“To put it simply: the Holy Spirit bothers us. Because he moves us, he makes us walk, he pushes the Church to go forward. And we are like Peter at the Transfiguration: 'Ah, how wonderful it is to be here like this, all together!' ... But don't bother us. We want the Holy Spirit to doze off ... we want to domesticate the Holy Spirit. And that's no good. Because he is God… he is the one who gives us consolation and strength to move forward. But: to move forward! And this bothers us. It's so much nicer to be comfortable.”
― Pope Francis, Encountering Truth: Meeting God in the Everyday
INTRODUCTION OF THEME
If you look at the top of the Bulletin, you will see a quote from Pope Francis – I had never seen it before this week, but I totally agree with him… One of the problems with the Spirit of God is that it is so active – the spirit blows here, the spirit blows there; and no matter where it blows – it brings change.
The winds of change – you have heard that expression I suppose – and the winds of change do blow – they blow all the time… and that is a problem. It is a problem because there are very few of us who like change. There is no doubt, however, that the Spirit of God brings change.
Almost every character mentioned in the Bible had the spirit of God come and blow them in a new direction. It blew into Adam and made him aware of the world, it blew into Abraham and made him go to a new country and get a wife, it blew into Moses and convinced him to lead the people, it blew into Jesus and began his ministry, it blew into the disciples and strengthened them to risk their lives…
Every single time the spirit of God comes to us it pushes us in a different direction. And honestly, I am not sure about you, but I am pretty comfortable with my life. I don’t really need any major changes. I don’t want to move to a new country. I don’t want EVERYTHING to change.
Today we are talking about transformation – about change – and about how encountering God changes us. Specifically, we are talking about Jesus and a trip up the mountain where his conversation with God would forever change who he was and what he was going to do…
What would an encounter with God be like, I wonder? Could we ever have one and remain untouched? Let’s think about that and continue to focus our attention as we turn to God in prayer.
TIME WITH THE YOUNG AND THE YOUNG AT HEART
(There is probably no better story in the Bible for the idea that the Holy Spirit changes us than this story from the life of Moses – Moses goes and talks one on one with God and because of this, his face is glowing….
Imagine it was that simple – listen to the glowing person – they are speaking for God.
We have trouble listening to other people, we have trouble believing someone else has good answers. We struggle to think that God is speaking to us. And so, there are times, unfortunately, when we do not listen.
I know, I know, we want to listen to God and we think we are good people. But life is not as simple as the glowing Moses would have us believe. .. at least, not anymore… when Moses came down from the mountain and you could see he had actually talked to God and he gave the people 10 simple rules to follow that would change everything… that was simple.
But thousands of years later we start to distrust the simplicity. It cannot be as simple as do not lie for instance, because we all know we need to lie sometimes. Like when the love of your life says, do you think I this shirt makes me look fat. There is no good answer to that, it is a trap.
And the more complex our lives, the less likely we are to believe the simple answers… the less likely we are to listen)
If we try to listen to everyone we will just get confused. I’ll show you what I mean. Let’s think of a question we can ask the congregation. Here’s a question. Let’s ask the congregation how we should live and what we should do with our lives. Members of the congregation when I count to three I want you to call out together how you think these children should live and what they should do with their lives. Ready? Listen closely children. 1, 2, 3 Go. (Let the children listen to the chaos for a few seconds and then give a “time out” gesture to the congregation.) Well children. Was that helpful? No? Why not? You’re right. It was a very confusing trying to listen to everybody. It was crazy!. I think this teaches us something important. Sometimes it can get very confusing trying to listen to everyone’s advice. Sometimes everyone we talk to has a different idea of what we should do or not do. We need to remember what our Heavenly Father said to Peter up on the mountain of transfiguration when he was confused. He said to Peter, “This is my Son whom I have chosen, Listen to Him!” Listening to God’s Son Jesus is so very important. Getting ideas and suggestions from other people is important but it is most important that we listen to Jesus. We can listen to Jesus by reading about the life of Jesus in the bible. We can read what he said and taught and we can ask the Holy Spirit to help us understand too.
ENGAGING THE THEME
We all want answers. That is a part of being human I think – we wish we had answers for all those deep questions. Why do people die, what is the purpose of life, why did people in the 1970’s have lime green appliances?
We go through life feeling like if we only knew some of these answers it would be so much easier. We could accept things that happen, we could feel some sense of control; we could find peace. And we do try to find them. We read books and go to church, we watch movies and talk to friends – maybe we even try things like meditating, or yoga… Think about it – self-help books are the biggest sales out there. Everyone wishes they could find a deeper meaning for the things that happen.
The problem is – we do not really believe this – we are lying to ourselves.
I mean, I think we have the best intentions and I do think we seek out answers but there is a part of us that is never satisfied with what we hear. If I told you all you had to do to be healthy was to not eat any fried foods and walk five miles a day a part of you would say; no way, I love onion rings, I need to find something easier.
There are a lot of Biblical precedents for this – one upon a time there was a general named Namaan who had leprosy. He asked Elijah what he should do to cure the leprosy and the answer was wash in the River Jordan… but it seemed too simple, too foolish, and Namaan almost never even tried it.
Or how about the Rich Young Ruler who comes to Jesus and says I go to church, I help the poor, I follow the rules, what else do I have to do to feel good about myself? And Jesus says go and sell everything you own, give the money to the poor and follow me… does he do it? No. Was Jesus right? Yes.
So there is the thing – part of us wants the answer – part of us is really scared that the answer will mean we have to change something we do not want to change.
Who is Jesus? That is a question the disciples ask themselves every day? What is going to happen? How is he going to save us? Should we really be listening to him, because some of what he says sounds crazy!
And then they go up the mountain… They see Jesus pray. They see Moses and Elijah come to counsel Jesus. They watch as speaking to God makes Jesus seem to glow, to light up with the power of the holy Spirit…
So here is the answer. Yes, Jesus is special. Yes, God is at work in him. Yes, the Holy Spirit is inside Jesus. Yes, Moses and the Prophets support Jesus…. So…. Listen to him.
Still – like I said – Listening is hard. And it is especially hard when listening means having to do something, having to change…
How much do we really want to change?
CONCLUSION OF THEME
I wonder if it is fear. Are we afraid of change? Are we are afraid things are changing too fast? Are we thinking that following God is going to change us so much that we will no longer be ourselves?
What the disciples were essentially saying when they saw Jesus is that they were comfortable the way things are. And we cannot really blame them – they are disciples of a great teacher, people are listening to them, people are feeding them, they are travelling, and they have found someone they believe in… why would they want to change that?
Listen – comes the voice of God – Listen to what Jesus is saying: Even if it is uncomfortable (and it was, Jesus has been talking about dying, about people not liking them, about all of this ending – it is certainly not going to be the same as it always has.)
And the disciples know this is true, they see the evidence, and all of a sudden they want to stay on top of the mountain – fear takes over.
Here is the thing: First, we have to really listen… which means tuning out some of the distraction, letting go of our expectations and being open to whatever God is saying.
Second: we have to accept that when the spirit is at work, everything changes. When we hear God speaking to us through our dreams and visions, WE are going to change. We have to have the courage for that.
Last but not least – we need to follow through; and when we do that, when we hear the voice and react – things really will get better – the voice of God is never going to lead us astray. So as we try to live out what we have heard we will be truly following Jesus.