Come to the Mountain
By Bishop Jack Croneberger
October 8, 2011
Diocesan Convention Eucharist Sermon
Cathedral Church of the Nativity
“Then Moses went up to God; the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, ‘Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the Israelites, you have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now, therefore, if you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples. Indeed the whole earth is mine, but you shall be for me a priestly kingdom, and a holy nation.’” (Exodus 19:3-7)
Brothers and sisters, it is time for us to go up to the mountain, to God, for God is surely calling to us. We shall be borne on eagles’ wings and brought to God’s presence and we...we are called to obey God’s voice and keep God’s covenant, for we are God’s treasured possession. A priestly kingdom, a holy nation.
O.K., O.K...Then tell me how come I frequently don’t feel much like a treasured possession or a priestly kingdom and certainly not a holy nation!
Let’s try this...called to obey God’s voice and keep God’s covenant. Obeying God’s voice requires the sharpest of our listening skills, listening for God’s voice in the panoply of creation; from the beauty or the devastation of wind, or water, or fire; from the roaring sounds of the world around us to the still small voices of the world within us.
How is God’s voice being spoken to us this day? Can you hear it? Can you share it? Can you do it? What if it’s not popular or politic? I call upon you this day, at this convention and Eucharist to come to the mountain...to hear the voice of God.
Be careful now, for if you hear God’s voice, you will inevitably be called to keep God’s covenant. And not just the “Do you believe” but also the “Will you continue, will you persevere? Will you proclaim, will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, will you strive for justice and peace among all people?”
Just when I believe I might have a handle on all the “Will I’s?” of the covenant, the old fears come to visit again. Something is not right! Something is missing! It’s too much! I cannot possibly do all the covenant asks of me. Forgive me, Lord.
And just then, Jesus steps into my screen...this time in the form of a “Peanuts” cartoon strip. Lucy is crying bitter tears over a decision her mother has made. She wails, “You promised me a birthday party and now you say I can’t have one! It’s not fair!”
Enter Lucy’s brother, Linus, who is the theologian in the group, who calls her aside to offer some advice. “You’re not using the right strategy,” he says. “Why not go up to Mom and say to her, ‘I’m sorry, dear Mother. I admit I’ve been bad, and you were right to cancel my party, but from not on, I shall try to be good.’”
Lucy thinks about it. She even rehearses the little speech to hear what it sounds like coming from her. Then she thinks about it some more. Finally, in the strip’s last panel, Lucy cries out, “I’D RATHER DIE!!”
Sometimes I think I’d rather die than say “I’m sorry.” Rather die than repent. But then dying to self is really what repentance is all about. Perhaps it is because I seem to be surrounded by death and dying, some expected and some very unexpected, but within the context of these finite lives of ours we need to be prepared. We need to wash our faces in the waters of baptism and put on the wedding garments of faith and our active response to faith. So let’s do whatever dying we need to do now, in order that we might be ready to live. To live with Christ and in Christ, now and forever.
“Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.’” (Matthew 16:24-25).