their families.  Immigration issues aside, it was clear to me that instead of a parable about God’s unfairness (some worked longer hours and didn’t get paid more), this was a parable about God’s justice and generosity (all were assured of daily bread and no one was left behind).  I had visions of God coming by that corner in Austin with a truck that kept picking folks up until the corner was empty and everyone was in the vineyard together.

When I read it today, I heard a new connection between the wrongness of forced slavery (Exodus) which is upsetting enough that God interrupts the natural world order in an attempt to show Pharaoh how his decision to enslave is disrupting creation on a human level, and the rightness of work and freely elected servanthood.  In a time in which economies are crumbling, jobs are scarce, and slavery still exists, what do we Christians have to say about the nature of labor and servanthood that is faithful and hopeful?  There is a wide gulf between forced slavery and chosen servanthood, but often a fine line between work and slavery in  the contemporary economies. How do you proclaim the difference?

Things you just don’t read in church…

I forget about passages like Exodus 4:24-26 until I am forced to encounter them.  Thanks Bible Challenge!

After being told by God to go back to Egypt and announce the liberation of the Hebrews to a relutant Pharaoh (and the Hebrews themselves), Moses and his wife Zipporah get apparently assaulted by God on the road.  A very strange passage to say the least.  Why would the God who has just empowered Moses, seek to end his life?

I found this link that offers some textual and interpretive light on this little gem.  Check it out here:

For my own part, after reading this, I see this passage almost like Genesis 32:22-32 (Jacob wrestles at Peniel).  Is circumcision (the mark of the promise) what Moses has to wrestle with in this passage (whether it be for himself or for his son Gershom)?  Jacob asks for the name of God after wrestling, which Moses received in Exodus 3:14.  Is Moses now to receive God’s blessing through wrestling with this covenant requirement?

If you know of any other resources that might elucidate this passage please let me know!

While the theme of slavery/liberation rightly overshadows details like this episode in the book of Exodus, part of the joy of a daily practice like this is the opportunity to “wrestle” with the particulars.  Let’s just say that I am thankful our wrestling doesn’t require such blood sacrifices to determine the outcome!

Lifting Up

Old Testament Lesson

Genesis 37:25-36: Joseph sold into slavery



Mark 1:29-45: Jesus heals Peter’s mother in law

In reading through the office this morning, I was struck by the connection between Joseph’s being “lifted up” to be sold into slavery and Jesus’ “lifting up” of Peter’s mother-in-law for the purpose of healing.  The Joseph story is one close to my heart: I played Issachar in the Andrew Lloyd Weber musical in high school and experienced the betrayal of Joseph’s brothers through the “magic of theatre.” Over recent years, my work with immigrants led me to identify this lifting up of Joseph to become a slave with the plight of undocumented peoples who are “lifted up” from unsustainable lives in their home countries, only to encounter servitude in a foreign land (though God’s redemptive work is also glimpsed at times even in the midst of the hardships they face).

But for some reason, I hadn’t seen Jesus’ “lifting up” in this healing story as strongly connected to this previous lifting up until today.  Psalm 40 (immortalized by U2 on the album War) says “I waited patiently for the Lord, he inclined and heard my cry. He drew me up from the desolate pit, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.  He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.”  In the case of Jesus, the lifting up is from the beginning a lifting up for good; in Joseph’s case, the good was only realized much later.  Perhaps it was the hand of God that saved him from the pit, but it was the hand of the Midianites that then sold him into slavery.  It was God who then “set his feet on the rock” while in Pharoah’s court to turn this story of fraternal treachery into one of societal redemption and communal good. In Jesus’ case with Peter’s mother-in-law, the good starts “immediately,” to use the Markan phrase, with the outstretched hand.

God lifts us up from the pits of our lives in various ways.  I am curious about your stories of being lifted up, and hope you will share them here.  I hope that all who read this will experience goodness and joy today and be led to sing a new song.

