Year C, The Last Sunday after the Epiphany
February 27, 2022
Year C: Exodus 34:29-35; Psalm 99; 2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2; Luke 9:28-43
Some, perhaps a few, perhaps many, of us, have had what we refer to as “mountain top experiences,”. Yesterday, I got to re-live one of my mountaintop experiences. I went to the Kennedy Center to see Jesus Christ Superstar, and I realized that it had been 47 years since I had seen a stage performance. That of course is impossible since I’m only 45. But Jesus Christ Superstar was one of my mountaintop experiences as a teenager.
Mountain top experiences can open our hearts and minds to the joy of Christ’s love for us, revealing the beauty of creation – but then invariable, we have to return to life in the “real world” where the demands and chaos in our lives constantly assault and disappoint us. That seems to be what’s happening in today’s Gospel.
Mountaintop experiences may reveal the truth of God’s love, but we are not to stay on the mountain as Peter suggests. Peter wants to put dwellings for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah to remain there – at least for a while. Wouldn’t it be nice to stay on that mountain – to stay away from the troubles of the world around them?
Life is full of disappointments, and Jesus’ response is evidence of his humanity. It is also evidence of his love that he heals the boy after a brief display of his frustration.
We often speak of the divinity of Jesus and give lip service to his humanity – but this passage shows both. Not only was Jesus frustrated by his disciples’ lack of faith that they could not heal the child, Jesus heals the boy as he is headed for the cross.
Jesus has come down from the mountain to head to Jerusalem, and he knows his presence there will not be well received. That’s what Jesus discusses with Moses and Elijah – what will happen in Jerusalem. How much longer will he have to be with his disciples? Not long. Although Jesus chose to walk this path, I am sure he was not looking forward to facing the authorities in Jerusalem.
This is not to be, for Jesus leads them down the mountain, back into the world that is in desperate need of his love.
We are all in desperate need of his love.
The good news is that Christ cares, and we, as members of this church, as members of Christ’s church, need to let them know that they are beloved – just as we are beloved by God.
That may be hard to believe as we hear the news and images of the invasion of Ukraine. There had been a build-up for weeks. The threat of war cast a pall over the Olympic Games held in Beijing. It should have been a festival of sports underscoring positive international relations and “friendly competition.” Instead, the invasion of Ukraine has triggered what will almost certainly be a major humanitarian crisis as people flee the area. More than 100,000 Ukrainians have fled thus far.
In announcing the attack, and attempting to justify his invasion, Russian President Vladimir Putin argued that Russia was forced to invade. Putin said, “No matter who tries to stand in our way or … create threats for our country and our people, they must know that Russia will respond immediately, and the consequences will be such as you have never seen in your entire history.” He reminded the world community that “Today’s Russia remains one of the most powerful nuclear states.” It was a thinly veiled threat of possible nuclear war.
I’m a child of the ‘60s and remember well the famous poster created by Lorraine Schneider in 1966 in response to the Vietnam War—War is not healthy for children and other living things. Schneider was correct, of course. She still is. War is never good.
Yes, there have been those who have argued with St. Augustine over the centuries that some wars are “just.” However, with the advent of nuclear weapons in the 20th century and the possibility of nuclear annihilation today, it is more challenging to uphold just war theory. It may be possible that war can be fought to achieve a good, but war itself is always evil, perhaps a lesser evil, but evil, nonetheless. Thankfully, I’ve heard no one suggest that war against Ukraine is just.
War always unleashes chaos, violence, and untold physical and psychological damage to everyone affected, often innocents.
The 20th century witnessed 160 million casualties from war. The 21st century has already seen more than an estimated 19.5 million.
This should be unacceptable to us as followers of Jesus Christ.
I certainly admire those in Ukraine who are trying to defend themselves. I cannot imagine the terror they are experiencing. I also admire those in Moscow who are demonstrating against the war. They, too, are showing true courage.
I can’t help but be reminded of another passage in scripture. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.” Blessed are the peacemakers.
It is tempting to imagine that our world is beyond saving. Disaster persists. Brokenness, sin, and injustice threaten human life. Hope wanes even among faithful people.
This past week, I’ve talked to many friends who teach, as well as friends who have children. None of them are ok. None of us are ok. We’ve been thrown by a pandemic that continues to roil our world, and now children once again have to worry about the fear of nuclear war. When does it stop?
It is tempting to turn away from the news. I do. But we cannot ignore it. We must bear witness to it.
We must know that the suffering caused by unbridled aggression and unfettered greed for control harms so many.
We must be witnesses to the suffering in Ukraine – the suffering in our own communities.
We must be witnesses to the suffering of families and children.
We must name the evil that is taking place, and talk about the people whose homes and lives are crumbling around them. Imagine it is us, our lives, our children.
Evil wins when we look away, thinking this doesn’t affect us.
Love wins when we pray with passion and responsibility to become people, transfigured and transformed by following Jesus up and down the mountain and into the needs of the world.
 Matthew 5:9, New Revised Standard Version (“NRSV”)
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