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March 2, 2014

Keep shining the light on the darkness . . .

Jan Brewer, the Governor of Arizona, vetoed the bill that headlined last weekend.  The bill essentially would have allowed Arizona business owners to discriminate against people who are not heterosexual.

 She took a stand against the Tea Party Republicans and vetoed it because, in her words:  “Senate Bill 1062 has the potential to create more problems than it purports to solve.” And, she commented:  “It could divide Arizona in ways we cannot even imagine, and no one would ever want.”


Because of an unexpected development that seemed to take many Arizona legislators by surprise.  Carol Foyler, a Tea Party Republican Congresswoman who supported the anti-gay law, said this:   “We had no idea that gays had money and bought things just like regular people do.”   

Going forward, Governor Brewer instructed the legislators, and I quote:   “let’s turn the ugliness of the debate over Senate Bill 1062 into a renewed search for greater respect and understanding among all Arizonans and Americans.”

Wow. It was an AH-Ha moment for Governor Brewer. Technology has given us liberals an advantage.  When this inane legislation went viral, people everywhere, including the media, responded with outrage, and forced the Governor to the veto.  Good. Here’s Another “AH-HA” moment in the news:  Obamacare is working.  And . . . just this week, a news article stating this:   The federal budget deficit is actually shrinking.  AH-HA moments  . . . Those are just three. I know I can think of more. How about you?  Did the light bulb come on this week?  And another question I have:  Are you giving something up for Lent; or adding something? 

If I were to tell you about the things that make my life meaningful and worthwhile, I would point to the “AH-HA” moments.  People call these the times when the light comes on, the moments miracles, some people call them mountaintop experiences, still others draw a picture of a light bulb with little rays coming off.

Today’s Gospel describes for us a mountaintop experience; a real AH-Ha moment for Peter, James and John (and for all believers, including us, in every age). Just in case we have forgotten, Epiphany, the season of light, is now coming to a close with one more story about light: Jesus' face, shining "like the sun," his clothes "dazzling white," and then a "bright cloud" overhead, and a voice that once again pronounces him God's "Beloved" Son – and the command to "listen to him!" 

Keep the light in front of you, because, in a moment, we will move into Lent, with the ashes and somber moods and the Passion of our Lord.  Let the light propel you into tomorrow, where your dreams will come true.  It’s similar to the movie:  the Croods.  Follow the light is their mantra.  If your world is falling apart, literally quaking a part, make your move. Go towards the light. 

So today being the last day of Epiphany, we will ceremonially remove the Hallelujahs: no more songs, no hallelujah in the benediction and the Bulletins.  So, this is the last episode of Epiphany for the season.  Better make it a good one. 

For the last episode, I wonder if we might spice it up a little bit . . . maybe get a little controversial.  So I want to support women as leaders of the church.  After all this is Women’s Week in the UCC.  Think with me, go back 2000 years, the Apostles and people of the early church believed Jesus when he said, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” Where ever Spirit-filled believers come together in His name THERE is a unique expression of the EKKLESIA. That included women like Mary and Martha, perhaps the other Marys. The women at the tomb.  The awesome mystery of our faith is that We are able to connect across the ages as the people of God.  We are the EKKLESIA, each one of us and corporately, we are the Temple of the Most High God. What’s controversial about that?  -- the people of God are rebounding, outside of the church walls.  In spite of the fact that King James paid for the printing and had hired the men to translate the English language Bible in the context of a male dominated hierarchical system, the people of God bristle at the male dominated world.  And so we hear male oriented language, male oriented context, male oriented discipline and control and a whole hierarchical system whose support is slipping in the world.  Women are no longer second class citizens. Women are preaching and can be ordained . . .

My point being that discrimination in all forms, even in religion, is diminishing. Thoughtful people, inside and outside of the congregation of believers, get it.  White straight male good ol’ boy systems are seen not just as irrelevant, but downright hypocritical.  And, blogger MONTAX adds — the word ‘church’ is etymologically linked to the word "circus." Imagine that! Church is a Circus.  Church is a place of Idol Worship?

