The text is the Transfiguration which has become the standard text for the Ending of the Season of Epiphany. As such this sermon is the last in this loosely connected series. The evangelist Luke’s treatment of the Transfiguration is unique. In the parallels it is the Easter before Easter. In Luke it is Epiphany that starts the journey. And it is on the journey that everything we fear we might lose as the epiphany fades, or that we never got because we were sleepy and didn’t see the entire thing, is confirmed in the living. We remember the mountaintop, but that is the symbol for the life. Without the life, the mountaintop loses its meaning.
The text of this sermon was John 1:29-42. That is two days of John the Baptist’s preaching and the evangelists account of the first disciples of Jesus. By telling us this account -which is starkly different that the synoptic (Matt/Mark/Luke) tradition, the evangelist invites us to ponder our own discipleship journey. Where are we? Are we on Jordan’s bank, but not really hearing the Baptist say there, right there! is the Lamb? Have we heard and are hoping to see? Have we seen and have joined the journey? Have we put the things we have seen into practice?
The connection with “rosebud” is seeing what is really important. Epiphany, the current season of the church, is a season to see. It is a season to ponder what is really important before the trials and tribulations. To find our rosebud’s and to see the rose which is blooming – foretold by Isaiah and seen today within our midst.
In a challenge note, go read John 1:19 – 2:1 and track the days. Keep track of what happens on each day. What day(s) are missing? What day(s) are ours to write our discipleship journeys on? Who revealed Christ to us? How are we part of that chain? How do we extend that witness?
But we and Luther do share one significant similarity: We’re both living in the midst of a communication revolution. For Luther it was the printing press. He and his followers were able to use pamphlets and ever-cheaper printed books to promote the Reformation cause. This ability to spread the word also hardened the opposing teams in a divided and dividing church…In the discourse between Lutheran and Catholic ecumenists over the past half-century, however, a new picture of Luther has emerged. Both sides have acknowledged that the claim of a severe cleavage between pre- and post-Reformation Luther is simply inaccurate. Luther’s revolutionary insights were firmly grounded in the long tradition of the church. Both Catholic rejection and Protestant triumphalism fail to do justice to the real man and his work.
Grace Alone, Faith Alone, Word Alone. Those are the three “solas” of the reformation. And they are all radical positions. By radical I mean that put on a spectrum, none of them are the middle path, a reasonable man would not gravitate to those poles. And I think that order is telling. Nobody ever really debated grace alone. There were debates over obscure terms like prevenient grace and saving grace, but that was splitting hairs. It was all grace. The debates intensified at faith alone. Faith alone to Lutherans really repeated grace alone. We are saved through faith which is a gift of God by grace. Faith is a visible form of grace. The Catholics of the time and still today will nod that yes it is faith that saves, but faith is fruitful in works. The last sola, Word Alone, is often misrepresented. We often take it today as just the scriptures. The Scriptures were definitely the source, but the reformation understanding is larger. Think through the foolishness of preaching, the proclaimed word, an almost mystical understanding of the active Word in our lives. The Catholics made the same leap we often do. They heard Word Alone as sola scriptura and gagged. The scriptures require interpretation. Tradition, the church, the creeds and the teachers of the church are required. The mystic monk met the legal institution and they talked past each other.
Its a blog, so I can be grossly wrong and retract it later. At heart I’m real simple. It’s all grace. The Christian proclamation is that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. While we were driving the nails and saying we don’t want this grace, the Father gave it anyway. Faith alone, yes, true, but because its all grace. Word alone? That one also, but because God condescended to tell us anything. Everything else kinda falls under Paul’s words, “All things are possible, but not all things are profitable.” Am I going to divide over Word alone – no. Am I going to divide over Faith alone – very doubtful. Am I going to divide over grace alone – yep. If you think anything you do will earn you merit, we part company. I’m not strong enough or wise enough to figure it all out. I need the grace.
So, I wish Sara Wilson grace on her 1000 miles. And in her endeavor. Once things are divided, putting them back together takes a lot of grace. Thankfully I believe in the resurrection – when things do get put back together.