The Struggle for Truth in the Faith
The Seventh Sunday in the Season of Galilee
Today is Transfiguration Sunday. Millions of Christians are celebrating a time when Jesus went up to the mountain and was transfigured. And what is this glow, this transfiguration, that on this Sunday over a billon Christians are celebrating? I believe that I have seen it. I have seen it in my wife and in many women when they are preparing and then going through childbirth and when they are with their newborn child. Nothing else is important. They die to the world in order to give birth to a new life. There is a bond that grows between a woman and the life that is not yet born: Nothing else is as important
It comes from the knowledge that now she will never be alone. And that glow shows the great inner strength necessary to bring new life into the world, the faith in the promise that God will provide people to surround that child and a world that will make space for that child to grow.
Then the woman feels she is living right, she feels she is doing what her mother before her and women everywhere around her have done, she feels the connection with God’s creation which is more powerful and more eternal than any of the terrible things man has done and will do. It’s a powerful feeling, it is faith.
There are many fears and much discomfort, challenges to the faith that must be overcome to have this child that is now promised. There is the fear that what she has done before will make it impossible: did I drink too much, did I take the wrong pills, did I stumble and fall – and in some cases, was I beaten by my husband? There is the fear that there will not be a family, a husband, a community that will make a way for this child when it is born.
There is the fear that she will not be able to stand the pain and the physical strain of having the child.
And there are people who tell her, “Don’t have this child. It is too hard. You are not ready. You don’t have enough money. You are not even worthy to be a mother”
And then the miracle happens: I have seen it, like the disciples saw Jesus on the mountain. Come on Fathers – don’t tell me you haven’t seen it? Mothers, don’t tell me you haven’t felt it! She accepts the life that is coming from her. She dies to the world. There is the “glow” of the woman who is with child. Ready or not, the truth of life being born breaks through. Ready or not, here it comes. And the miracle is that the mother is made ready – in spite of her fears and doubts, in spite of the voices that tell her she is not ready to be a mother. It is a transfiguration
When we began this year, it seemed pretty clear what we had to do. We prayed for God to come into our lives, our families and our struggle in the year to come. We prayed for this because we wanted to know the Lord. We wanted the Lord to help us- and lead us.
But did we really want to know God? Did we really want God to lead us, to make the changes in our lives God always asks us to make? Did we really want to have this baby, this new life?
Our analysis seemed pretty clear. God had used us, worked through us and around us, to give us a good victory last year. We would work this year to use what we had won to defend our families – and we would work to hold Obama accountable for the promise we had won from his Administration to stop the deportations.
We would prepare for the upcoming struggle around health care for our community – which had been left out of Obama’s healthcare plan. We would work to develop an army of 1000 young people to get early detection of health problems in 10,000 people –and negotiate with the hospitals to insure they had follow-up healthcare. This was the four plus one to get twenty program and it would set the groundwork for next year’s struggle
Finally, the wonderful unity with African Americans in Alabama and South Carolina against the racist and oppressive immigration laws in those states seemed to open the way to a new time of unity. We wanted to build on that unity.
We are doing all of these things. But as we studied the Word and opened our hearts to God’s calling this year, some other things were revealed to us. God made us see some other things.
First of all, we had some real problems. Many of our families were struggling with their marriages; many of our young people were lost and hurting. While we were struggling with the government, many of us were struggling with personal demons – and losing the battle.
Second, the political situation in the country made us feel alone, even with the victory we had won last year. No one really spoke for us. We were caught between the Republicans who wanted to drive us out of the country and the Democrats who had lied to us. As Rev Jesse Jackson said recently, there was a bi-partisan agreement to ignore the poor and the marginalized. These things left us no ground to stand on.. We had learned that many of the organizations who claimed to be with us, were bought and had been made slaves to their funders.
Finally, because of the stand we took, confronting Obama, we found ourselves without financial support and we had to learn to rely on ourselves to keep the struggle going.
During Advent, during the time of new vision, God posed these new questions to us – and then in the season of Galilee, he gave us his answers – and his guidance.
