Ray Of Hope Church Of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Inc.
The Church in Central New York founded and consistently fostered by the GLBTQIS community. October 31, 2018 was the 35th Anniversary in our 36th year in Ministry.
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Sermon for February 14, 1999 the Feast Of The Transfiguration and Valentine Love Feast, 1999


Exodus 24:12-18 Psalm 2 2 Peter 1:16-21 Matthew 17; 1-9

Here we go again with another double celebration weekend! Perhaps you have noticed every week the Holy Bible readings lead us so that we are always celebrating some wonderful aspect of God in our eternity! This weekend we have our annual Valentine Love Feast Worship Service and this is also the liturgical calendar's celebration of the Transfiguration of Jesus. Lent begins next week, imagine that! Where is 1999 going so rapidly? Four years ago Ray Of Hope Church took the weekend closest to Valentine's Day and celebrated the worship service in a similar format to what we are told by extant documents was one of the ways the very early church celebrated. This format has been given the name "Love Feast." Basically, it is a sort of Christianized Passover format because the family, the Congregation, is here gathered around a banquet table. Seated at this table we are worshipping together, singing, praying, reading the Word Of God, listening to instruction, and eating. Our eating will not only be the delightful dietary delectables you have prepared and brought to share, but will also be the Christ Meal of the Cup Of Salvation and the Bread Of Life, that our Host, Christ Jesus has brought to share. Christ has also brought a "dish to pass" to our Love Feast. Eating, interacting, visiting, listening are all activities that are essential aspects to our being human. It is divine that God the Christ would choose a meal setting for our spiritual nourishment. The Passover could have been a simple customary ritual of purchasing a lamb, killing it in the back yard, and spreading the blood of it on the door encasing for protection. Instead, the lamb was sacrificed, the blood applied, but the lamb was not thrown out as waste. The Passover Lamb was eaten in the context of a warm family setting with special decorations, special lighting, everyone dressed for sacred festival, and the meal shared casually in the evening after the work of the day was done. In Psalm 23 we hear the believer sing, "Thou hast prepared a table before me in the presence of mine enemies. Thou anointest my head with oil." The banquet of God is real, it isn't a metaphor. God's banquet extends from the beginning of time until the consummation of time with the establishment of eternal life for all creation. While we are in this period of Grace, where God is showing tremendous mercy and patience toward us, we are invited to be present every moment by staying with God at God's Table for nourishment. Christ is our Sacred Host; we are the guests of Christ at the Table of God. The banquet of God is with us every living minute after we commence the reality by our declaration of faith in Christ Jesus and that all-important invitation of Christ into our hearts. From the moment of repentance that would be from the moment of our turning toward the Love Feast of God, and commencing with the very act of invitation we are in Divine presence forever. This divine presence is the banquet feast of God. It is the Love Feast of God, the creator and sustainer of all life. God loves us so very much, that God wants to experience every aspect of our lives with us. God blesses our sleeping, God blesses our suffering, God blesses our times of illness, God blesses our times of loneliness, God blesses our times of happiness, God blesses our times of intimacy, God blesses our times of questioning, God even blesses our times of doubting God. What do I mean by saying God "blesses" all these occasions? I mean God's very own sacred presence is actually, really, concretely present with us for every moment of our lives, that is God's "blessing." Likewise, when we are mean so someone, when we are hurting someone, when we are cheating someone, when we are taking advantage of another's vulnerability, we are not hiding from God. God is totally aware of our brokenness that has assumed the place of leadership in those choices and circumstances. The truth tells us there is nothing happening to us, nothing we are thinking, nothing we are feeling that God isn't aware of, that God is not intimately a part of. When we realize that the Lord God Almighty is with us every moment of every day and in every way, then we will understand the Love Feast of God always present through all our moods, choices, and conditions of life. It seems to me that one reason we have missed this depth of understanding the real presence of God is we have so minimized the awesome, immeasurable truth of feasting on God's presence by reducing it to a 45 - 90 minute "worship service" or "meeting." The very term "worship service" is so inadequate and I hope doesn't speak to the reality of what we mean. If we have so compartmentalized our lives into divisions of time and place, that we have to "do" the "worship service" of God at this set time and this set place in our week, well … It is no wonder many have little or any identifiable experience of God. I have to "do" my taxes. I have to "do" my piano practicing. I have to "do" my check balancing, etc. When I have things to "do" I go to a predetermined place with certain tools and a certain task at hand. Usually this task has a starting and ending point. I know when I am "done" "doing" that task. The question I want us to ask is if