“The Invitation to Awe”

Rev. Katherine Todd
Mark 9:2-8
1 Corinthians 4:1-7

Mark 9:2-8

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.

1 Corinthians 4:1-7

Think of us in this way, as servants of Christ and stewards of God’s mysteries. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. I do not even judge myself. I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive commendation from God.

I have applied all this to Apollos and myself for your benefit, brothers and sisters, so that you may learn through us the meaning of the saying, “Nothing beyond what is written,” so that none of you will be puffed up in favor of one against another. For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you received it, why do you boast as if it were not a gift?

Servants of Christ and stewards of God’s mysteries…

You know we spend a lot of time talking about Jesus and how we might truly serve Christ with our very lives, but we do not spend a lot of time considering the mysteries.

Mysteries, by very definition, elude our understanding.
God, by very definition, eludes our understanding.
God is mystery.

How ironic: Christ is our clearest revelation of God – through Christ we have a window into the heart of God – and yet with all this knowledge, if we remain honest with ourselves and one another, we still stand mystified before a God we can only glimpse but never fully understand.

This is a very difficult place to be.

Many of you, I’m sure, know those who have sought to nail God down in one way or another – to define and declare who God is and who God is not, with varying shades of permanent marker. And yet the subject of all our study and seeking remains elusive; God keeps moving.  God keeps breaking out of the boxes we have tried to hold God in and shattering the idols we have made of God, in our minds and hearts.

We have tried to speak for God.  We have tried out the judgement seat.  We want very much to know how this all will end.  We want to see justice shown to our oppressors and mercy shown to ourselves. We want to say who is in and who is out, who is acceptable and who is not.  We want to draw lines around the God we understand,…

And this is why we see the Israelite leadership reeling in the face of this Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus is saying things about God that challenge their judgements and assumptions.  Jesus is touching the untouchables, healing the outcasts and bringing them back in, forgiving sinners, and condemning the very act of judging one’s fellow travelers…

The old wineskins that held the little bit they understood of God, could not contain this fiery new revelation of God in Jesus.  Jesus did not finish off the sinners, as everyone expected.  Rather Jesus came not to condemn but that the world might be saved and that ALL might come to knowledge of the truth.  Jesus began leveling the manmade hierarchy of human righteousness – declaring it utterly useless, framed in God’s righteousness.

And so Jesus began systematically destroying every idol God’s people had made of God.

Jesus does this in our lives too – turning our judgements on their heads, turning the mirror back onto us, opening our eyes to our unifying, utter need for God’s mercy and grace.

And when we let loose these idols, when we let go of the illusion that we know and understand God, we are left with the questions, the gray, the unknown, honesty,…

We are left with mystery. We are to be stewards of God’s mystery.

How do we be a steward of mystery?

Might we hold what we have understood in Jesus and believe by faith – in tension with – what we do not know and cannot see of God?
Can we celebrate this God who is wholly above all that we can see or understand?
Can we worship a God who eludes our understanding?
Can we see Jesus transfigured on the mountaintop and trust God in the unknowing?
Can we experience good and evil and trust God to make right all that is wrong?
Can we pour out our doubts and questions before our loving God, trusting God to reveal to us all that is needed, in the right time?

We serve a God who is mystery.
When the knowledge of our very selves eludes us, how can we expect to understand and know the God of the Universe?

As much as God’s mystery may frustrate our desires to know
And to understand
…and perhaps to control…
May we consider, for a moment, the invitation in mystery.
Mystery invites us to faith.  It invites us to trust.  It invites us to acknowledge that God is God and we are not.  And that knowledge invites us to worship at Christ’s feet!

Christ invites us to follow, not lead,
To listen before speaking,
To walk by faith and not by sight,
To believe in things impossible for mortals but possible for God,
To hope, even when shadows fall and darkness seems to claim the day…

May we embrace the mystery.

May we allow our bodies and souls to relax in the knowledge that WE DO NOT NEED TO KNOW, that all that is needful will be provided.

We are not made to hold all the mysteries of the universe in our hands.

But we are made a mystery.

As God’s handiwork, each of us bears witness to God.  We bear the mark of our Maker.
As followers of Jesus Christ, we live the mystery of God with us!
God dwells within us and shines through us!
Defying logic,
fulfilling justice in love,
God has poured out the Spirit on all flesh. God chooses us!
And we bear the mysterious light of God into the world that all might come to know this mysterious love of God, walking by faith and not by sight…

Let us pray:

In those moments, when understanding eludes us…
In seasons of darkness, where we cannot see the way that lay ahead…
When we come to the end of ourselves, standing at the edge of all we can see and understand…
May we worship.
May we breathe in the mystery that is You
And relax into the awareness that You are God, and we are not,…
And that You,
For some mysterious reason,
Have chosen to love us.
And letting go of the reigns,
May we find our rest and place our hope
In You.

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