Zechariah 8:1-8 8 The word of the Sovereign of heaven’s legions came to me, saying: 2 “Thus says the Commander of heaven’s vanguard: I am zealous for Zion with great jealousy, and with great wrath am I jealous for her. 3 Thus says the Ruler of the multitudes of heaven: I will return to Zion and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem; and Jerusalem shall be called “The Faithful City”, and the mountain of the Sovereign of the vanguard of heaven shall be called “The Holy Mountain”. 4 Thus says the Holy One of heaven’s armies: Elder women and elder men shall again sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each with staff in hand because of their great age. 5 And the streets of the city shall be full of girls and boys playing in its streets. 6 Thus says the Majesty of the Heavens: Even though it seem miraculous in the eyes of the remnant of this people in these days, should it also seem miraculous to me, says the Commander of winged warriors? 7 Thus says the Sovereign of Heavens legions: It is I who will save my people from the east land and from the west land. 8 Then I will bring them to dwell within Jerusalem; they shall be my people and I will be their God, in faithfulness and in righteousness.”
Psalm 95:1-7 A Call to Worship and Obedience
1 O come, let us sing to the Rock Who Birthed Us; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
2 Let us come into her presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to her with songs of praise!
3 For the EverLiving God is a great God and a great Majesty above all gods.
4 For in her hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are hers also.
5 For hers is the sea, for she made it, and the dry land, which her hands have crafted.
6 O come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Ageless God, our Maker!
7 For she is our God, and we are the people of her pasture and the sheep of her hand.
O if only today you would listen to her voice!
1st Corinthians 2:1-13 Proclaiming Christ Crucified
2 Now when I came to you, siblings, brothers and sisters, I did not come with lofty words or wisdom proclaiming the mystery of God to you. 2 For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 And so in weakness and in fear and in much trembling I came to you. 4 My message and my proclamation were not given in persuasive words of wisdombut rather with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.
6 Wisdom is what we speak to the mature, wisdom that is not of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to perish. 7 But we speak God’s wisdom, through a mystery that has been hidden, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. 8 This, none of the rulers of this age comprehended, for if they had comprehended, they would not have crucified the Sovereign of glory. 9 Yet, as it is written,
“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love God”
10 To us God has revealed these things through the Spirit, for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. 11 For what human being knows what is human except by the human spirit within that person? Also, in the same way, no one comprehends what is truly God except by the Spirit of God. 12 Now then we have not received the spirit of the world rather the Spirit that is from God, in or we speak of der that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God. 13 And these things we speak of not in words of human taught wisdom but rather Spirit-taught wisdom, interpreting spiritual things to those who are spiritual.
Matthew 17:1-9 17Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. 2And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. 3Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. 4Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 5While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” 6When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. 7But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.” 8And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone. 9As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, “Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”
Good morning, St. Matthew!
We gather on this morning in Itasca on the unceded tribal lands of the Kickapoo, Peoria, Ka-skas-kia, Potawatomi, Mya-a-mia, HoChunk, Winnebago and O-che-thi Sakowin nations, acknowledging that hard past and praying our way into a better future.
And so we pray.
Holy Lord, we are your children, and like children, we often get so obsessed with our own “schtuff” that we forget there is a much larger story being told. This morning as we gather to listen to your word, and worship you in peace and power, help us to remember that larger story, that narrative of which we are a part, but not the total. Open our ears to hear the story of our siblings, our neighbours, and all of creation so that we are reminded of that great canvas, reminded that we are to be humble in telling our part and respectful of others in their telling. Grant us, Holy Spirit, a glimpse of that picture and help us to see how we fit into it.
In your holy name, we pray. Amen.
One of the best things God gave to humanity is the ability to look at seemingly disparate things and make connections. It means that we are capable of great leaps of imagination that allow us to participate with God in that act of creation; we are crafted to bring together elements and building blocks and bring to birth a world that is possible – not just probable. God chooses to see the possible in creation and invites us to do the same. And while that explosive, creative power is literally built into our DNA, it can – like all gifts – be misused. We need look no further than the headlines to see that sometimes we can cram creation into a box that it was never intended to be in. We can listen to the snake as Eve did, and become convinced that what we have been told isn’t really what we have been told. And in that mistaken worldview, we eat the apple and make a fake connection that leads not to creation but to destruction.
But, in God’s grace, the choice to live into possibility remains. And God puts countless hints, clues and signs in our paths to tell us that we ARE free to make new choices, always free to redecide, always free to reconnect to the path of life. In all of our lessons today, we hear God speaking into those possibilities. We can get lost in the probabilities – the human arguments for what is likely, but in doing so, we are choosing to discount the action of God. To be a believer means that we live into that reality; we live in a world where God not only may act – but DOES act! We are, as faithful children of God, able to see the world that is possible – but we have to be sure we are seeing that world with the eyes of the Spirit, with eyes of love that make Divine connections for life.