During the beginning of the ministry of Jesus, after he was baptized by John, he announced that the Kingdom of God was near and called on the people of God to repent and receive the forgiveness and blessings of God.
Jesus healed the sick, and, at the same time, forgave their sins and restored their civil rights. He drove out demons and made people free. He gathered the people and instructed the disciples to teach them by example to share with each other, to sacrifice for each other. If they relied on each other and sacrificed for each other they would have enough resources to do what needed to be done.
Jesus was showing the people that they were not victims, they were the people of God and God had a destiny for them. God was with them in their struggle. And with that understanding came healing and freedom from personal demons. With that understanding came the wonderful freedom to live in obedience to God’s law, to live in the Kingdom.
Why was this an answer to the questions that God had made us ask? The Lord was telling us there was ground to stand on, Kingdom ground! And he was saying that if you stand on Kingdom Ground, then he would bless your lives and your families with peace, and unity, with healing and freedom from demons. And he was telling us that we had all we needed if we worked together to do what he was asking to be done.
Still, as we follow the word and spirit this year, more of the Lord’s calling is being revealed to us. There is something standing between us and the Kingdom, something denying us the healing and freedom of the Kingdom. Its name is religion.
There are wonderful things happening in churches and communities of faith every week all over this country. But religions, all of them, are very confused and hypocritical.
First of all, we have the spectacle of the Republican candidates for President, calling themselves Christians and defenders of the faith – and at the same time calling for the deportation of 12 million people that this nation has used and exploited, calling for the destruction of millions of families. And we have Christian pastors justifying this sin!
And then we have Obama and the democrats – also claiming to be followers of Jesus – but acting like Pontius Pilot, washing their hands of the blood of poor and working families.
People of faith have to confront this hypocrisy!
The church is confused. There is a u-tube that a young man put out called “Why I love Jesus and Hate Religion.” He made his u-tube and it got a million hits over night. That is because this generation is fed up with the hypocrisy and irrelevance of the church; with priests that sexually abuse young boys and girls;pastors that steal money from the church; churches that do not do what Jesus did. Even the so-called liberal churches: they do not let the people know that God is with them. They still hold up the American Dream. They do not tell our people that God has brought them here with a destiny to become a great people and to change this nation.
The churches are lined up with the politicians. Some say, “Drive out the undocumented, destroy their families and ignore the poor”. Others say, “We are sorry for them- but we are not going to do anything for them.” All speak in the name of Jesus.
False, hypocritical religion has a high price. Our families, our young people, need to know the Lord. They need the blessings and the spiritual discipline of the faith to protect them from the negative influences all around them. When they don’t have a relationship with God, they grow sick and are easy prey to demons.
And when the Word of God is filtered through hypocrites, it is denied to the people. That is what was happening in the time of Jesus. And that is why Jesus began his march on the temple in Jerusalem; even though he knew it would mean his terrible death by crucifixion. He would confront the religion of his time so that people could be restored to their faith, to their relationship with God and to their destiny. He would march on Jerusalem and the temple so that people could know the healing and freedom of the Kingdom.
What happened on the mountain? He took a few disciples and went to the mountain to pray. There the disciples saw him talking with Moses and Elijah.
Why Moses? -because Moses had gone to the mountain and brought down the law to the people. “The Law of God” – a way for a people to live that put God first, not self first; that showed the people how to live with each other in righteousness; that showed how a people could go on, live in righteousness, from one generation to the next, through the faithfulness of the family and the unity of the people based on service to God and love for each other.
It was not just some words on tablets: it was a way of living before God, in the presence of the creator, that made you feel it was right. Moses brought the promise of God that he would make them as many as the stars in the sky and that they would have a land in which they would be able to live according to this law, free from oppression.
Moses had to fight the priests and religious leaders – I mean there was bloodshed. Why- because false religion was denying the people their relationship with God. And God told Moses, “Bring them to the mountain. Let them see me. Give them my law!”
By the time of Elijah they were in the Promised Land, but they had given up the Way in their lives and the government was making it impossible for them to practice the Way – just as today with the attack on the family and the people of God. And the Religious leaders of the time were justifying what the government was doing. They were perverting the faith. And that perverted faith denied the people what they needed to live righteous lives.
