Sunday, February 15, 2015

Light Shines in the Darkness

Kayla Mueller was a young woman (Only 26 years old) who was taken hostage by ISIS and killed.
She was a young woman who went to Syria to be an aid worker.
It is one of the deaths that are so senseless in our world.
A young woman who went to help and do good is killed.
There are still many questions about how she died.
But one thing that was being reported about her was how she lived.
While in captivity she wrote letters to family and friends.
These letters are testaments to faith amidst difficult circumstances.
She wrote, "I remember mom always telling me that all in all in the end the only one you really have is God. ...I have been shown in darkness, light + have learned that even in prison, one can be free."
So much promise from this young woman, so senseless and end to her life, but also such a rich life of faith.

This is why we need the transfiguration.
We need to be able to see clearly the light.
We need to be able to see Jesus Clearly for a minute.
To understand how he ties into the life of the other great religious figures.
How Jesus brings God to us.
We need Jesus now because there are too many deaths.
Some days it seems like there is too much darkness.
It seems like we are being overrun.
We need to know that behind all of it is something better, and more glorious.

I wonder after the days of Jesus death if his disciples thought back to that day on the mountain.
When things looked bleak, when it looked like the reign of God that Jesus said was at hand had failed, did they remember that glorious moment?
Did they remember that Jesus stood there with Moses and Elijah, that he shown with a great light, that the voice from heaven called him his beloved.
Did remembering that day help them get through the days after the resurrection, to know that Jesus death couldn’t possibly be the end.
Jesus was on the mountain with Moses and Elijah because they also helped God’s people through difficult times.
Moses and Elijah helped God’s people remain faithful against idolatrous ideas.
They helped God’s people remain hopeful as they suffered the burdens of an abusive political system.

It seems that what God’s people have in common through the ages is suffering at the hands of evil and violence.
Now we don’t suffer the way that Kayla Mueller did.
We are not being held captive by ISIS.
But we are still in captivity.
We are bound by the chains that hold us back from truly being free.
We are bound by hatred, by revenge, by consumerism, by prejudice, by fear.
We are bound by our own sin.
And we cannot break free.
Not because we are bad people.
But because we either don’t know that we are bound, or we are so lost in the darkness we can’t even see the light.

Lots of times in life we simply are not truthful about ourselves.
We are not honest with our motives.
We are not honest about why we do the things we do.
And because of that we can never break free.
We are trapped there, stuck.
The transfiguration is a call to be transformed by God out of that bondage into the light.
The transfiguration is a call to listen to Jesus as we grow in knowing who God is in our lives.
As we become more and more to being the light ourselves.
To God we admit that we bound and we desire to be let free.
Moses took his people out of bondage to the Promised Land.
Elijah saved his people by turning away from the tyranny of the false god Baal.
Both are about being in captivity.
But it is Jesus who shows us through his life, teachings, death and resurrection that we are not bound, but set free.
Just as Kayla was free spiritually even though physically she was in chains.

When we are lost in the darkness it is hard to get out, to see the light, to understand.
This week, in North Carolina, three Muslims were shot and killed.
Again we don’t know everything.
But the New York Times reported that the man who killed them had in his apartment, "at least a dozen firearms — including handguns, shotguns, rifles and a black Bushmaster AR-15 — from Mr. Hicks’s apartment, which was in the same building as the married couple’s.
The authorities also seized an extensive collection of ammunition, holsters, cases and scopes.
Several of the weapons, including the AR-15, still had fully loaded magazines. Others, including a Sig Sauer .22 handgun, were empty of cartridges.”
I want to be clear; I am not talking about the second amendment, or gun control.
This is what I am saying that man was in the dark.
Because the bottom line was that he used guns to kill people.
It was another senseless death of young people who had their whole life ahead of them.
It doesn’t make sense.

Now there will be people who will try to convince us that the killing of Kayla Mueller, Deah Barakat, Yusor Mohammad, and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha are different.
They will try to divide us about these killings by making it about political ideology.
But we know better.
All of these deaths stem from the same human condition.
We are in bondage to sin, and cannot free ourselves.
We are in bondage to violence as a way to solve problems, as a way of life.
We are in bondage to hatred of what we perceive as the other.
We are lost in the darkness and must turn to see the light.

Because it is in the light of Christ that we see what is truly needed in the world.
We need more love more understanding, more tolerance, more mercy, and more forgiveness, more of the powers of good.
This story of the transfiguration does not end on this mountain.
Jesus does not stay on the mountain.
Instead he heads back down into the crowds.
He heads down to confront the powers of the world that hold us in bondage.
He returns to the world of violence that is going to reject and kill him.
He does it because we cannot run from evil we can only face it.
We can only stand up to it and refuse to join in.

But I guarantee for all of us we will find ourselves in moments of despair.
We will look out into the world and think that all is lost.
In those moments we need to tap into whatever Kayla Mueller tapped into while she was being held captive.
We need to see even in our captivity that God is there for us, and with us.
That when all seems lost all we have is God.
And God will unveil the evil in the world.
God will show us that killing is not the way to solve problems.
Isis and Craig Stephen Hicks are both wrong because of how they want to solve their problems.
They were in bondage, and lost in the darkness.
The ones set free can see Jesus shining in all of the glory of God’s only son, and they are willing to follow back down into the crowds to be his disciples.
As we leave here and go back into the crowds may we shine with light given to us in Jesus Christ.
May we shine with the light of love, understanding, mercy, forgiveness, and tolerance.

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