How many of you are fans of the TV show, Big Bang Theory? It’s out of production now, but I can tell you part of why I personally enjoyed it so much is that I have a number of friend and family members who live and work in the land of academia. So the obscure references, the high brain power pitch of the conversations, the snarky oh so intelligent put downs are all very familiar to me. Through the series they would bring in some odd corner of the intellectual world and make it accessible to their audience. One of those odd corners contains Schrodinger’s cat. In simple terms, Schrödinger stated that if you place a cat and something that could kill the cat (a radioactive atom) in a box and sealed it, you would not know if the cat was dead or alive until you opened the box, so that until the box was opened, the cat was (in a sense) both “dead and alive”. Schrodinger constructed his imaginary experiment with the cat to demonstrate that simple misinterpretations of quantum theory can lead to absurd results which do not match the real world.
So put that cat into our story. If we choose to limit our worldview to our human perspective, discounting the Divine, then we are left with this ridiculous cat, whose existence is, in this puzzle, dependent on OUR perception! God never created us to be so self-centred! There are a million, billion, trillion things that exist beyond my personal perception – and beyond yours. In faith, God asks us to lean into that; to trust that we may not have the entire picture and therefore, we may allow for creation and our neighbours to surprise us with new ideas and dazzle us with connections and insights we previously hadn’t even guessed at. In God’s hands, in the Spirit’s direction, in the grace of Christ – I trust that God is going to surprise me with life!
To a people who have lived centuries of war, destruction and displacement, the people of Israel have reason to be reasonable and accept that all is lost, and that their present reality is all that can be expected. But into that probability, God speaks possibility. God asks the faithful to lift their eyes and trust that their current perspective is not the definer of their future. Schrodinger’s cat’s life is not dependent on our perspective, and neither is God’s action. The cat will be alive or dead; that is the effect of actions taken to harm or heal – its life does not ebb or flow by our awareness. God’s activity in the world happens – whether we perceive it or not. God is who God is. Let me say this as clearly as I can. God’s activity is NOT dependent on our perception. The seeds that God plants and causes to grow are going to bear fruit – because that is the nature of the seeds God’s plants! What God started in Eden may have had to trace through all of our foolishness – but the promise that God made to restore us to our truest selves remains.
Throughout history, we are presented with hints, clues and signs. In the world of human perception of what is probable, we look at a child born into poverty, to disenfranchised parents caught in the realm of historical and political reality that utterly discounts them as being anything more than a number. But that child will grow to change all reality for people capable of faithful vision and belief. There were signs – there were angels and stars and shepherds and magi – but many did not perceive the possibilities breaking upon them. Even as the boy grows to man, even as broken lives are restored to wholeness, even as disabled bodies are restored to ability, even as the dead are raised to life – the perception fails to follow. The philosophical cat remains caught in contemplation – and the false argument is made that all reality is dependent on our ability to understand it. And beloved – that’s not faith!
Faith tells us that a Divine reality exists that is NOT dependent on our ability to perceive it – so like the geodes we shared with the kids, we have to trust that that what we can perceive – those hints, clues and signs are speaking to us of a reality that lies just beyond our perception. Yet there are moments on our journey when if we are allowing ourselves to believe in that Divine reality will reveal that reality to us. If I believe that cat is dead, that there is no possibility of its having life, then I will never open the box, and that cat is, in all probability, going to die. Faith however whispers to me that there is a possibility the cat has life, and therefore I will allow myself to believe in the possibility of its life rather than the probability of its death, and open the box to help it live into that life. That is what faith does – it leans into the possibility that the trust in God’s action will bring life no matter how improbable it seems.
On that mountain top, Jesus moves from the hints, clues and signs to reveal the reality of his Divine being. We are told Peter, James and John are with him – it seems unlikely that they knew what was to come. But they responded to the invitation and followed him up the mountain. And in that everyday choice, they are allowed to participate in God’s reality – to perceive who Jesus truly is. It knocks them to their knees and they clearly do not want to turn away from that revelation. We too can moan and grouse about how we want to always live in that revealed truth – we can, like Peter, proclaim that we will never move away from that revelation. But we are not called to live on the mountain top. Instead we are sent back down the mountain, to speak to others of what they might find if they pay attention to the hints, clues and signs that surround them. Now because we are humans, who are, as Luther says, in bondage to sin from which cannot free ourselves, we fail to live into God’s possibilities and hide in human probability. Even dazzled gushing Peter will fail to live into his faith – and kill the possible faithful cat by denying Christ in defence of his probable self-concerns with saving his own life. But God doesn’t stay trapped in Peter’s probable box – nor in ours. No – God’s possible life bursts through that probable death and the cat – the Christ – lives!
THAT is the journey of faith – leaning into possible life rather than staying stuck in probable death. So this morning, in a very profound way as we turn from Epiphany’s angel song and star shine to Lent’s denial and cross – we have to ask ourselves – what about that cat? Are we going to live seemingly safe lives of probability? Or are we going to live the adventure and choose to live faithful lives of possibility? That cat is waiting for you to choose – and so is God.