we have reduced our expectations of our experience of God to placing God related stuff on the list of things to "do"? If our practice of coming together twice a week, once for Bible study and once for "worship" constitutes the time allotted to "do" God in our lives, we are robbing ourselves. That is the real and present danger of religion. Religion can provide a false sense of success in that one can be under the impression that "doing" time for God is all there is. So, God is "down at the church" or "at" the Bible study. The rest of the week someone might have fleeting thoughts of God, especially when things are going particularly well or particularly poorly. Some people give God a couple minutes of "prayer time" in the morning, evening, or before a meal. Again, this is very compartmentalized, and is not what God has in heart for us. Many of us consider our human companions and families as being closer to us and more real to us than God, who is around in formal times set-aside for God. For many people the thought of "going to church" is a real burden. Many people really experience "church", as that minimum time required to keep one foot in the door of Heaven. If some people thought they could keep a heavenly guarantee and not have to bother with church, they would certainly do it. What does that order of priorities bring a person? It is important to say the minimum legal religious requirement for "being saved" is not what God wants for us. God wants to be involved in every aspect of our lives. To fool ourselves into thinking we "do" the God stuff at appointed times and places, and that is all we "do" with the God thing is to cut ourselves off from the feast of God. We are created to exist with God in a holy communion, a holy union, and a constant and present spousal relationship. If we close God out of our work place, out of our intimate relationships, out of our shopping experiences, out of our bathing or listening to our favorite music, or out of our daily reading the paper, we are out here on our own without our guidance system, without our lover, without our support system. Really, I think God is entirely much too polite. What do I mean by that? When we excuse God from the moment, God steps aside and allows us to make all the decisions and to face all the circumstances we set up for ourselves. What God will not do is superimpose God's influence on our will. God is so polite as to restrain the divine judgement that is justly deserved for our rather frequent choices of rebellion away from God. God stands by and loves us even more. We can change our mode of self-directed operation. God is inviting and waiting us to fall in love with God. How is it that we couldn't fall in love with Love, Life, Light, Truth, Righteousness, and Faithfulness, all which are proper names of God in the Bible? Are not these the very qualities and conditions of life that everyone is looking for; Love, Life, Light, Truth, Righteousness, Faithfulness? As a people on earth, we are looking everywhere for these life essentials. We look to conventional wisdom, religious wisdom, modern day "prophets", psychic readers, horoscopes, medicine, vacations, money, relationships, things, contracts, corporate agreement, diplomacy, government, law, charity, taxes, dues, and so many other circumstances… We have been taught that all of these sources and procedures lead us to Love, Life, Light, Truth, Righteousness, Faithfulness, etc. When they do not, because they cannot, we fall into despair, we conclude God is not real, we conclude the god story is all a myth. Jesus calls us to the mountain of transfiguration, right now, right where we are. Jesus calls us "up" to a place of transformation. Jesus calls us "up" to ascend above the human capacity of understanding the universe we live in. The transformation to which Christ invites every one of us is nothing we can in any way control. Though we cannot control our transformation, we are totally responsible for initiating it and for maintaining our connection to Christ. Another way to explain this is to say Christ has invited each of us up to the mountain of Transfiguration, however we must make the climb there ourselves. Notice, Moses did not say to God, 'You come down here and talk to me on my level!' No, Moses had to go up the mountain on the seventh day, and had to be totally present to God. The reading indicates God waited and prepared for six days, and Moses communed on the seventh day. Notice, Peter, James, John and Jesus did not stand at the base of the "high mountain" and say, 'Okay God, this is easy for you, you don't have to deal with gravity, you aren't really going to make us climb that mountain are you?' Notice, Peter, James, and John didn't pull Jesus aside and say, 'Hey God dude, can't you just wiggle your nose or something and fly us up that mountain, isn't there something you can do so we can get up there quickly?' No, they had to climb, and Moses had to climb. There is no written indication that they saw this as any sort of a burden. It likely was a non-issue since they were already in this moment-to-moment love relationship I am speaking of. They likely would have walked to the ends of the universe if they had been asked to. Did you notice, Jesus climbed with them as a brother, as a companion? Jesus didn't need to do that. He could have said, 'Hey guys, I have some paper work to do back at my father's office, I will meet you at the top of the mountain in about four hours or so. Happy climbing!' Jesus, being God in the flesh, did not need to climb that mountain. Remember that Christ is never going to ask of us more than He is willing to do Himself. When they arrive at the