Lectionary Preaching Notes from the lens of UCC Humanitarian and Development Ministries
(Disaster, Refugee and Global Sustainable Development)
These ministries are made possible by your participation in the
One Great Hour of Sharing Offering (UCC)
Text Luke 9: 28-36, 37-43 a Transfiguration
Preaching Theme: Theology is created in the interaction between awe and action. Moments of awe give disciples the vision to identify God’s glory in the actions of the journey ahead and incorporates their own action into God’s mission.
Interpretation and Informing Stories
This Transfiguration text in the lectionary comes just before we enter Lent, engaging us in meaning-making. We join the disciples, Peter and John and James, in trying to figure out who Jesus is and the nature of how we are to follow. They experience the unhindered awe of seeing Jesus in all his glory - dazzling appearance and standing with Moses and Elijah talking of Jesus’ departure. Those disciples may have been sleepy before, but now their senses and spirituality are fully awake. No doubt, they are standing in the presence of holiness. But when Peter proposes to build dwellings to preserve the moment, instead they are incorporated into the very action of God. In a scene directly reminiscent of Jesus’s baptism, the voice of God comes from a cloud, addressed to the disciples rather than to Jesus this time, “This is my Son, my Chosen, listen to him!” It made an impression that they took seriously, following Jesus down the mountain and toward Jerusalem, ‘owning’ the healing and teaching they were yet to experience.
“Disaster responder as theologian” is not often the label associated with either side of that simile. And yet, articulating meaning in the midst of disaster’s disruption and recovery is work for the church to take seriously. This passage reminds us of the importance of that role in figuring out and articulating meaning – to identify God’s clear presence, to recognize the resources of faith at hand, and to be incorporated into the very action of God.
A natural disaster can disrupt people’s lives in the most devastating ways. The unexpectedness of the event and seeming randomness of those affected creates questions about the security of the space in which we live. The loved ones and things we held dear create holes in our lives. The order we once assumed of the world around us is shattered. Assigning meaning to the event and to the experience of the recovery is part of the journey to wholeness. A wider community to call on for assistance in putting back together an order to our lives and creating a “new normal” is healing.
The church occupies a distinct place in disaster recovery that puts people in places where this meaning-making is authentic. UCC Disaster Ministries is national and global in scope and therefore, helps shape the high-level processes of recovery mechanisms striving for effectiveness and widespread access. Government resources at local, state and federal levels are accessed and insurance systems are taken seriously. But there are gaps, the UCC is thoroughly connected with other church responses and with other voluntary organizations active in disaster to avoid duplication of services and multiply the special assets of each organization. At the same time, the church is local, taking leadership in community building relationships that coordinate locally through long-term recovery organizations. The church has cope to channel financial gifts or secure people with particular skills from those living in other places who feel connected and the personal association to a long-term presence in an affected community because it has been there already. This multi-layered presence and its effectiveness offer the space for those involved to be taken seriously in the meaning-making exercise in which we engage.
This ministry makes space for people to see God in new and dazzling ways and takes seriously the results of that experience by involving us in the hard journey that follows, making it our own. Disaster recovery is a meaning-making exercise with implications for the wider community and the whole church.
I Love to Tell the Story
Won’t You Let me Be Your Servant
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