Eternal Life and Shrove Tuesday

New Testament Lesson

Phil. 3:1-11 (NRSV)

10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death,

11 if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

After watching Revenge of the Sith last night, I have been reflecting on Anakin’s descent into becoming Darth Vader.  Although I don’t much care for Hayden’s acting of the part, it is clear that the turning point is his desire for eternal life at any cost,  In the beginning his motives seem genuine (he wants to preserve Padme and his unborn child/twins), but eventually the power he gains through serving the Sith Lord eclipse his original motive.  The scene in which Chancellor Palpateen (Emperor to be) seeks to convince Anakin that Jedi and Sith are virtually the same, save for Sith having greater power resonates with this reading from Philippians.  Anakin says, “The Sith are at their heart, selfish, caring for themselves only; the Jedi are selfless, caring for others.”  Palpateen shrugs this off.

Paul definitely believes that there is great power to be had in serving Christ.  As he says in the rest of this reading, he was no stranger to power, particularly power over others as a persecutor.  But he has realized (as he wants his hearers/readers to realize) that the way of Jesus is one of emptying (kenosis), in which the power of God is not grasped through riches, through anger, through “the dark side” of the force, but rather through sharing in the suffering and death of the resurrected one.  Paul has faith that this sharing will lead him to the promised resurrection, but cannot say for sure.  As Yoda says in Empire Strikes Back, “Always in motion the future is.”

As we begin Lent tomorrow, I need to remember this way and pray for the strength to pursue it.  What do you think?

Transfiguration Sunday & St. John Chrystostom

Mark 9:2-9 / San Marcos 9:2-9

Transfiguration Sunday / Domingo de la Transfiguración

February 19, 2012

St. Paul’s Within the Walls / San Pablo dentro Los Muros

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!

It is an honor and a privilege to be standing here before you on Transfiguration Sunday 2012 after a long interim period in which you welcomed and bid farewell to two long term interims,

Father John and Bishop Richard, we have now been called together to proclaim the love and power of Jesus Christ in this historic city and beyond. As your new rector, I want to assure you that nothing excites me more than this work and ministry that stretches out before us, and I am convinced that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ has given us the gifts, tools, and resources to pursue excellence in his name and for his glory.

What a thrilling time to be one of his servants!

What a thrilling time to be a member of St. Paul’s Within the Walls!

I want to thank the staff and vestry for all their hard work during this transition time and for the care they have taken with Jill, Aja and me as we have settled in to our new life here. Mille grazie ai nostri nuovi amici!

Over the days and weeks to come, I look forward to learning more about you, and about how God has called you to be and serve in this community of faith.  In my brief time here I know that God has blessed us with many riches:

a wealth of diversity, in language and culture;

an unparalleled worship space,

and ministries that connect to the heart of Christ’s mission.

Very few, if any, churches have been blessed so richly; it shall be our task to be faithful stewards of these gifts God has entrusted to our care. With the gift of diversity comes the challenge of coordinating our efforts in a unified manner; this often requires a higher level of patience with interpretation and with the cultural practices of our brothers and sisters in Christ that differ from our own.

With the gift of this magnificent space comes the challenge of caring for it; not only through the work of our hands, but through faithful giving of our treasure so that future generations may know God’s glory through its preservation. With the gift of various ministries–from the JNRC, which serves hundreds of political refugees on a daily basis, to the prayer group on Wednesdays and the Latin American Bible study on Thursdays, to the majestic music ministry within liturgies and concerts offered throughout the week–with such a wide spectrum of ministry comes the challenge of collaborating so that these ministries and new ministries yet to  be created will be sound, sustainable and life giving for all involved in them.

I realize, as I’m sure you do, that this is no small task.

But none of us is called to attend to these challenges alone.

God has given us fellow walkers in the way, whose skills, talents and means can be directed toward these challenges so that all may more fully enjoy the greater gift that lies beyond the presenting challenges.

In each aspect of our common life that I’ve mentioned, that greater gift is the experience of Christ among us, working through us to extend his freeing salvation to a world to often full of division and despair. The gift that awaits us, and draws us into servanthood and mutual ministry my friends, is the resurrected LIFE we know in Jesus, through the power of the Holy Spirit.

May we enjoy a foretaste of this life in abundance, brothers and sisters, as we labor together in the days. months, and years to come! This abundant life is the very nature of our God.

