For those of you that might not know, I am participating in a certification program for Community Organizing. One aspect of this process that we have been working on, is to move a community from maintainance into transformation. Community organizing can be applied to the greater community in which we live, such as Roxbury Township, or it can be applied in much smaller areas such as local church congregations. I am interested in both, but for my certification program, I am focusing on us, as a local congregation. What does it mean for us to do maintainance ministry and what does it mean for us to do transformational ministry? I think these are great questions to ask on Transformation Sunday.
Maintainance ministry is what we do. Our committees meet, we have weekly worship, we offer Sunday School and Bible Studies, we create a budget and set goals for the year in which we hope our finances will cover what we would like to accomplish. Often times, with maintainance ministry, we look the same as we did last year, and the year before, and the year before that. We celebrate Christmas and Easter, we sing our familiar hymns, and nothing much changes. It is comfortable, peaceful, and trustworthy. We have memories formed around these rituals that are meaningful to us. We are, like Peter, people that have built alters around sacred moments to ensure that they continue to be there for us.
Jesus has brought these three disciples up to the mountain top, and is preparing them for the days ahead when he will enter into Jerusalem and will be betrayed by Judas, arrested, denied by Peter, and crucified. These are not easy days ahead, and so first, before this struggle, this crisis, this horrific event take place, he appears with Moses and Elijah and is transfigured before the disciples into something divine, something sacred, a dazzling of the brightest white. The disciples are so overcome with amazement, Peter just can’t help himself, and he desires to mark this moment for all history. He wants to build something to commerate this moment. And no sooner does he want to keep this moment as something that will last forever, then it is over. We cannot capture divine moments, the holy presence, it is fleeting and changing and always moving forward.
But what does Jesus tell Peter in this story? Peter, we have work to do, and we must go back down from this mountain and continue what God has asked us to do. And so down the mountain they go, the once transformed Jesus looking just as he did before he went up the mountain but now, the three disciples are transformed, they have witnessed something unique, special, and holy. Even the the future is going to be beyond unpleasant, they have this sacred moment to anchor them, a sacred moment that promises them God is present.
Jesus does not have time for maintainance ministry, he is on the go, teaching, challenging, calling for change, calling for transformaiton, very literally transforming himself to help illustrate the work that he is about. In community organizing, transformation ministry is first about building relationships, learning about one another, listening to what the community is passionate about, what the community desires to see changed, to see transformed. This is actually a perfect connect to our two goals this year: Fellowship and Mission. Fellowship is more than grabbing coffee and treats after worship, it is about the deep building of relationships with one another. Fellowship, relationship building, can actually happen in those parts of our life together where we are involved in maintainance: Bilbe Study, Session and Deacons’ meetings, Sunday School, committee meetings, and fundraisers. Jesus is always buildling relationships to people, not just with his disciples, but to the greater community as well. How does he meet Mary, Martha, and Lazerous? What about Nicodemus? Simon Peter’s mother-in-law, just to name a few.
As we grow in the ways that we know each other, as we build stronger relationships with each other, as we learn what it is that we are truly passionate about, then we go into the world in ministry in that arena. At one point in our denomination’s life, we were passionate about health care and education. So, as the early church grew and created ministries in the United States the Presbyterian Church built hospitals and schools. Over time, we seem to have lost our connection to many of these instututions as they have become businesses rather than ministries. But we, at one time, transformed the landscape with these much needed community resources. The church is still at work in places such as Africa, transforming communities with schools and medical clinics. This last summer, we saw how Broad Street ministry was in partnership with other ministries that are seeking to bring transformation into the lives of people in the Philidelphia area. Transformation for those diagnosed with Aids, transformation for those that live in food deserts, transformation for those that have always lived with the fear of scarcity. Transformation even for an old church building that had closed and is now a health clinic, a soup kitchen, a clothing closet, and so much more.
Transformation Sunday happens the week prior to Lent for a reason. Jesus literally faces Jerusalem and begins the journey to his final week. But Lent is also about growth and moving forward in the faith. Lent was used as the season of time to teach new converts about the faith and then on Easter Sunday these new followers would be baptized and enter into the formal membership of the faith. Lent means a spiritual spring, a time for renewal, a time to be transformed. Any time God sends God’s people into a season of 40 – God desires renewal and transformation at the end. So, this Lenten season, we are going to focus on transformational ministry, on ways in which we have already begun the process. We will review the New Beginnings assesement that many of you were involved with over six years ago, and continue to live into God’s calling for us.