Tuesday, February 01, 2005


Read Psalm 146

This coming Sunday is Transfiguration of the Lord in the church's calendar. It is one of those gospel stories that is familiar to a lot of folks (because it is read every year), but also perplexes folks because they are not sure what it means. That's okay; like other such Sundays, most preachers are just as perplexed and uncertain. And if you really want to see a perplexed pastor, ask to have the Trinity explained!

In addition to the transfiguration story, this is also the first Sunday of the month, so in the church I am blessed to serve, we will be celebrating the sacrament of Communion (or at least, celebrating as much as the "frozen chosen" usually do). And, as we have done for quite a while, we will begin the Great Prayer of Thanksgiving with the usual "The Lord be with you" spoken by me, and "the Lord also be with you" spoken by the congregation.

And, as we speak these familiar words, some folks will wonder, "Why in the world do we do this?" They wonder (in this church and others) why the preacher just can't pray "off the cuff," and not involve them in their pewed comfort. They wonder (in this church and others) if this doesn't smack a little bit of Roman Catholicism, and that a Protestant worship service is becoming a mass.

It's easy to say it is a liturgical tradition; it is easy to say it is one of the great participatory prayers of the church; it is easy to say that this prayer may just go all the way back to the earliest church services, and maybe even to a Jewish prayer predating Jesus; it is easy to say that it is part of our Book of Common Worship; it is easy to say that by doing so we show our solidarity with churches throughout the world who speak the same words, in a pentecostal outpouring of tongues. It is easiest to say that the words are reminders of God's steadfast presence with us.

But as easy as the words are to speak, how hard they are to believe and live out!

The Lord is with me? I am struggling with crushing disappointment. Every dream I had has become a nightmare; every gain I have made has turned into a loss; every step I have taken forward has thrown me backwards.

The Lord is with me? Every time I go to work, I wonder: is this the day; is this when the supervisor will call me into the office and hand me an envelope with my severance pay in it, telling me what a great job I have done and it is nothing personal, it's just the way business is, all the while not looking me in the eye.

The Lord is with me? My family is back in my home country, while I try to learn a new language, find a new skill, walk my way through a new culture, find support and encouragement for my struggles, search for a church that will accept me as a sister in Christ, not a stranger.

Yes! the Psalmist says resoundingly. In the moments when you have lost everything, only to discover that God has found you - the Lord is with you! In those people who are willing to reach out and help you up when you stumble in life - the Lord is with you! In your hunger for a true friend and in your thirst for those who accept you for who you are - the Lord is with you! At the Table God has prepared, at the desk piled high with monotony, in the neighborhood of locked doors and windows, at the stores piled high with temptation - the Lord is with you!

Isn't that something to remember, to celebrate, to give thanks for!

The Lord is with you! Amen.

(c) 2005 Thom M. Shuman

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