Monday, February 11, 2013

Turning Up To Eleven!

I don’t know how many of you know Nigel Tufnell.
He was the guitarist from the fictional band Spinal Tap.
In the movie about a fake Rock n Roll band Nigel shows the interviewer his guitar collection.
He then goes on to explain one of the reasons why his band, Spinal Tap, is better than other bands.
He shows the interviewer from this fake documentary their speakers.
“If you can see all the numbers go to eleven….It’s one louder than ten.”
I was watching this clip from the movie this week because it was Nigel’s birthday.
And it reminded me of the transfiguration.
It is Jesus way of turning up the volume to eleven.
Up to this point it is unclear who exactly Jesus is.
His disciples have some notion that something extraordinary is happening with their rabbi.
He has cured the sick, preached good news to the poor, cast out demons, even stilled a storm.
Peter has confessed that he is the messiah, but the disciples are not clear what that means.
And then we have Jesus go up a mountain, and become transfigured before John, James, and Peter.
Jesus just turned the volume up to eleven.
God’s own voice tells the three disciples, “This is my son, my Chosen listen to him.”
Jesus goes from one of many rabbi’s, to the person whose words carry the weight of being the words of God.

This story seems like it is about Jesus, but I wonder if it really is not about the disciples.
I wonder how they are changed from this experience.
Jesus was transfigured, but it us the disciples that are transformed.
It is the disciples who have a whole new perspective about Jesus after this event.
They come down the mountain with Jesus and see him in a different light.
His words take on more meaning, his actions have more importance.
When Jesus eats with sinners it is not just a teacher trying to get his students to understand an important lesson about inclusion.
Now it is God’s very self coming to eat and be with sinners.
It is a statement about what God would do, and what God would have us do.

I have a good friend and we always argue about the divinity of Jesus.
My friend’s basic point is that most people struggle with Jesus divinity.
So instead of worrying about that part of Jesus we should just focus our attention on what Jesus taught us about how to live.
There are many theological problems when we take away Jesus divinity, but here is my main argument.
The things that Jesus taught us about loving others, about giving of ourselves, about not being judgmental, about forgiveness, those are divine things.
They have weight because it is not just some great teacher saying those things.
They have weight because we believe that God came down to teach us these things.

Therefore when Jesus dies on a cross it is not just another great prophet who dies because their teaching are unorthodox, it is Jesus telling us that God’s very nature is to give up everything for the love of his people.
Sure the death of Socrates is heroic and noble, but it is not divine.
Socrates doesn’t drink the hemlock so we can know the love of God, he does it so his life has integrity.
Jesus life, his teaching, his death, and his resurrection, makes no sense without his divinity.

But that is not enough, because Jesus divinity makes no sense without his humanity.
Jesus teaches us that the most human thing we can do is love, is to forgive, is to accept others.
In his humanity Jesus also shows us his divinity.
The transfiguration is about turning the volume up to eleven.
It is about seeing in Jesus’ humanity the divine work of God, and about seeing Jesus as divine so we might better understand his humanity.
And in the process Jesus’ disciples are changed from the experience.
And so are we.

I am wondering this morning how many times in our lives we are transformed by an encounter with the divine.
How much our humanity is transfigured because we know and have listened to this person called Jesus?

If we are going to listen to Jesus then we might have to come to the conclusion that some things we think about God might not be true.
For example, I never like the idea that God somehow decides who is going to win the Super Bowl, or some other sporting event.
And yet ¼ of people in the United States believe that God picks the winners of the Super Bowl.
The reason I don’t think God picks the winner is because Jesus never taught us that God is on the side of the winners.
A comedian once said, “How come the losing team never goes on television and says, “I want to thank Jesus for making me fumble”.
If we really want to listen to Jesus then we have to believe that God is on the side of those who lose.
You will not find God in the dancing, preaching, and praying on the winning team; you might find God in the broken hearts of those that lost.

Jesus’ disciples want to be on the winning team, they want to play in the Rock band that turns up the volume to eleven.
And yet at every turn Jesus trumps these expectations.
Jesus is not on the team that has the most money, weapons, power, or the best quarterback.
That is the paradoxical nature of Jesus.
Even as he reveals his divine nature in this spectacular way, it is not understood fully until he reveals God who dies on a cross for the sins of the world.
God turns up the volume to eleven but not so that we can be the best, but so we can understand the losers.

This past week a Missouri synod pastor was reprimanded for praying in an interfaith service after the tragedy in Newtown, CT.
(For those who do not know the Missouri synod is another Lutheran denomination.)
What is saddest about this whole story is the idea that Jesus is the winner/victor over the other religions.
That Jesus is the best and therefore we cannot mingle with other religions because it might give the impression that they are on equal footing with Christianity.
Is that what Christianity is about?
Is it about gaining the most points so we can be the best?
If it is I don’t want any part of it.

Because the God taught to me in Jesus Christ is the God who enters fully into our humanity, the God who comes into our pain and suffering fully.
It is the God who does not care about who is praying with whom, only that people are suffering.
You see we need to listen to Jesus.
We can’t listen to the world any longer.
The world tells us that life is all about winning, being the best.
Jesus tells us that life is about so much more.
It is about giving up our lives for others, loving sinners (even ourselves), forgiving others, having mercy for those that don’t win, and seeing God in the suffering and pain of ourselves and others.

We are about to enter our Lenten season.
And today we are challenged by God to listen to Jesus.
To be transformed by what Jesus has to tell us about God.
Jesus has turned the volume up to eleven so we can hear him better.
Are we ready to leave the mountain, and enter again into the world?
Are we ready to listen to Jesus?

When we do we become transfigured.
We change, and are more willing ready and able to give and love.
In that giving and loving we become like Christ even more human and more divine.


No comments:

Post a Comment