Olympic Faith, Olympic Love

(Olympic theme song)… Olympic Faith! Olympic Love!

Mountaintop to Valley Floor…

O, Friends I tell ya, we’ve been there before! (With Jesus, Jesus, Jesus)

Let Vancouver have its Olympic moment in the glory! We’ve been there too this week, and ours is a better story! Why, just consider.

They’ve got…

Olympic Opening Ceremonies

Hockey Pile-ups

Ski Jumping

Speed Skating

The Down-hiller, the Skater

and the Ice Sculptor

We’ve Had…

Olympic Kid Dressing

Olympic Snow Piling

Olympic Roof Shoveling

Olympic Trail Blazing

The Olympic Sled Team, Snow Mounder and Icicle Slasher

No contest, I’d say. But on this Sunday when snow and games and even valentines come together, I want to remind you. There’s another Olympic experience, another hilltop high and valley low where we’d do well to go. The Gospel invites us. And Jesus leads the way. Come up this gleaming white mountain, and you go away with reassurance, direction and power-to-plow through! Who here couldn’t use that? In a blizzard? In times when our souls freeze while our courage melts? In the chilling and thawing of love for God and each other? Who wouldn’t wanna be the best of valentines for earth and heaven alike, an Olympic champ in faith and love?! …Let the rest have Vancouver, let’s us get near to Galilee.

Here are the basic elements of the story. Jesus has just confronted the disciples directly: who do you think I am. They fudge, “Well, others say…” (We do this too, we weasel around when confronted with Jesus.)… Finally Peter says, “You’re the Christ! God’s only begotten. Lord of our lives!” Yea, Peter! (Even if he does mess up and protest, “Heaven forbid” when Jesus says he’s called to the cross.) Well, about a week passes. Jesus needs a deeper word. ‘Maybe a clearer “why”. Get this. He takes the 3 closest to him up on the mountain. Now what he’ll do, he’ll do for all. But those who will see it first, understand it best, who are most ready, are these who have walked nearest, followed tightest to Jesus. They’ve already done the discipline of discipleship! Here’s our 1st lesson.

We also need to do, to practice, to walk not just talk Jesus, if we want a glimpse of his glory sooner than later! Jesus invites. But he invites the prepared first-off. Well, on the mountain, A) Jesus is transformed; he shines-holy, radiant in glory. B) Moses appears, giver of the Law, giving Jesus blessing for the cross. Elijah, greatest of all prophets, gives Jesus the words he will need to speak. C) Peter sees how good it is to be here. (We all love the shiny times, the glory times) He wants to stay. (Us too). He’ll even build the place to stay. D) God speaks. “This is my son. Listen to him.” E) They gotta come down. There’s work to be done! Ain’t that always the way. F) Jesus heals where the disciples can’t … to show them that they can… if only they have faith!

Jesus on the mountain is an epic story of Olympic-size reassurance. Christ comes to this as a crisis moment-in-the-snow! (Never thought of that? Well, if the site is Mt. Hermon, and many think so, it may well have been snow-capped.) You and I, building-up and climbing up on mountains of our own making have been asking why all week. Why us? Why so much asked? Why now? Why so long for help? Our dilemma will melt away. Snow always does. Real suffering – not so much! [*Haiti] Much less the cross. Jesus knew the what of his calling. And he embraced it. But the why seems to trouble the very- human-side of Jesus as much as it does us. ‘Even to the garden prayer, “If it be your will, let this cup pass.” The hilltop holds back why from Jesus and from us. (E.g. believed/ff’d cf. crucified/denied) But Jesus is assured up there. Moses and Elijah point the way and empower the day. “You can do it!” they say. All things are possible. You are who you believe you are because you are who God made you to be! (Don’t you need to hear that? I do. ‘More inspiring, even Jesus did.) Such a word brings a shining to Jesus. He’s transformed. A new man! In that moment, Peter, James and John were too. I love this. When they looked up, all they saw was Jesus! What would be your list of sights to fall away… if you had eyes only for Jesus? (E.g.s… storm, roads, relationship problems, etc.) What an Olympic moment. Let Christ see only God’s will and God’s way, let us see Christ alone, and we too get to be in a good place (Peter). Why becomes less a torment and what a do-able thing. Snows may drift. We do not. We come close to Jesus, who comes close to God. And we know ourselves as valentines of Heaven.

Direction. That’s what Jesus gets up on this chill-of-a-hill. Surely we can get the same.  The Great Ones direct Jesus down the hill. And up to Jerusalem. And up that other hill to Calvary. And to the valley beyond, where a tomb lies empty, but in waiting. The Faithful Three get to hear again what echoed off the Jordan at Jesus’ baptism. “This is my son. Listen to him!” And Jesus says to them, “It’s time to go down this hill.” I don’t know what’s been buildin’ up in your life this week (besides snow, that is.) But I do know, whatever your standin’ or sittin’ on can’t last forever. (Glory and gore alike.) At some point, school does open, work does resume. Relationships do challenge. Even the Olympic Village closes down and the rivalries of nations heat up. Valentines on Sunday night become the partners we just don’t understand come Monday mornin’. We are told to go and stand in the midst of it all. And to listen to Jesus! Jesus, mind you. Jesus, who’s forever goin’ down that hill, only to encounter somebody with a need for healing! And we too are to go down, gather ‘round and reach out.

Power-to-plow through. That’s what Jesus brings to the scene he sees coming into view. The downhill disciples have labored in vain to cure a papa’s child. No go. It’s been a 5’ drift of a day, and without any traction, they! Jesus says it’s faith they need, like the F(f)ather’s in him and his in the F(f)ather! The child is healed. And when the disciples ask their lack, he says… but a mustard seed of faith will do… and anything would be possible for you… too! It is expected, but it is not trite to say. 1st, faith gives us strength for today and hope for tomorrow, as the old song says. 2nd, the investment of that faith in others, from our loves to our neighbors is rewarded with the power to plow through. Bishop Valentine knew, languishing in jail in the 300’s AD. He could hardly imagine how he’d push through. His crime: performing marriages. It made young men want loving more than soldiering! Those who loved Valentine (for his devotion to Christ and to them) showed their support. They secreted notes to him. He wrote back when possible. Condemned to death, he wrote a final love letter to his wife Asterius, his jailor’s blind daughter. He signed simply, “Your Valentine”. We will write the same today. For 17 centuries it has been a kind of act of Olympic faith that love wins! Christlike love. Mountaintop love: reassured, heaven-directed, Christ empowered. Let today be such a day for you!

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