Bob Cornner

Bob Cornner
Visting St. Andrew's Torrance

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Moses and The Cloud



The wall in front of Mt Calvary Retreat Center, Santa Barbara, California as the sun sets through a tree.

Exodus 24:12-18

The LORD said to Moses, "Come up to me on the mountain, and wait there; and I will give you the tablets of stone, with the law and the commandment, which I have written for their instruction." So Moses set out with his assistant Joshua, and Moses went up into the mountain of God. To the elders he had said, "Wait here for us, until we come to you again; for Aaron and Hur are with you; whoever has a dispute may go to them."
Then Moses went up on the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain. The glory of the LORD settled on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days; on the seventh day he called to Moses out of the cloud. Now the appearance of the glory of the LORD was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel. Moses entered the cloud, and went up on the mountain. Moses was on the mountain for forty days and forty nights.
Moses heard the voice of the God he came to know as I AM or Lord.

I AM said, “Come up to me on the mountain and wait there; and I will give you the tablets of stone, with the law and the commandment, which I have written for their (Israel) instruction.”

The story of Moses is dramatic. He was saved from an early death as an infant by his mother and sister; raised by the very Egyptians who had threatened his life and enslaved his people; became a prince of Egypt; murdered an Egyptian he saw abusing Hebrew slaves; and fled from Egypt and made a new home in a foreign land working as a sheep herder.

Imagine living such a life? Had it been anyone else this story might have ended with Moses enjoying his family and tending his sheep each day. But that is not how his life’s story ends. One day while tending his sheep, Moses saw a bush on the side of a mountain that looked like it was on fire, yet the bush was not destroyed. The flames seem to dance upon the bush, darting in and out and glowing brightly.

Moses determined to go toward that bush and when he did, he heard the voice of I AM for the first time in his life. I AM told him to take off his shoes because the ground on which he was standing was holy ground.

Holy ground is earth that God sets aside for meeting us. It is as if God invites Moses to see in this small bit of space what is truly present everywhere and at all times if we only had eyes to see it.

Moses and all of us are also Holy ground. On Ash Wednesday, we will hear these words as ash is imposed on our foreheads: “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.” It is in this holy ground that we meet God in ourselves and in others. It is the ground in which the treasure of the Kingdom of Heaven is buried.

It is Holy ground that bears the promise of God with us in Jesus. From that Holy ground, God sent Moses to new and more difficult adventures. He was sent to lead his people out of slavery and into the land of promise. Our reading for this Sunday tells the story of Moses going back up a mountain in response to the voice of I AM. Having led slaves into the wilderness, he is now to be given laws and commandments to help them live into that freedom.

We will hear about the time of waiting for Moses, the six days waiting for God to give him the grace of the law and commandments. The mountain was covered in cloud and that cloud both displays and hides what is called the “glory of the Lord.” It was on the seventh day, the day of God’s Sabbath rest, that I AM called out to Moses from the cloud.

Moses experienced I AM’s glory as a cloud on top of the mountain. The people of Israel who were at the bottom of the mountain saw a devouring fire. So we see the two ways that people have understood God throughout human history. The God who is a devouring fire and the God whose glory is known through a cloud.

Moses’ story, however, does not end with his delivering the Torah or law. His future is filled with frustration as his people return to the ways of Egypt which had enslaved them. They remained in the wilderness for 40 years. Moses remained on the Sinai for 40 days. From his experience that began on God’s Sabbath rest, Moses experienced the temptations to which we all fall prey. The Torah is the response to this knowledge of sin.

Jesus is considered the second Moses by Matthew. What did Jesus bring back from his 40 days in the wilderness of temptation as the new law and commandments? Have you ever experienced the total loss of freedom and self that come with our human ways of doing things without God? Lent is a time to explore our own times of testing.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

WHERE YOUR TREASURE IS....

Rector’s Report: 2007












Scripture Passage for 2008

"The kingdom of heaven is like treasure
hidden in a field.
When someone found it, they hid it again,
and then in their joy went and sold all they had
and bought that field.”
Matthew 13:44

For the second year in a row, I have chosen a parable from the Gospel of Matthew as our Scripture Passage for 2008. It is one of several parables that Jesus uses to teach us about the Kingdom of Heaven. My hope is that we will consider how Christ Church is like buried treasure. In other words, I want us to consider how the Christ Church community is like the Kingdom of Heaven.