Here’s the bottom line: Jesus called us to build the whole community as the Body of Christ. We are the 'Called Out Ones'—that’s what EKKLESIA means. Specifically, in these days, the saints of God are called to come out of the church house, to distance ourselves from the Spiritual corruption in high places. Illuminate the truth of the False Spiritual Authorities— who, in Jesus’ own words, are wolves fleecing and feasting off of the flock.

We must open ourselves to the realities that women are natural leaders:   Why?  For one thing, I believe that women know how to welcome the stranger, which is St Paul’s Community hallmark.  Also, women have a "special" sensitivity to God's presence, or God's power at work in the world. “Why?”  You ask . . . I will tell you.  Something inherent in women immediately connects them with the goodness of creation.  I have seen women, emotionally broken and tired, come in to the outreach program.  All that it takes is a baby.  I have watched on numerous occasions, a woman’s mood change, a woman’s countenance brighten and her face start to glow in the presence of an infant.  It is like the baby creates for that woman a transforming experience.

A woman named Donna died recently . . . from liver failure.  She initially came in for help, but every day after that, she loved to come and help us serve coffee in the mornings at the Drop-In Center.  She was always warm, pleasant and helpful to everyone; always service with a smile.  Donna had had a rough life, too many mean, self-centered men, too much abuse and mis-use, and towards the end, she was a very heavy Vodka drinker.  But, no matter what kind of night she had had the night before, she always came into St. Paul’s ready to serve.  And she loved welcoming mothers and their babies. Babies were game changers for Donna. She had a better day after meeting a child.

Now, I don’t want to be caught stereotyping women and men, and I know that there are plenty of men doing the same thing.  I just want to say that there is nothing more sacred that the bond between a mother and child.  These are moments of Epiphany.  When God breaks through into our conscious world, that is an AH-Ha moment, a game-changer, a mountaintop experience. The light bulb comes on.

Sister Joan Chittister notes that "Mountains…in Greek, Hebrew, Roman and Asian religious literature, were always places where the human could touch the divine;  the writer of the Gospel draws parallels between Jesus and ancient prophets -- like Moses, the one who brought the Commandments down from Mount Sinai. And Elijah, the prophet who prayed and saved his people from the top of Mount Carmel. Jesus, Moses, Elijah, the big three prophets of all time. Together . . .

And so, always the practical one, Peter wants to build a roof. He attempts to create permanence around the experience on the mountaintop. He offers to create three dwellings, one for each. He wants to memorialize this profound event. They are in the presence of greatness.

But, the voice from the clouds interrupts Peter's offer and affirms who Jesus is in the presence of Moses and Elijah. This is the Son of God. The disciples are challenged to "Listen to him!" . . . and suddenly, they were overcome with fear. The disciples fell to the ground.  Jesus touches them and tells them to get up. They look around and there is Jesus alone. They descend. Jesus invited their secrecy about what transpired on the mountain. And, shortly, Jesus is engaged in the ministry of welcoming people into God’s community.

And I look at that scene in my minds eye, and I think, for God’s sake, Peter, don’t build anything.  This is not about creating a physical structure, this is about the light, and how we, as the body of Jesus Christ, move towards the light.  We are not called to build a Temple, we are called to build a congregation!

Epiphany is the season of revelation. Here, on the edge of Lent, we still hear the words of that voice, "Listen to him." What is God still speaking to you ?

God still speaks to our sense of right and wrong.  God still speaks to the fact that discrimination in any form is wrong.

God still speaks up for the environment, such as the effort to keep the Asian Carp out of our Great Lake, to stop the nutrients from increasing the algae bloom, to stop the Army Corps from dumping toxic waste in the middle of the lake.

God is still speaking to us as we worship, sure, this is a Holy moment we have together here. But we are called out – we are the EKKLESIA – out with you. Our who neighborhood is the body of Christ. Gay people, white straight men, people with African, Asian, Puerto Rican blood are our brothers and sisters in this party.

For the last hallelujah, Let’s praise our God who keeps us on our toes and keeps shining that light in the future so that we can see the path that God is creating for us.  lets sing Glory, Glory, Hallelujah.