Imperfect People in Ordinary Time
February finds us in in the bleak mid-winter of the year and in ordinary time liturgically; thinking of Valentine’s and freezing temps while being reminded how we are God’s imperfect people—like we needed a reminder!
Week after week we gather in worship to hear the word proclaimed, share a meal, and to be sent out to bear the good news of God in Christ Jesus to a hungry, needy world. “Go in peace, share the good news!” And we respond, “Thanks be to God!” Yet deep inside we wonder why God would ever entrust such an important mission to ordinary people like us.
We are in good company. God’s prophets and apostles had the same anxieties. Isaiah declares, “I am a man of unclean lips.” Paul says about himself, “I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.” Peter responds to Jesus’ miracle of plenty by saying, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” Yet, without question, God used these flawed and fragile human beings to proclaim God’s mercy and love.
In a world where we are constantly being told that we are insufficient—we don’t have enough, know enough, or matter enough—God’s trust in our capacities seems reckless, even irrational. But throughout this Epiphany Season notice how Jesus precedes a call to discipleship with a miracle pointing to God’s abundant provision, indicating that we will be given all we need to succeed in carrying out the work of God’s kingdom.
Martin Luther writes in The Babylonian Captivity of the Church, “What I accept, I accept not on my own merits or by any right that I may personally have to it. But I claim what I claim by the right of a bequest and of another’s goodness” (Lull).
Knowing our imperfections, Jesus meets us anyway at the shorelines of our own lives, going about our daily work, and calls us to lifelong discipleship. Caught up in God’s abundant grace, and fed out of that bounty, we are commissioned to go catch others.
Lifting the Veil
The last Sunday after Epiphany falls on February 27, as we celebrate The Feast of The Transfiguration of Our Lord—a frustrating experience for Jesus’ disciples, past and present, who long for a direct experience of God’s glory. For a brief moment in time, Jesus’ glory is fully revealed, and then, just as suddenly, a cloud descends and the vision fades.
And even though Paul contrasts the Christian’s experience of God with Moses’s veiled experience of God, he notes that we see the glory of the Lord “as though reflected in a mirror” (2 Cor. 3:18). Even with unveiled faces, we don’t see directly, or even clearly. Even when God is revealed in shining glory, much remains veiled and hidden, beyond our comprehension.
As he witnesses Jesus’ transfiguration, Peter’s understanding remains veiled; ours does too. Even the glimpses we get of God’s glory—through the veil or reflected in the mirror—are expectation-shattering, alarming, overwhelming, and awesome. The love of God shines too brightly to view directly, and yet we do have the privilege of directly experiencing that love in baptism, in communion, in service to God, as we care for God’s creation and when we serve our neighbors in need.
The veils and barriers to perception that we contend with daily prevent us from truly loving those neighbors, caring for creation, and seeing the shining face of Jesus in the faces of people who are different, hungry, difficult, an enemy, invisible, or poor. God’s glory is always revealed in transfigured, transformative, surprising and confusing ways—whether shining on the mountaintop or dying on the cross. (Adapted from essays in Sundays and Seasons)
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