On Wednesday night I dropped in on the meeting of BS Troop 7155 and watched the leaders sorting out badges and attaching them to cards to hand out to the Scouts who had worked on earning them at an all-day Saturday session. The colors and logos were a fascinating display that became a game to guess what each badge represented, and to be impressed by the range of the challenges to earn one.
Today we hear a Gospel story from the life of Jesus that challenges everyone to work to earn its three merit badges which if represented with patches could be:
- a mountain,
- a glaring light,
- a question mark imposed on a down-hill trail.
The first assignment is to identify our own Mount Herman, which is not only a place to which we get away, but a time: to rise above clutter and confusion, to escape all the pressures and demands, to get away to quietness and stillness, to be caught up in a moment for which the word “awe” was made.
One of our high school adventures was to hike with our pastor across a farmer’s field near Hawk Mountain.
All of a sudden we came across a Mount Herman-like mass of rocks, piled one on top of the other, forming a mountain named the “Pinnacle.”
It was a two-part challenge; first to find a pattern in the rocks that would be a path and get a foothold; the second was to maintain the stamina to make it to the top and take in the breath-taking sight, seen only from that height,
which became a mountain moment to last a lifetime; the thrill of working for this Gospel badge.
To earn the second, the glaring light badge, we need to look at the figures the three saw there on Mount Herman:
Moses, who brought the Ten Commandments, the rules for all civilization to follow in order to survive and thrive as men and women who are the masterpiece of all God’s creatures;
Elijah, the most striking of the Old Testament prophets who, to this day, serve to motivate and inspire one generation after another;
and Jesus, Who literally glows with the glory of God, that like a neon sign, lights up with the words,
“This is my Son, the Chosen One; listen to Him.”
For years a woman who came to worship almost every Sunday would often protest as she left the service,
that Jesus wasn’t really the human form of God coming to live with us. She dismissed God’s charge to “listen to Him.” When some people disagreed with her, and said they trusted Paul’s confession: “(Christ) is the visible likeness of the invisible God,” she would let out a grunt and turn away with the body language of the Dowager Countess, Granny, in “Downton Abbey.”
When the President of Mexico asked Mother Teresa to open one of her homes in a very poor section of Mexico City and her sisters started by visiting to determine the needs of the people, they were surprised to hear they didn’t ask for clothing or food or medicine. They said, “Sisters, talk to us about God.” (Adapted from Sermons.com for Feb. 7, 2016) which they did by talking about the God seen in Jesus, Who on Mount Herman, shone with the glory of God made visible, being real, brought near, to warm and heal thorough the light that takes on the rays of love, the love of God in Jesus Christ; a mountain moment that leaves us speechless as we work on this Gospel badge, that leads us to the third one.
To earn the badge stitched with threads that form a patch showing a question mark imposed on a down-hill trail.
It’s the badge that has us, like the first three, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror,
shining upon and through us, so that we renounce the shameful things that one hides; we refuse to practice cunning or to falsify God’s word; but by the open statement of the truth we commend ourselves to the conscience of everyone in the sight of God.
In the words of Martin Luther, “We become a little Christ to everyone else” and join our Cherub Choir in singing,
“This little light of mine, “I’m going to let it shine.” And pick up on the last and ultimate law every Boy Scout says, “A Scout is reverent.” … making it a universal pledge, because, as told in the Bible’s story of creation,
we humans are imprinted with the image of God which we are to carry from a mountain moment
into the valley of everyday life, which has us continually questioning if we are reflecting the light, the life, the love of Christ, below the mountain, in the valley?
The Gospel story reports that when the three walked down that trail, they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.
One assumed reason is they were trying to find the words; another is that they had to wait to witness the days beyond the Cross and empty Tomb – the rest of the story of Jesus; still another is that they knew
their deeds spoke louder and were more convincing than their words, that the way they lived would – as it did – prompt others to say, "Look, how they love one another!” – Their mountain moment that sent them down into the valley of life, shining with the reflected love of Christ, that took them from the second badge to the third.
When a new job moved a couple away from family and friends, the wife decided to make a woodcarving of the Last Supper and get acquainted by using her new neighbors as models for each disciple. So everyone was watching to see which one of them she would choose. In a tone of excitement and puzzlement, they raised the question, “Who will you choose for Jesus?” Her answer was, “I see so much of Jesus in each of you that I really can’t choose just one of you.”
Isn’t it wonderful when that is the twist we give to the question mark that dominates the third badge? AMEN