top, Jesus is transformed into light, right there before them. Then Moses and Elijah appear. Moses and Elijah are not gods. They are regular people who were faithful to God's will in their lives, most of the time. The fact that they appear is further proof of the reality of life with God after physical death. They didn't just appear in a cloud and wave at Jesus mystically smiling and disappeared. No, the Gospel says they conversed with Him. Dr. Jack VanImpe notes that this too was on a seventh day. He notes that long tradition in the church that has taught since God made the world in six days and rested on the seventh, and since one day is as a thousand years with the Lord, our present age will consummate about 6,000 years after life Adam. In the seven thousand years, or the seventh day, God would establish the Millennial Kingdom, God's earthly rest. Moses, Peter, James, and John ascend to the mountaintops to speak and learn from Christ (the Angel of the Lord in the fiery bush of Moses) on the seventh day in both accounts. This is a prophetic picture showing we will hear the call to "Come Up Here" (Rev. 4:1) in the rapture after the six days of this present Age, and be transfigured before the 7th day of Millennial Rest. It is an interesting theory, and one that I personally think is likely. Jesus, Moses, Elijah, Lazarus, the saints that raised in the hour of the Lord's crucifixion, Enoch, and others have given us living proof that resurrection life is true and is available to those who are "in Christ." If we simply read and believe the plain language of the Bible we will notice it consistently teaches itself to us. Just as in last weeks reading, the second reading this weekend has Paul saying again, "… we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made know to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ…" (2 Peter 1:16). Certainly, Paul was aware that even in his day many would attribute the eternal presence of God to being the re-write of a myth. If one concludes this, they close themselves to all spiritual truth and blessings. In Christ however, God plans to transform all of our mortal bodies into immortal ones capable of resurrection. All humans who have ever lived will experience resurrection, some to the "resurrection of life" and the rest to the "resurrection of condemnation." (John 5:29) In 1999 many people refuse to hear that there is a law of choice that determines one's eternal destination that is still in effect. While Grace endures, this law of choice endures, where each and every soul must decide to choose Christ forever. The blessed good news of the Gospel, contains even more for us. We do not have to wait until we die to enjoy the blessings of God's presence. I used to look forward to "life after death"…. Consequently, I didn't experience redemption of my life in the present tense. In our Sacred Scriptures, Paul invites us to allow Christ to "redeem the time" of our lives now. (Eph. 5:16) We are invited to take our places at the Banquet Feast of Christ today, this very moment. We are invited to the mountain top to hear the voice of God saying, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased, listen to him." When each individual is ready to give the honor that is due the Son of God, and when each one is ready to sit at His feet and learn from Him, and when each one is ready to be married to Christ, then the banquet feast of Love begins for them. Please hear me say clearly that I am not speaking in symbols or metaphors. I am telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. God has prophetically promised many events to the soul that journeys with God. Prophecy is in Scripture so that we can know what God expects of us. If we are in love with God, and that would be in love with Love, then we want to live according to Will of God. If we love God, we want to experience God every day, every hour, and every night. There is a chair and place setting at the eternal banquet table of Christ that has your name on it. Are your place setting and your chair gathering dust and cobwebs from lack of use? Won't you sit down, allow your Host, Christ Jesus, to dust off your plates, your cups, and utensils and begin to serve you His own self. Have we simply made our profession of faith and then "applied the blood of the Lamb" to "get saved" and do the legal requirements? I mentioned that is what could have been the custom of the Passover Meal. Have we done the same thing with Christ? Are we just interested in making sure all legal requirements for "Salvation" are fulfilled? Is it "one ore thing to take care of" in our lives… I hope not, because, the Lamb of God, Christ Jesus, invites us to His table where He is Bread Of Life, the Cup Of Salvation, where he feeds us, where he wants us to eat and drink of Him. Our Host invites us to His table where He serves Himself to nourish us every minute of every hour of life. It is a Love Feast for sure. There is definitely intimacy inferred here. There is dependency, trust, self-abandonment, and self-resignation from power involved here. Now is the time to fall into the arms of Love, the love of the beginning of this universe. God is calling all of us to come up the mountain of transfiguration and to take our seats at the divine eternal Love Feast of God. Contemplate the possibilities of initiating your divine love affair today, and quietly contemplate this deeply in your hearts. May God who is Love, grant you love and bless you today.

We Bless You In The Name Of The Lord Christ.


May Almighty God Bless You;
God, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen +

 

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