In the gospel reading today from St. Mark, we witness that life in all its glory. What is it we see exactly? The particulars of the story are clearly described:

Jesus goes up a mountain with Peter, James, and John and is transfigured before them. Moses and Elijah show up and Peter, in a fit of fear, wants to capture this amazing moment by building booths for Israel’s greatest prophets. A cloud comes and covers them, God tells the disciples that Jesus is his Beloved, orders them to listen to him, and the cloud dissipates, leaving Jesus alone in front of the disciples.

Down the mountain they go, with an admonishment from Jesus to say nothing about this spectacular event until after his Resurrection.

These are the particulars of the event, and the movement we see represented is one of ascension (going up the mountain), to transfiguration (upon the mountain) and eventual descent from the mountain.

But much more is going on in this event than the particulars reveal alone.

The six days after refer to six days after Peter’s confession of Jesus as the Messiah, a confession that seems wholly confirmed in the transfiguration event. But seconds after this confession Peter also fails to see that the way of glory and Jesus’ messiah-ship will come through suffering upon the cross, and Jesus reproves him for this.

It is no accident that Peter and each of the disciples present upon the mount of Transfiguration that day are a mixture of promise and disappointment, of great capacity for grasping the glory of God and for missing it altogether because of preconceived notions of how it must be revealed.

Are we any different brothers and sisters?

Upon the mount of transfiguration, we receive a stunning confirmation of the difference between humanity and divinity. To be human is to resonate with the transcendent always among us, the glory of God that infuses this creation and its creatures. And yet humanity’s limits are also painfully known to us

…we suffer, we die, we misunderstand

…we always have vision that is limited by our particular situation and circumstances.

This is reflected on the societal level as well. Israel revered Moses as the champion of the Law, and Elijah as the epitome of a prophet zealous for God, yet its chief priests and scribes could not see Jesus for who he was: the law and prophets held together in the tension of love. God’s son and Mary’s child. Eternal Messiah and soon to be crucified criminal.

As it was incomprehensible then, so it is now to us.

We cannot fully understand the power Christ wields over life and death, or how the cross will be converted from instrument of torture to a sign of resurrection.

And yet God has revealed the mystery to us, and continues to do so even today.

In her book, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Annie Dillard shares stories of doctors who performed early cataract surgery in Europe.

When a doctor removed bandages from one girl’s eyes, she saw “the tree with the lights in it.” Those words sent Dillard on her own journey.  She writes, “It was for this tree I searched through the peach orchards of summer, in the forests of fall and down winter and spring for years.

Then one day I was walking along Tinker Creek thinking of nothing at all, and I saw the tree with the lights in it. I saw the backyard cedar where the mourning doves roost charged and transfigured

…I stood on the grass with the lights in it, grass that was wholly fire, utterly focused and utterly dreamed. It was less like seeing than like being for the first time seen, knocked breathless by a powerful glance… The vision comes and goes, mostly goes, but I live for it.”

Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, 33-34

Once we have glimpsed the glory of God, we can not “unsee” it.

What was revealed to shepherds, magi, and the animals over the last two seasons of the church has culminated in this moment.

We are about to enter the season of Lent, in which our ability to “live for” this vision will be tested, just as the disciples’ vision was tested as they descended from the mount of Transfiguration. As the faithful gathered together in this church of St. Paul’s within the Walls, we too will be challenged to “live for” the vision of God’s glory in the days to come, not only in Lent, but in the months and years beyond, where the gifts that God has given us will be challenged by the reality of the difficulties we must face to realize them fully.

Will we remember the glory upon the mountain when the hard times beset us?

Will we follow Jesus to Jerusalem and share with him in the suffering he will endure, knowing that on the other side lies God’s glorious life in abundance?

We will, my brothers and sisters, with God’s help.

We will remember the promise of glory that we have seen in Christ on the mount of transfiguration, even when it is but a faint glimmer. We will coordinate to face the challenge of diversity, we will care for this space together, and we will collaborate to make these ministries entrusted to us and those yet begun shine with God’s glory–and remind us and this world we inhabit of the promise we share in the suffering Messiah we call the Christ.

God does not require our perfection, merely our faithfulness.

