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Environmental Stewardship Commission

Episcopal Church in Minnesota

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We meet quarterly close to the solstice and equinox.

Annual Special Projects


Resolution on the Spirituality of Food Production

Resolution on Church Buildings and Grounds

Resolution on Creation Season

Resolution on Green Congregations



Lectionary Reflection

Year A, Last Epiphany
Revised Common Lectionary

Readings for this Sunday (RCL)


Sermon on the Readings
by Charles Morello, Jr.

Last Spring my wife and I were at Cape Henry, VA, a few miles north of Virginia Beach. We, along with many others, were sitting on bleachers to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the first landing of the 3 ships under Captain John Smith – the group that would subsequently found Jamestown, VA. It was quite a cold and foggy morning and we wondered just what was going to happen.

Had we come all this way in the uncomfortableness of a foggy, damp, and cold beach just to listen to speeches?

Suddenly, we began to make out the sails and masts of a ship slowly emerging out of the fog. Behind it came two other ships, which also slowly emerged into full view. They had been a quarter of a mile off-shore, but to our eyes and in the fog, and, until they appeared, they might as well have been many miles away.

I bet it was a bit like that for Peter, James, John (the Apostles) as they went up that mountainside with Jesus and then, suddenly, Moses and Elijah appear and God talks from the clouds. That's enough to give anyone heart palpitations! The Rev William S. Bennett calls this a feeling of "Fear and Trembling" – which we hear mentioned in today's Psalm as well.

In today's Exodus reading, the Israelites look up at the mountain shrouded in a cloud – waiting as Moses waits. Then, suddenly, God speaks from the cloud and fire makes everything too bright. That, too, must have made for "fear and trembling" for the Israelites looking up from the valley below.

For the Apostles and the Israelites, this "Fear and Trembling" was a way to identify the presence of God; and, they are comfortable with this God. They are comfortable because they know how to act in God's presence: They bow down in fear, with their knees shaking, covering their eyes and with their bodies dimpled and pimpled with the little mountains of gooseflesh. They, however, like it, because it's the fear that keeps God distant. They never can approach this God of fear and trembling. And it is with this same "fear and trembling" that we often approach God today.

Look at our Lessons today:
Moses and Jesus speak with YHWH and Peter, James & John hear God speak. All the others keep their distance and keep God at a distance.

It is only in Matthew, when Jesus tells the Apostles to "Get up and do not be afraid" that we are offered a chance to transform our relationship with God.

Here's a real opportunity for God and the human part of God's creation to draw closer together. Jesus tells the Apostles – and us – not to be afraid of the presence of God.

Did you notice? Peter does not mention "fear and trembling" in recounting this story years later. He has experienced God's presence, God's love.

The Exodus reading speaks of fire coming from the cloud. We know that the light of that fire is God's love – a love so powerful and so overpowering that we turn away in perceived unworthiness. How often do we say, "how can God love someone like me!"???

However, I think, that that is how God wants us to see him – as love making radiant all of God's creation. All of it, mind you – from the smallest of creatures to the great Leviathan; from the smallest of plants and microbes to the giant sequoias; from deep ocean basins to snowy mountaintops.

We usually think of the Transfiguration story in Matthew as something that happens only to Jesus. Dare we think of Jesus's transfiguration as something that happens also to us?

When the transfigured Jesus said to the Apostles, "Get up and do not be afraid" he was offering them a transfiguration

  • from "trembling and fear"of God
  • to "overwhelming love" by and with God.

Perhaps, our personal transfiguration should be in radically cultivating our awareness of God by living out our lives knowing and recognizing that God is present in all of Creation – not just in human beings or not just in Christians. Can we look at a grain of wheat and not think of how it can be transfigured into bread? Or a grape, into wine?

God wants all of creation to show forth God's love – a love that moves across and among all parts of God's creation.

The Season of Epiphany – very short this year – is an ever expanding manifestation of Jesus Christ in and to the world and it comes to an end somewhat as it began – with God announcing that Jesus is God's son and that God is pleased with Jesus.

We hear it in the Epiphany story of the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan – in a valley – and we hear it in the clouds of a mountain top with the Apostles, and we hear it in Peter's retelling years later – at all times and at all levels of God's creation God proclaims that Jesus is God's son.