Some of us have been intentionally looking for a church community that offered a sense of the Kingdom of which Jesus spoke. Others of us have simply stumbled upon Christ Church and found here a bit of heaven.

The parable raises many questions, but for today I would like us to consider these three:

1. Why did you walk through the door of Christ Church?
2. What did you find that was a little bit of heaven at Christ Church?
3. How have you been changed by your continuing presence at Christ Church?

The person who finds the treasure in the field is described as being joyful over the discovery and willing to sell all that he had to buy the field. What are we willing to give in return for the very treasure we find in this community of faith? How can we participate in making this community even more like the Kingdom of Heaven? When you are with friends outside of the Christ Church community what positive things do they know about your church?

As individual members of Christ Church, perhaps we are willing to give up on old ways of behaving which always lead us into painful envy of others and the resulting rivalries that takes us far from our true spiritual values and home.

Or, maybe we are willing to give up old and not so old prejudices against people, places, and points of view and replace these old ways with a willingness to love even our enemies as we love ourselves.

These are just some of the things which we possess or which possess us that we might want to sell in order to gain the treasured values and character of those who are citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven.
I offer this brief parable as a way of helping us form a better understanding of our past and a more hopeful promise in the year to come. Our past was created by individuals whose ways of thinking and acting were changed and reshaped by the Gospel. They did not do it perfectly, but they strove to become the Good News that they announced.

Our future will be the sum total of our willingness to sell off what we thought was of value and the actions that flowed from those old values and to allow the Gospel to change and reshape us into the likeness and image of God and the Kingdom that is his.

Our efforts begin with a recognition that we have found something here in this community and more particularly and especially in the Gospel message that is of far greater value than whatever we have valued before. Our future, the Kingdom of Heaven, is findable, but it is also so present that it can be stumbled upon too. Christ Church is like that treasure and it grows in value to our world the more we are willing to sell all that we have in order to make it our own.

The treasure chest is full of hospitality, prayer, respect for the dignity of others, especially our enemies, hope for a more loving way of living, forgiving, serving, worshipping and doing justice. In short, the Kingdom of Heaven is transforming our world one person and one community at a time. I pray that this year, you will consider your response to your growing awareness of the Kingdom of Heaven here at Christ Church and in the world. Whether you stumbled upon the treasure or sought it out, I hope that this coming year will be a time for all of us to sell off the treasure that does not last so that we might buy the ground in which the buried treasure of the Kingdom of Heaven awaits us.

Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. AMEN.

God’s Peace in the Treasure of the Kingdom of Heaven,

Bob+

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

In Memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.


Growing up during the 1950s and 1960s, I was a great admirer of Martin Luther King Jr. I also admired the people who followed his non-violent, but persuasive way of speaking justice to our nation. So, the yearly celebration of the life of Martin Luther King Jr. always brings up very powerful memories. This year, we see Barak Obama running as a serious candidate for the presidency of the United States of America. Dr. King was truly about the liberation of all humanity and so Hilary Clinton's candidacy is also a first in our nation's short history.

My comments are not intended to back any political candidate, but to simply note that we, as a nation, are changing. We are not changing all at once or once and for all, but we are changing. Martin Luther King spoke of a dream he had of a nation,a world in which children of all colors would one day join hands. We are not there yet, but we know the direction.

I offer a version of Psalm 15 that was written by Stephen Mitchell which he recasts for Dr. King. It reminds me that the Bible has been a source of inspiration and change for every generation.

Psalm 15

Lord, who can be trusted with power,
and who may act in your place?
Those with a passion for justice,
who speak the truth from their hearts;
who have let go of selfish interests
and grown beyond their own lives;
who see the wretched as their family
and the poor as their flesh and blood.
They alone are impartial
and worthy of the people's trust.
Their compassion lights up the whole earth,
and their kindness endures forever.