Elijah fought – he fought many real battles against the prophets of hypocritical religion– but finally he was alone and he went to the mountain to find help from God. And God told Elijah to go back to the people, because among all the brokenness, among all the oppression of the government, God has preserved 7,000 ready to pick up the struggle.
Jesus was talking to Moses and Elijah. It was a miracle the disciples saw because Moses and Elijah were long dead. Jesus was in God’s time. He had stepped into God’s time, where there was no death or separation or fear or lack of faith. God let Jesus talk with his ancestors to give him strength. God gave him this gift to prepare him for what he must do. Jesus was transfigured; he was made ready for the battle to bring the Kingdom to his people by confronting the hypocritical religious leaders who were denying the truth of the faith to his people.
What is our calling this year? I want you to read Elvira Arellano’s column this week which is in your programs. I think she puts it very well when she calls on Latino pastors to stand up against the hypocrisy of the religious leaders and the politicians that are using the faith for their own perverted and wicked purposes.
I believe we need a mobilization of faith and truth THIS YEAR; because we need the ground of the Kingdom to stand on; because we need to take the faith back from the hypocrites so that we can know the healing of the kingdom; so that we can drive out personal demons; so that we can restore the spiritual discipline that gives our life balance and freedom; so that a new generation can find the faith that sustained their parents; so that their parents can be restored to the faith that served them so well.
So this year we will continue to defend our families with the changes in the law we have won. We will continue with the 4 plus 1 to get 20 because our God is a God of life and life is being stolen from us by diabetes and cancer and heart disease. And we will work to build the great unity between African Americans and Latinos which has the power to change this nation and the world.
But this year we will begin a mobilization for “truth in the faith” because we need to free the faith from the chains of hypocrisy so that it is there for our people, for us. To do this we must prepare ourselves.
It takes courage and commitment to choose to know God and to have your life guided by the Lord. It takes courage for a woman to give birth to new life. We are all pregnant with the Kingdom of God. It is in us. It has great promise. It can provide us with abundance when we think we don’t have enough to do what God asks. It can provide us with healing and purpose and unity. It can drive out the demons that are tearing us apart, demons of addictions and jealousy and infidelity and escape from reality.
You may not have been taking the faith seriously – because religion has not inspired you. You may not have been taking the faith seriously because you were afraid of the changes that knowing God would make in your life. Be not afraid! Get ready. The Kingdom is coming this year in you and there is nothing anyone can do to stop it. Get down on your knees and pray and when you stand up you are going to be a foot taller. We are going to give birth this year. Let God work in you and through you. Put yourself in His hands. In the coming weeks we will learn how Jesus confronted false religion and we will prepare to march with him again against false and hypocritical religion so that the Kingdom can be born in us and among us. And it will be born! And We WILL OVERCOME!
The Scriptures for the Seventh Sunday in the Season of Galilee
15 Moses turned and went down the mountain with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands. They were inscribed on both sides, front and back. 16 The tablets were the work of God; the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets. When Joshua heard the noise of the people shouting, he said to Moses, “There is the sound of war in the camp.” Moses replied: “It is not the sound of victory, it is not the sound of defeat; it is the sound of singing that I hear.” When Moses approached the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, his anger burned and he threw the tablets out of his hands, breaking them to pieces at the foot of the mountain. And he took the calf the people had made and burned it in the fire; then he ground it to powder, scattered it on the water and made the Israelites drink it.
1 Kings 19:12-18
After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He replied, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.” The LORD said to him, “Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram. Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet. 17 Jehu will put to death any who escape the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death any who escape the sword of Jehu. Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him.”
Mark 9:2-13 The Transfiguration
After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. 3 His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.) Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus. As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what “rising from the dead” meant. And they asked him, “Why do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?” Jesus replied, “To be sure, Elijah does come first, and restores all things. Why then is it written that the Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected? But I tell you, Elijah has come, and they have done to him everything they wished, just as it is written about him.”