God used Peter, James, John and countless other servants so that we would know of the saving power of Christ and his eternal glory that shone on the mountain that day. With God’s help, may we hold each other in faith, reminding each other of this promise of shared glory we have in Jesus, both in times of joy and pain. May we find unity in the power of the Holy Spirit, and may God bless us, as we move into the hard but rewarding work of ministry in the seasons to come.


Gracia y paz a ustedes, de Dios nuestro Padre y del Señor Jesucristo!

Es un honor y un privilegio estar aquí en este Domingo de la Transfiguración de 2012.

Después de un largo período intermedio en el que dieron la bienvenida y despedida a dos interinos a largo plazo, el Padre Juan y Obispo Richard, hemos sido convocados para proclamar el amor y el poder de Jesucristo en esta histórica ciudad y más allá.

Como su nuevo rector, quiero asegurarle que nada me emociona más de este trabajo y el ministerio que se extiende ante nosotros, y estoy convencido de que nuestro Señor y Salvador Jesucristo nos ha dado los dones, herramientas y recursos para alcanzar la excelencia en su nombre y para su gloria.

Qué tiempo tan emocionante como uno de sus siervos!

Qué momento emocionante para ser un miembro de San Pablo dentro de los muros!

Quiero dar las gracias al personal y el comité por todo su duro trabajo durante este tiempo de transición y por el cuidado que han tenido con Jill, Aja y yo a medida que nos hemos establecido en nuestra nueva vida aquí. Mille grazie ai nostri nuovi amici!

Durante los días y semanas por venir, espero aprender más acerca de ustedes y acerca de cómo Dios te ha llamado a ser y servir en esta comunidad de fe.

En mi breve tiempo aquí yo sé que Dios nos ha bendecido con muchas riquezas: una riqueza de la diversidad, en la lengua y la cultura, un espacio de culto sin precedentes, y los ministerios que se conectan al corazón de la misión de Cristo.

Muy pocos iglesias, si existen algunas, han sido bendecidos tan abundantemente, y que debe ser nuestra tarea de ser fieles mayordomos de estos dones que Dios ha confiado a nuestro cuidado.

Con el don de la diversidad viene el reto de coordinar nuestros esfuerzos de una manera unificada, lo que a menudo requiere un nivel más alto de la paciencia con la interpretación y con las prácticas culturales de nuestros hermanos y hermanas en Cristo, que difieren de la nuestra.

Con el don de este magnífico espacio, viene el desafío de cuidar de ella,

no sólo a través de la obra de nuestras manos,

sino a través de los fieles dones de nuestro tesoro,

para que futuras generaciones puedan conocer la gloria de Dios a través de su preservación.

Con el don de diversos ministerios: de la JNRC que sirve a cientos de refugiados políticos a diario, hasta el grupo de oración en los miércoles y el estudio Biblico de la comunidad latinoamericana en los jueves, hasta el ministerio de música majestuosa dentro de la liturgia y los conciertos ofrecidos durante toda la semana… con un espectro tan amplio de ministerio, viene el desafío de colaborar para que estos ministerios y nuevos ministerios aun no creados, serán fuertes, sostenibles y dadores de vida para todos los involucrados en ellos.

Me doy cuenta, como estoy seguro de que sí, que esto no es tarea fácil. Sin embargo, ninguno de nosotros está llamado a asistir a estos retos en solitario.

Dios nos ha dado compañeros de caminata en el camino, cuyas habilidades, talentos y medios se pueden dirigir a estos retos, para que todos puedan disfrutar más plenamente el don más grande que está más allá de los desafíos que presentan.

En cada aspecto de nuestra vida en común que he mencionado, el regalo más grande es la experiencia de Cristo entre nosotros, trabajando a través de nosotros para ampliar su salvación liberadora dentro de un mundo a menudo lleno de la división y la desesperanza.

El regalo que nos espera, y nos atrae hacia la servidumbre y el ministerio mutuo, mis amigos, es la vida resucitada que conocemos en Jesús, a través del poder del Espíritu Santo. Que podamos disfrutar de un anticipo de esta vida en abundancia, hermanos y hermanas, durante el trabajo en conjunto en los días, meses y años por venir!

