This week's author is the Rev. Dr. Thomas Clough, Eastern Regional Minister for the Connecticut Conference, UCC.
Scripture: Mark 9:5-7 (NRSV)Then Peter said to Jesus, ‘Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.’ He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!’
Reflection:A dozen years ago I stayed a few nights in a small village in El Salvador, in the home of a man who had fought against the government during the civil war. He described his years living in the forest, of learning how to use often defective Russian land mines, of preventing gangrene in bullet wounds, of meals being smuggled up into hills by his wife, of his divorce after the fighting stopped, and of having been “rewarded” for laying down his arms by being settled in a disease infested swamp.
Remembering this man’s story of profound suffering for years, I was struck by the realization that never once in the entire conversation did I hear him ever attribute the suffering that he described in graphic detail as being in any way a form of punishment.
The reason this struck me was that it has been my frequent experience as a pastor to hear someone who is suffering illness or from effects of an accident, or from sense of abandonment finding one’s self in a nursing home, wondering what they have done “wrong” in the past for which they are now being “punished”.
I wonder if that way of thinking was not part of Peter’s inability to make sense of Jesus' prediction that he would suffer torture and death in Jerusalem because he was the Messiah. Peter may have equated suffering with punishment for guilt, and to him, Jesus was not guilty of any sin at all.
So, when Jesus was transfigured on that high mountain and his clothes began to glow, and the Hebrew heroes, Moses and Elijah, joined the spectacle, Peter assumed that Jesus must have been confused, and that now the time had come to celebrate the inbreaking of God’s New World Order, starring Jesus and Peter and James and John.
It is at that moment that God reveals to Peter that the old understanding of suffering as proof of guilt must now make way for a radically new equation.
The way of the cross is not a sign of our failure to live up to God’s standards.
The way of the cross, a life that may contain suffering, is now a sign of God’s refusal to ever give up on us. Ever.
Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was murdered during the Salvadoran civil war, found in the Transfiguration a reason for hope in the midst of his people’s suffering. He saw suffering not as punishment but as a sign that we are on the road to redemption.
Three weeks before his assassination, he preached in a sermon, stating, “The theology of transfiguration is saying that the road to redemption passes through the cross and through Calvary, but the goal of Christians is beyond history.”
We may very well be on the brink of some challenging times, but, like Oscar Romero and those who struggled with him, we can find in this vision on the mountaintop, this vision of the triumph of hope over despair and death, we can find in this story of Christ’s transfiguration reason to commit ourselves to struggle for what is right, knowing that our suffering will be shared with Jesus, and that we are engaged in a struggle that he has already won.
Prayer:May God grant us the wisdom to know what should be and the courage to join in the struggle to make it so.
Special Prayer Requests:
Those grieving or suffering in South Carolina after train accident killed 2 people and injured over 100 others on Feb. 4;
- the family and friends of Rev. Ralph Miller Cook, Jr., retired UCC pastor, who died on Jan. 25; and
- the Rev. Allen F. Tinkham, retired UCC pastor, who was hospitalized in Middletown last week (Jan.).
- Those grieving or suffering in South Korea after a hospital fire killed 37 people and injured over 140 others on Jan. 26;
- those grieving or suffering after school shooting in Kentucky left 2 dead and 12 injured on Jan. 23;
- Rev. Meg Boxwell Williams, Associate Pastor of the First Congregational Church of Stratford, for a full recovery as she recuperates from intestinal surgery and experiences chemo treatments;
- those grieving or suffering a mudslide in California left 20 dead and 4 people missing on Jan. 9;
- those grieving or suffering after a train crashed in South Africa killing 18 and injuring over 200 on Jan. 4;
- Robert G. Hale Sr., grandfather of Emily McKenna, Office Manager of the CT Conference, who struggles with health issues and is waiting for surgery scheduled next month;
- the people of Puerto Rico, after Hurricane Maria caused massive devastation on Sept. 20;
- the community of Conway, MA, and the United Congregational Church, UCC, Conway after a tornado touched down on Feb. 25 causing significant structural damage;
- the members and staff of Thompson Congregational Church after a fire severely damage the building on Dec. 29;
- Mark Engstrom, member of the CT Conference Board of Directors, and his wife Nina, who are facing health issues;
- Michael White, former Operations Manager at Silver Lake Conference Center, who was diagnosed with colon cancer;
- Juliane Silver, the daughter of the Rev. Jim Silver of Middletown, who is in dire need of a liver transplant. We pray that a donor will come forward giving the gift of life and a portion of their liver to Juliane;
- Chacy Eveland, husband of the Rev. Marcia Eveland, pastor of the First Congregational Church UCC of Ansonia, who has been moved to a full-time facility for care of dementia;
- the thousands of migrants worldwide who flee from violence and persecution in search of safety;
- our ecumenical partners in the Kyung-Ki Presbytery in South Korea;
- the Conference's partners working for peace in Colombia amidst violence;
- the leaders of this nation, that they may meet the challenges of the day with insight, wisdom, and compassion;
- this nation, that it may continue its difficult work to end the practices of racism; and
- those serving or living in war or conflict zones around the world, or where terrorists have struck.
Please Remember These Connecticut Conference Churches
In Your Prayers:
South Congregational Church, UCC
Fredd Ward - P
William T Vibert - CE
Henry Millan Jr - OL
The First Church in Hartland, Congregational
Jack Zappulla - SU
First Congregational Church of East Haven
David Colton - SU
Diane Lewis - CE
First Congregational Church of East Windsor, UCC
Thomas V. Calderone - P
East Woodstock Congregational Church UCC
Susan J. Foster - P
Sherry Magnan - CE
Dawn Morin - CE
Nancy Ducharme - MM
Andrew Tomkins – MM
The Eastern Regional Minister works with churches in transition, providing support, resources and leadership training. He assists in connecting the churches to the mission and ministry of the UCC beyond their local programs and concerns. His work ...