Going Deeper 3/4/2019

I have decided to skip ahead to the last two steps of Alcoholic Anonymous’ 12 Step Program I have been preaching on in connection with Richard Rohr’s book, Breathing Underwater: Spirituality and the Twelve Steps.  I feel compelled to wrap this series up in the next couple of weeks, but just for your information here are the other steps, each of which has a tie to our process of ongoing transformation as children of God and followers of Jesus… 
Steps 8 & 9 are closely connected: “We made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.”  And “We made amends to such people wherever possible.”  Learning to make amends, as well as learning to forgive as we have been forgiven, is very, very important.  You’ve heard a sermon or two on that before and I’m sure we’ll circle back to this theme again.
And here is Step 10, which echoes several steps we have already covered: “We continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.”  Yep, repentance and seeking to grow beyond our weaknesses is a battle that will never end… at least not until we pass to the next life.
This morning I want to focus on Step 11, which I believe connects powerfully to our Scripture readings this morning: We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood God, praying only for knowledge of God’s will for us and the power to carry that out.  
From our first reading, Exodus 34: Moses came down from Mount Sinai. As he came down from the mountain with the two tablets of the covenant in his hand, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God.  And from our Gospel reading, Luke 9:  Now about eight days after these sayings 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.  Thus far our texts.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. Amen.
Transfiguration can be defined as “a complete change of form or appearance into a more beautiful or spiritual state.”  Step 11 can be understood as speaking of a type of transfiguration, one that obviously can apply to all of us, not only to those fighting an addiction to alcohol.  As children of God by grace, we are seeking to become more and more fully what we already are, seeking to be transformed/transfigured more and more fully into the image of Jesus.
This whole series of sermons has been about this.  As a matter of fact, pretty much every sermon connects in some way to our transfiguration, to our “complete change of form or appearance into a more beautiful or spiritual state.”  Either we are talking about sin and repentance, which prepares us to experience grace, or we are talking about healing and change, about our growing and drawing nearer and nearer to God.
All of this involves encountering God.  Truthfully, everything we do here must be centered around encountering God, or else our variety of gatherings here fall short of their true potential.  Even our name, Zion, points to this.  In Biblical language Zion can be understood as being the place where God encounters His people.  Zion is a place-name often used as a synonym for Jerusalem as well as for the biblical Land of Israel as a whole.  
Mount Zion is a name that has actually shifted over time.  In ancient Jerusalem, it was the highest point in the city.  Later them name was applied to the location of the temple.  
Later on Peter, quoting Isaiah 28:16, refers to Christ as the Cornerstone of Zion: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame” (1 Peter 2:6).  Regardless of all of this shifting, it is appropriate for us to consider Zion was being a place where God encounters His people.  That is here.  That is us,  That must be what we are all about.  
With all of that said, let’s review our understanding (which is, of course, limited) as to just how God encounters us, and how we can seek to encounter God.  Our encounters will not all look and feel the same.  As we’ve said recently, the Spirit of our Creator God is truly an artist who moves in different ways and shapes and forms, fashioning us into variety types of beauty.
Here is step 11 again: We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood God, praying only for knowledge of God’s will for us and the power to carry that out.  
We sought… This transfiguration happens when we seek God.  At the beginning of the wrestling season each year I ask the same question: “Who’d like to be a district champion?”  Usually all hands are raised.  Then I ask “Who is willing to do what it takes to me a champion?”  Most hands are raised.  This year we had only two champions out of 17 weight classes.  Talk is easy, follow-through is the challenge.
Don’t raise your hand, but I want to ask you: Do you want to have a more profound relationship with God?  If so, are you willing to do what it takes?
God clearly wants us to grow closer and stronger, but God does not force this. We are all called into a growing understanding of God and relationship with God, and of vital importance to our growth in understanding and relationship is our commitment to do what it takes.  
Of significant importance to our growth is the written word of God, the Bible.  God speaks most powerfully through His word.  We must be people of the word!  On our own and together we must open the Scriptures as we open our hearts and minds to the Holy Spirit to deepen our understanding of God and of His love and of His ways.  This is absolutely foundational!
I would encourage you to commit to reading through the Bible in a year and I would suggest you use the resource from the Bible Project to guide you.  I am about a month from finishing by read-through and I have found the video resources to be of great help.  I would also urge you to participate in one of our group Bible studies as well.  We are working through the Gospel of Mark on Sundays between services, and through the book of Acts on Wednesday mornings.
We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood God, praying only for knowledge of God’s will for us and the power to carry that out.  
Prayer and meditation are two more important avenues to growth.  And again, there is not one way to pray and/or to meditate.  Like much of our spirituality, there are a variety of ways to connect with God through prayer and meditation.  This is much more of an art than a science.  And yet there are many, many helpful resources.  Seek them out.

 

   May 2019   
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