Esta vida abundante es la naturaleza misma de nuestro Dios. En la lectura del evangelio hoy de San Marcos, somos testigos de esta vida en toda su gloria.

¿Qué es lo que vemos exactamente? Los detalles de la historia se describen claramente:

Jesús sube a una montaña con Pedro, Santiago y Juan, y se transfiguró delante de ellos. Moisés y Elías aparecen y Pedro, en un ataque de miedo, quiere capturar este momento increíble en la construcción de cabinas para los más grandes profetas de Israel. Una nube viene y los cubre, Dios le dice a los discípulos que Jesús es su Amado, Que le escuchen a sus órdenes, y se disipa la nube, dejando solo a Jesús delante de los discípulos. Abajo de la montaña que vayan, con una amonestación de Jesús a decir nada acerca de este espectacular evento hasta después de su Resurrección.

Estos son los detalles del evento, y el movimiento que vemos representado es uno de ascensión (que sube la montaña), de la transfiguración (sobre la montaña) y el descenso posterior de la montaña.

Pero mucho más está pasando en este caso que los datos revelan solo.

Los seis días después se refieren a seis días después de la confesión de Pedro que Jesús era el Mesías, una confesión que parece totalmente confirmado en el caso de la transfiguración. Pero segundos después de esta confesión de Pedro también se deja de ver que el camino de gloria y de Jesús como el Mesías vendrá a través del sufrimiento en la cruz, y Jesús lo reprende por ello.

No es casual que Pedro y cada uno de los discípulos presentes en el monte de la transfiguración de ese día son una mezcla de promesa y decepción, de gran capacidad para captar la gloria de Dios y no captarlo a la vez, debido a las nociones preconcebidas de cómo debe ser revelada.

¿No somos nosotros, hermanos y hermanas, igual que ellos?

En el monte de la transfiguración, recibimos una confirmación espectacular de la diferencia entre la humanidad y la divinidad. Ser humano es resonar con lo trascendente siempre entre nosotros, la gloria de Dios que infunde esta creación y sus criaturas.

Y sin embargo, los límites de la humanidad también son dolorosamente conocido por nosotros

…sufrimos, morimos, no nos entendemos

…siempre tenemos la visión que está limitada por nuestra situación particular y las circunstancias.

Esto se refleja en el nivel de la sociedad también. Israel veneraba a Moisés como el campeón de la Ley, y Elías como el epítome de un profeta celoso de Dios, sin embargo, sus sumos sacerdotes y escribas, no podían ver a Jesús por lo que era: la ley y los profetas unidos en la tensión del amor, hijo de Dios y niño de María, el Mesías eterno quien pronto iba a ser crucificado como un criminal.

Como era incomprensible entonces, así es ahora para nosotros.

Nosotros no podemos comprender plenamente el poder que Cristo ejerce sobre la vida y la muerte, cómo que la cruz se convertirá de un instrumento de tortura a un signo de la resurrección.

Y sin embargo, Dios nos ha revelado el misterio para nosotros, y lo sigue haciendo hasta hoy. En su libro, peregrino en Tinker Creek, Annie Dillard comparte historias de médicos que realizaron la cirugía temprana de cataratas en Europa.

Cuando un médico retiró las vendas de los ojos de una niña, vio “el árbol con las luces.” Esas palabras hicieron Dillard comenzar en su propio viaje.

Ella escribió:

“Fue por este árbol he buscado a través de los huertos de durazno de verano, en los bosques de otoño, invierno y la primavera y hacia abajo durante años.

Entonces un día estaba caminando por Tinker Creek pensando de la nada, y vi el árbol con las luces de la misma. Vi el cedro del patio trasero, donde las tórtolas se posan cargado y transfigurado

…Me paré sobre la hierba con las luces en el mismo, la hierba que estaba totalmente el fuego, totalmente concentrado y soñado por completo. Era menos como ver que ser visto, por primera vez, golpeado sin aliento por una mirada de gran alcance

… La visión va y viene, va todo, pero yo vivo por ella.”

Una vez que hemos vislumbrado la gloria de Dios, no podemos quitar la visión de nosotros .

Lo que se reveló a los pastores, los magos, y los animales durante las dos últimas temporadas de la iglesia ha culminado en este momento.

