It is Saturday night at Holy Cross Lutheran (altar pictured) as we come around the bend headed for home, spiritually speaking, starting with Ash Wednesday, March 1, and ending with Easter, April 16. Normally I don’t give anything up for Lent but I might give up white bread. It would be me verses my weak body and undisciplined mind. Who would win?
(insert belly-laugh here)
Our songs tonight were “How Great Is Our God” (opening); “Lord Let Your Glory Fall” (sermon); “We Fall Down” (offering); “Show Me Your Glory (communion); “Holy Is The Lord” (closing).
Pastor McClean’s invocation focused on our baptisms. It was the day I was sealed with God. As an infant I didn’t remember it but I still made off like a pirate with a silver cup and spoon and other silverware, gifts from my Godparents, I suppose.
What else happened? Oh, well, I have great news! Me, I’m a big shot now because my sins have been forgiven! That was a far cry from the previous minute when I was a bug confessing my sinfulness to God, worthy of damnation. During his sermon Pastor McClean taught that God had damned Jesus when He took on all the sins of the world past, present and future while on the cross and had to be hidden from God’s perfect Self. The Trinity was able to both forsake itself (Jesus) and eradicate my/your/our sins heaped on Jesus while remaining sinless at the same time. For me, I have to come to the foot of the Cross to have my sins forgotten by Him.
We had two youngsters speak their Christian witnesses before the congregation, a step needed to be confirmed into the Church and become a member of Holy Cross. Mackenzie and Skai, despite their youth, were ably learn-ed to speak on the topics, “How My Faith Effects My Life” and “What God Means To Me”. It would never happen but I would be a big supporter of adult church members giving Christian witnesses. For an adult years into his or her faith it would be helpful for them to take time and look over the years to see how God has molded them.
I learned something new. In the Old Testament, Exodus 24, vs 10 states
“…Under His feet was something like a pavement made up of lapis lazuli, as bright blue as the sky”.
Lapis lazuli? What’s that? Wikipedia says: ‘lapis lazuli is a deep blue, semi-precious stone prized since antiquity for its intense color’. I never knew that. But now I do.
Pastor’s sermon was titled “ How to Face Tough Times”. It sounded like it might be a step by step course on how to meet difficult situations. The sermon was something like that. He wasn’t wrong. I might have called it, “What’s All This About A Mountain Top?” He spoke about The Transfiguration, when Peter, James, and John* were called by Jesus to follow Him up a tall mountain. There, they saw Jesus transfigured into His spiritual body, His face as the sun and clothes white as white. With Him stood Moses and Elijah, speaking to Him. This part of the Gospel is where Peter takes some undeserved heat.
Matthew 17:4 And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.”
Ordinarily, Peter is portrayed as a goofball, flustered into uttering nonsense. The ‘tents’ Peter was referring to were shrines normally built for the dead. Moses, was buried by God in an unknown place thus had no shrine. Ezekiel never suffered death, he being taken by God straight to Heaven, so he didn’t have a shrine either. And Jesus? Well, I’m sure Peter didn’t want Jesus to feel left out, seeing how He was his master.
Pastor spoke of three mountain top experiences Jesus had. The first was The Transfiguration. The second was Jesus dying on Calvary (the Latin word for ‘skull’, thus the Greek word, Golgotha, meaning ‘place of the skull’). His third mountain top was the mountain where His Ascension to Heaven took place. If we live our lives fully and with trust in God, we also experience the same type of mountain top experiences that Jesus did. I can’t say they are the same kinds of ‘soul lifting’ or ‘feel good’ experiences we would equate with the term but they could be.
The first is when we realize that Jesus is our Lord and the joy and thrill that it comes with. We meet God at our baptism but if we are baptized as infants then there is little to remember. You can, however, at any time as an adult think about that wondrous moment and enjoy the ‘feel goods’. Anytime. Any number of times.
The second mountain top Jesus had was His death on Calvary. Our deaths, as I see it, probably won’t rate high on the ‘feel goods’ scale. I haven’t done it myself but if I’m fortunate enough to be with my family and close friends when I die, knowing I’ll be with Jesus soon after, that will be a good thing. There are only two people who have avoided physical death. They are Ezekiel and Enoch, the great-grandfather of Noah. I guess you could pray for this, to be taken without going through death, but it would be unlikely. Or you could read and live The Art of Dying, two Latin texts from the mid-1400s, which offer advice on how to die well based on Christian behaviors. These include reciting certain prayers, how to avoid temptations, ways to imitate the Christ, how family and friends ought to act around the deathbed, among other things. This sounds reasonable but you only get one chance to get it right.
The third mountain top experience will be the last one, and the best, when we ascend into Heaven to be with Jesus. Do we really have to discuss this? Nah.
Pastor McClean preached much less about what you just read here and more about how to live in a ‘sucky’ world while holding on to the precepts of the Christian life and holding your faith in Christ dear to your soul. His focus on the mountains appealed to me.
During Communion, Brandon, played a refrain from our opening song, How Great Is Our God, but eased up on his guitar strumming to let the our voices wash over the sanctuary. I love love love when we are allowed to sing that way. Thanks, Brandon!
*Why did Jesus take three disciples with Him? Because three was the number of witnesses needed for an event to be considered true in court.