(A Book of Psalms, translations by Stephen Mitchell)

Monday, January 07, 2008

INTO THE WATERS OF THE JORDAN


We seem to have a version of this story of Jesus’ baptism during every season in the church year. There must be some reason why all four Gospels include a story about this time by the Jordan River. One question that many people ask about this beginning place of Jesus’ public ministry is why, if Jesus was sinless, did he need to be baptized? Is that a question you have ever asked?

When Jesus comes to John to be baptized (literally meaning “dipped”), John at first hesitates, but Jesus says that it is necessary for John to baptize him in order to fulfill all righteousness. Jesus came into the world not to condemn us to the hopelessness of our judgments against one another, but to save us from such harsh and vain behavior.

Jesus goes into the waters of the Jordan River, not to wash away sin, but to join himself to the outcomes of our personal and corporate sin. His baptism, like his birth and death, are truly God giving all of who God is to us. In Jesus’ view of the world, there are not one set of good people and one set of evil people. Rather he sees the good and the evil that resides in each of us.

The world into which Jesus came and in which we live today, seeks to divide people into categories of good and evil. By this simple act of identification of evil and good people, the sin of the world is given birth and becomes the fear, hatred, and violence that defines our way of treating each other. With such moral clarity, we painlessly can see ourselves as God’s righteous ones and others as those who opposed us and God.

The righteousness that is fulfilled by Jesus in his baptism is God’s righteousness. God’s righteousness leaves no one out of the rescue mission of God’s grace. Jesus’ baptism, like his life and death, demonstrate God’s powerless love to embrace us all. His willingness to go under the waters of the Jordan and to give himself to God’s loving coming reign is why Matthew recalls the words of the Psalmist: “This is my son, my beloved, in whom I am well pleased.”

QUESTIONS FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION

1. If we are true to our baptismal vows and promises, how will our baptism draw us closer to meeting Jesus in his baptism?

2. Have you ever wondered what sins directly resulted in Jesus' death on the cross?

3. Does God becoming one of us necessarily mean that we humans will treat Jesus the way he was treated by the Romans and religious leadership of his day? Why/Why not?

4. What does the word, "righteousness" mean to you?

5. Why is our baptism often called a death like Jesus' death?

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

WHEN YOU WISH UPON A STAR, FOLLOW IT


Have you ever had an epiphany? You know, a moment of clarity about something or someone? Such insights are called epiphanies, because they suggest a deeper view into one’s heart or mind. But the Feast of the Epiphany is more than just a personal insight by a single person. Personal epiphanies may have their source in God, but the Epiphany we celebrate on January 6th is the great I AM becoming one with the very flesh and blood creatures he spoke into existence. This Epiphany is expressed in a human life that begins as all human life begins as an infant.

The Epiphany celebrates the Greatest God Shot in the history of the human story. Like a huge magnet, the Christ child attracts people from all nations, races, colors, nationalities, languages, and socio-economic classes. What draws people to the Christ child?

In the Gospel appointed for reading this Sunday, Matthew tells of magi who see a star that heralds the birth of a new king of Israel. The magi are not Jews. In fact, they come from present day Iraq whose people were considered ancient foes of Israel (the prophet Daniel contended with such magi in his day). Remember the Babylonian captivity?

So, what is so compelling in this star and the king it announces that would send traditional enemies of Israel towards Bethlehem to pay this infant king homage? Is it possible that the source of our own salvation comes in our willingness to see God in those whom we consider our enemies?



Isaiah says: “The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light.” If these magi can be moved beyond the darkness of their historical envy, rivalry, resentment, and enmity with their Jewish neighbors, what possible epiphany does that offer us?

Of course, Herod was not happy with the news he receives from the magi. He is in the darkness of his own envy of anyone who might challenge his leadership. But Jesus’ challenge to Herod is not for his earthly throne. Jesus, even as an infant, represents a new way of relating to each other. Power is not used to wipe out one’s enemies, but to embrace them in ways that convert and transform those who are at odds.

What “star” are we following? The star that leads to “God with us” promises us a life of journey. Once we make our way to the manger of our own souls we witness and worship the Christ child born in us. This epiphany of “God with us” is followed by the journey on which we find “God in others.” If we can accept this new king as the Lord of Life, we will see that he is not a divider, but a great reconciler of God’s children. This is the light that shines in the darkness that the darkness can not overcome.

Blessed Epiphany,
Bob