Estamos a punto de entrar en el tiempo de Cuaresma, en la que será nuestra capacidad para “vivir” esta visión a prueba, al igual que la visión de los discípulos se puso a prueba a medida que descendían del monte de la Transfiguración.

Como los fieles congregados en la iglesia de San Pablo dentro de los muros, nosotros también nos enfrentamos al reto de “vivir” la visión de la gloria de Dios en los días venideros, no sólo en Cuaresma, pero más allá de los meses y años, donde los dones que Dios nos ha dado será desafiado por la realidad de las dificultades que deben enfrentar para realizar plenamente.

¿Vamos a recordar la gloria en el monte, cuando los momentos difíciles nos rodea?

¿Vamos a seguir a Jesús a Jerusalén y compartir con él en el sufrimiento que va a soportar, sabiendo que en el otro lado se encuentra la vida gloriosa de Dios en abundancia?

Si lo haremos, mis hermanos y hermanas, con la ayuda de Dios.

Vamos a recordar la promesa de la gloria que hemos visto en Cristo en el monte de la transfiguración, incluso cuando no es más que una tenue luz.

Vamos a coordinar para hacer frente al reto de la diversidad, vamos a cuidar de este espacio juntos, y vamos a colaborar para que estos ministerios confiados a nosotros y los nuevos aún no comenzados brillan con la gloria de Dios y nos recuerdan y al mundo en que vivimos de la promesa que compartimos en el Mesías sufriente, que llamamos el Cristo.

Dios no requiere de nuestra perfección, simplemente nuestra fidelidad.

Dios usó a Pedro, Santiago, Juan e innumerables otros servidores para que nosotros sabemos de la fuerza salvadora de Cristo y de su gloria eterna que brillaba en la montaña ese día.

Con la ayuda de Dios, que nos abrazamos en la fe, recordando a los demás de la promesa de la gloria compartida que tenemos en Jesús, tanto en los momentos de alegría y dolor. Que podamos encontrar la unidad en el poder del Espíritu Santo, y que Dios nos bendiga, mientras avanzamos en el trabajo duro pero gratificante del ministerio en las próximas temporadas.

From St. John Chrysostom referring to the Transfiguration:

Hom. in Matt., 56:

He brings Moses and Elias before them; first, indeed, because the multitudes said that Christ was Elias, and one of the Prophets. He shews Himself to the Apostles with them, that they might see the difference between the Lord, and His servants.

And again because the Jews accused Christ of transgressing the law, and thought Him a blasphemer, as if He arrogated to Himself the glory of His Father, He brought before them those who shone conspicuous in both ways; for Moses gave the Law, and Elias was zealous for the glory of God; for which reason neither would have stood near Him, if He had been opposed to God and to His law.

And that they might know that He holds the power of life and of death, He brings before them both Moses who was dead, and Elias who had not yet suffered death. Furthermore He signified by this that the doctrine of the Prophets was the schoolmaster to the doctrine of Christ. He also signified the junction of the New and Old Testament, and that the Apostles shall be joined in the resurrection with the Prophets, and both together shall go forth to meet their common King.

Making Amends

Old Testament Lesson

Genesis 32:3-21 (NRSV)

Jacob stole much from his brother Esau through trickery.  The time has come for him to make things right, and he does so by offering gifts.  While these gifts do not replace the birthright and blessing that he received from his father Isaac, it does much to let Esau know that he is aware of the rift his trickery caused.

When we harm others, how do we begin to make amends?  Sometimes it is a kind word, sometimes it takes the form of a gift, but it almost always begins by acknowledging our wrongdoing and asking for forgiveness.

How are you called to make amends with someone you’ve hurt?

Jacob the Trickster

Old Testament Lesson

Genesis 31:25-50

I find myself interested in the Jacob saga once again.  Jacob is such a trickster in the traditional sense.  And yet, he is right is telling Laban that he has put up with much waiting and trickery while he awaits the fulfillment of promises unto him.  The family dynamics between father and daughter, son in law and father in law are familiar to us, even though the context of stealing household gods may not be so familiar.

Does God appreciate and even favor this trickery?  Curious what others may think.