We have seen his glory! – Br. David Vryhof

Br. David Vryhof

Mark 9:2-9

What do we make of a story like this?  Jesus leads three of his closest friends up a high mountain and there he is transfigured before them!  His clothes become dazzling white, whiter than anyone on earth could bleach them!  Moses and Elijah, representing the law and the prophets, suddenly appear beside Jesus, speaking with him!  A cloud overshadows them all, and a voice booms out of the cloud, “This is my Son, the Beloved.  Listen to him!” No wonder the poor disciples are terrified!

What do we make of a story like this that describes a theophany so extraordinary, so spectacular, so dazzling, so supernatural, that it defies logic.  The whole experience lies so far beyond anything any of us has or ever will see or know, it is almost impossible to imagine.

For a few brief moments, the veil is lifted and the disciples see the radiant glory of God beaming from the person of Jesus.  And then it is over, as quickly as it began.

The remarkable incident described in today’s gospel reading calls to mind the earlier story of Jesus’ baptism in the River Jordan by John the Baptist (Mark 1:9-11).  There, too, a voice from heaven rumbled out of the clouds, though this time the message was directed to Jesus himself: “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”  It was a message of love and affirmation, which confirmed his identity as God’s Beloved Son, and signaled the start of his mission. Read More

The Good News of Acts – Br. James Koester

Acts 15: 22-31

When I’m working on a sermon, I usually keep a couple of questions in my mind. One is, where’s the good news? If I can’t answer that, then none of my listeners will be able to either. The other is, can I sum this whole sermon up in one sentence? If it takes me a whole paragraph to explain my sermon, then it’s not focused, it’s too complicated, or too long.

Using that same principle, I’m wondering this morning how I would sum up the entire Acts of the Apostles into one sentence. How would I do that? There is a lot going on in Acts, but in a sense there is only one thing going on. Luke tells us at the end of his gospel, and he repeats it at the beginning of Acts. You are my witnesses[1] Jesus says to the assembled disciples in the Upper Room on that first Easter, and again just before his Ascension. You will be my witnesses.[2

If that is Acts in one sentence, what about my other question? Where is the good news? We hear it repeatedly throughout Acts, and we hear it again today. The good news of Acts is that the gospel of Jesus Christ is for everyone, Jew and Gentile alike. That is the whole point of Acts, and it is certainly the whole point of the Council of Jerusalem which determined that it was good to the Holy Spirit and to [the Apostles and elders] to impose on [the Gentiles] no further burden than [certain] essentials.[3]  Had the decision been otherwise, in those days shortly after Pentecost, the tiny Christian community would have remained a small Jewish sect, probably being absorbed and finally disappearing into the dominant Jewish mainstream within a generation, and we would not be here. But this decision to impose no further burden than [certain] essentials breathed life into the Jesus movement in its earliest days.

As followers of Jesus, that remains our purpose, indeed it is the purpose of the Church, and the vocation of all the baptized: to be Christ’s witnesses. Part of our job as witnesses, is simply to state what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life,[4] and what we know to be true. After that, we need to back off, get out of the way, and impose no further burden than [these certain] essentials. In that way we allow the Spirit to do its work in bringing people into an encounter with the living Lord, rather than our personal and singular concept of God.

That, it seems to me, is the good news of Acts, and while we have been invited to join in the work of introducing people to an encounter with the living God, it is our real privilege and great joy to step back and watch God at work, in the lives of those whom we serve.


Lectionary Year and Proper: Friday in the Fifth Week of Easter, Year 1

[1] Luke 24: 48

[2] Acts 1: 8

[3] Acts 15: 28

[4] 1 John 1: 1