Some may see the clouds in both Exodus and Matthew as a metaphor for that which obscures our understanding of God. I would offer that the clouds also tell us that it is in the ordinary and everyday things of creation that we encounter the presence of the Creator. It is in those times when we feel God's presence dazzling us, that God's voice may be heard in the gifts of creation.

We all expect to experience God on a mountaintop – after all, retreat centers are built with that in mind.

  • But what if we were to experience God in all places and in all times – not just on mountaintops?
  • What if we sought after God in the swamps and bogs and in the ghettos and slums of the world?
  • What if we recognized God's presence in butterflies and mosquitoes?
    in poor families and rich tyrants?
    in water, wheat and grapes?

Surely God is present on the high hills and mountains of our world. Should not that same creator God also be found in even the smallest microbe down here in the trenches of our lives?

For those who remember Bishop Charleston's presentation at the 2006 Diocesan Convention, one of his points for us Episcopalians is that "wherever we go, we go together" – we go as companions on a journey through and with God's creation. We humans are not separable from the rest of creation.

So, my sisters and brothers in Christ, today on our journey, when we look around at God's creation, we can't help but be troubled.

  • We hear about pollution, climate change, global warming, and dwindling resources.
  • We hear about people who want us to wait for more evidence that climate change and global warming are real.
  • We hear about "better living through chemistry" as a way to grow more food and stop pollution.
  • We hear about mining our way through creation to take the resources we need.

For some of us, the only way to go is to escape from the problems of the "real world". These people seek refuge away from the "maddening crowd" and all of the problems of day-to-day life. By escaping to their mountaintop they hope to escape the world's problems. They, like Peter, want to build booths – the walled communities to keep out the problems. They do not want to be bothered by the problems of climate change or pollution. They have separated themselves from creation.

Recently, I read something from the Rev Peter Kreitler of Earth Talk Today. He said,

Today, out of the whirlwind of climate change and global warming, the question is not ‘where', but ‘why'.

He then muses about God saying to us:

Woman and man, I have placed you in the garden to be guardians, to keep and serve. And you are watching as creation collapses. I have given you two hands, one for the book of scripture and the other for the book of nature, as your guidebooks along the pathway of life; I've lifted up prophets to hold mirrors to your face; I've lifted up a modern-day prophet – the voice of water – Jacques Cousteau, who said [at the Earth Summit] in 1992, ‘unless we do something radical today, we will be unable to do anything at all tomorrow.'

And, my brothers & sisters in Christ, Kreitler concludes

Tomorrow is today. The earth is in our hands.

So, my friends in Christ, our way of living has now transfigured God's creation in a way that is becoming inhospitable to humans and many species of plants and animals.

If Jacques Cousteau's tomorrow is today, then perhaps we need to change our actual relationship with God's creation to be more expressive of God's love.

The Episcopal Church and our local communities offer us plenty of opportunities. Here in Northeast Minnesota the Environmental Stewardship Commission of this Diocese offers many opportunities to learn about changing our relationship with God's creation to be more loving. You here at St. Andrew's are about to start a Lenten series about the Effect of Climate Change on our Surroundings.

Peter Kreitler was right when he said "the earth is in our hands."

So, my sisters & brothers in Christ, as you begin your journey down from the mountaintop of Epiphany and into the "real world" of Lenten discussions about God's creation and what we are doing to it,

  • are you ready to be transfigured and transfiguring in this world?
  • are you ready to find God in all of Creation?
  • are you ready to "get up and ... not be afraid"?


Printable version

To Reflections on other Readings for Year A, Last Epiphany:

Reflections available at the active links
Standard (Episcopal)
Revised Common
Old Testament (Hebrew Scripture) Reading:
Psalm 99
Psalm 2 or 99
New Testament Lesson
Philippians 3:7-14
2 Peter 1:16-21


Charles Morello, Jr., a licensed lay preacher in the Diocese of Minnesota, was MEESC Webverger and attended St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Virginia, MN, when he delivered this sermon to St. Andrew's Episcopal Church, Cloquet, MN, in 2008. Charles and we welcome your comments. Please address your comments or additional reflections to Charles Morello, Jr. or any MEESC member, or mail them to:

c/o C. Morello
4451 Lakeside Drive
Eveleth, MN 55743-4400 USA

The MEESC assumes that all correspondence received is for publication on this web site. If your comments are not for publication, please so note on your correspondence. The MEESC reserves the right to decide which items are included on the website.


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