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Transfiguration: Last Sunday's Sermon

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The Reading

Luke 9:28-36

Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah” —not knowing what he said. While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.

The Sermon

Where is my mountaintop?

Moses went up to the mountaintop and when he came down his face was shining because he had been talking to the Lord. Jesus went to the mountaintop and he had a brilliant countenance while he prayed. So, what about me. What about you. I want to have an experience like that and I imagine you do too.

Is this kind of divine experience only for the select few like Moses? I don't think so. I believe we can all be transformed. I believe the experiences we have in our lives continue to move us and guide us. I just returned last week from a visit to Salt Lake City. I had experiences there that I am sure changed me in subtle ways. I may not have had a glowing, dazzling white face when I got off the plane in Des Moines but I am pretty sure my heart was warmed. I met people who really wanted to talk about their spiritual lives and their spiritual journeys. Our grandchildren let me know that I was loved and I could clearly see God's reflection in them. It changed me.

To transfigure is to change. Jesus was changed in appearance to a dazzling white but he wasn't the only one changed on that mountain. John, James and Peter were changed as well. It would not be possible to have that kind of experience on the mountaintop and not see your world differently. It was living proof to John, Peter and James that Jesus of Nazareth was everything people said he was.

What kinds of transformitive experiences have you had in your life? Was it a person or a place or maybe a book full of ideas? Share with me. It is rare when transformation takes place in the spectacular, bowl me over way the disciples experienced it but the effect can still be profound.

Here is mine. My family and I had just moved to Wyoming to an underground house overlooking the Platte river valley and the Laramie range in the background. I felt like it was a fresh start. A few days after settling in a gentleman came by to talk to me about a food co-op they were starting in the city. We talked for quite a while and we each shared abbreviated versions of our stories. He was a very nice gentleman. He told me that he was the minister at the local Episcopal church in town and I was welcome to come. I promptly said no and that I had had my fill at a Catholic boarding school. He replied that the Episcopal church was a lot like the Catholic church without the guilt.

I thought about it and decided to give it a try. I never left. I was spiritually changed. Two weeks ago I talked about the book “When God Winks”. I encourage you to always be ready for that inspirational moment when God gives you a chance to spiritually grow.


The Kingdom of Heaven is like.......

I will be in Salt Lake City this Sunday visiting my son Louie and his family.  I am really looking forward to the visit.  At the same time I will miss my church family here in Chariton, Iowa.  While I am away the congregation will carry on with Morning Prayer.  Frank Myers will lead the service and Bill Gode will read the lessons and Daniel Scheetz will provide the music.  Morning prayer is a wonderful service and I am sure everything will be fine.

I won't be there to give a sermon so maybe I will write a few things on this blog.

This reading from Matthew has the words of Jesus starting with: The kingdom of heaven is like.  It got me to thinking...what do I believe the kingdom of heaven will be like.  Will it be full of angels and archangels singing God's praises.  Will it be streets paved with gold?  Or will it be like the Larson cartoon that has two angels sitting on a cloud looking down on earth.  Feeling a little bored the one angel says to the other, I wish I had brought a magazine.

I don't think heaven will be boring but beyond that I really have no idea what it will be like.  I see no reason for all of that singing and streets made of gold makes no  sense.  So...I don't know.  I guess I will ponder that thought as I fly from DesMoines to Salt Lake.

Fr. Fred Steinbach

Pastor's Corner: God Winks

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This is my week to write the Pastor's Corner for our local newspaper and I decided to post it here as well.  I hope you enjoy the read.

Hand of God?

I wish theology was simple. I suppose if it was, there would not be between thirty and forty thousand different denominations of Christianity not to mention the different sects of Judaism, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism. Many of these belief systems are pretty sure they are the ones who have gotten it right.

Do not expect me to clear all of this up in this Pastor's Corner. However, there is something about my beliefs that I would like to share. I do believe God is actively involved in my life. I believe God guided me back to Chariton after a forty year absence. Too many things just kind of fell into place when Sherry and I were considering moving here but it isn't just the big events like a move. Little things happen too that seem like more than coincidences.

A parishioner loaned me a book a few days ago titled, When God Winks at You by SQuire Rushnell.  It is a collection of accounts of people who have had things happen to them that some might call coincidences but others might chalk up to more than that. The author calls them God winks. This book begins with a story about a woman named Mavis who had planned for years to go to the Crystal Cathedral in California. One Sunday she decided to finally attend one of their services. She arrived and was ushered to a seat next to a young woman. The two of them began to talk and share their stories. The younger woman said she was from the Midwest and she was in the state because she was trying to find her birth mother. Mavis told her that when she was young she had had to give her daughter up for adoption. She said it had always been a painful memory. The young woman asked her when the baby had been born and after more sharing they realized that they were mother and daughter. Was it a coincidence or was God winking at them?

Most of us do not have these kinds of amazing experiences but we have all had times when God winked at us in different ways. People may have shown up when help was needed or someone told you something that you needed to hear.

Bad things will still happen to good people and we do not know why. However, that does not mean that God is not walking with us during difficult times. We all must walk through the valley of the shadow of death. Just remember you are not alone.

God Bless You,
Fr. Fred Steinbach
St. Andrew's Episcopal Church