In 1946, on this high place overlooking Lake Washington, a Lutheran congregation was founded. In the beginning, it was called Lakeridge Community Church. It was a name far ahead of its time. Today many congregations call themselves “community churches.” Later, it became Lakeridge Lutheran Church. A building was needed and the first worship space was constructed, next door to this worship space, what continues to serve as our library and meeting place.
Later, when the congregation outgrew the space, a new building was added, an office and education building, a parsonage, all of which have served not only the needs of the congregation but countless individual lives and households in our part of the world, and even around the globe.
Just as a congregation gathered on a high place in the presence of Christ to worship for the first time 67 years ago, so also Peter, James and John gathered in the presence of Christ on a high place and caught a glimpse of the glory of God. Any one of us would have responded as Peter did. Lord, it is good that we are here!
When you feel good about something, it’s natural to want to hang on to the experience. Peter’s answer was to build three shelters, one for Moses, one for Elijah, and one for Jesus himself. He wanted to preserve the moment. He meant well. But buildings, like anything in this life, can become a distraction to the glory and love of God. On that mountaintop a cloud surrounded the six men and a voice was heard that said, This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him! Whereas Peter’s attention had been fixed on earthly things, the cloud and the voice returned the focus to where it belonged: on Jesus–his power, his presence, his love.
Shelter takes many forms: whether it’s a church building, whether it’s your own home, or a new arena for the Sonics, buildings provide security. The cloud and the voice from heaven didn’t provide the kind of security we chase after in this world. What they did provide was mystery. What they did provide was a different kind of security: the assurance of God’s presence and God’s power!
Buildings are a beginning. They’re an important part of God’s work in this place. During conversation at council this past week your treasurer said, as your council members have said many times, “We are so blessed!” I hope everyone here this morning understands how true that is. I myself over the past year have become more deeply appreciative of how God is building an eternal kingdom in this place and through our abundant gifts and blessings, building the kingdom beyond our walls.
Master, let us make three dwellings, Peter said. The word in the version many of us grew up with used the word booths instead of “dwellings”—like a telephone booth (see insert)! The Scriptures say that Peter didn’t know what he was saying. In a way that’s true, because a booth is something small. Our private needs and beliefs are too small for God’s glory. On the other hand, Peter was on the right track. After all, what is the main point of a building? Providing shelter! In two words, that’s one of the best ways I can imagine of describing God’s work in the world, and the purpose of God’s people on earth—providing shelter!
Building the kingdom of God might begin with buildings. A building provides shelter where God’s people gather to pray, to worship, to study, to sing, to laugh, to cry, to eat, and to be recharged for our life and work in the world. But any building, no matter how big, is too small to contain the power and glory of God. How else is God providing shelter? How is God using our abundant blessings to provide shelter for a world in need?
Some of the ways are obvious. For a seventh year in a row, we will provide shelter during the month of March for men who don’t have their own shelter. We have contributed to veterans and their families who have no shelter through the Compass Veterans Center in Renton. We are one of several congregations helping to open a shelter for women in Renton within the next few weeks.
Through our Mission Endowment Fund we have provided support for Luther’s Table, which has been spiritual shelter for many, including people who don’t feel comfortable in a traditional church. In recent months, an increasing number of homeless people have found Luther’s Table to be a place of warmth, welcome and hospitality.
Some of you have contributed time and money and clothing for Compass Housing Alliance and Operation Nightwatch. We have among us people whose paid work during the week helps provide shelter, especially for the homeless youth of our communities. Pr. Rick Pribbernow and Marissa Tanimura, our Director of Music, do this good work.
How else is God providing shelter? We are a Reconciling-in-Christ congregation. We proclaim to the world God’s love for all people. We prove our commitment to God’s love by welcoming all people, especially those who have felt excluded, ignored and discriminated in other places. In this way we provide not only physical shelter but spiritual shelter.
But providing shelter didn’t start with RIC. This past week in the news we heard that a woman named Sally Roffey Jewell was nominated to be the U.S. Secretary of the Interior, one of the most powerful positions in the country. Turns out that Sally Roffey sang in the choir at Lakeridge Lutheran Church back in the early 70s! But the story gets better. Sally and her family were not Lutherans but Jews. The rules of the church said that people in the choir had to be active in worship. Sally’s mom asked if her daughters could sing anyway. Imagine what courage it took for a mother to make that request. Jews have been discriminated against for centuries. And yet, here they were welcomed. Here they found shelter!
How else do we provide shelter? We provide a safe place for children.
In today’s reading, as Jesus and his disciples came down off the mountain, a great crowd approached him and one man in particular shouted for Jesus to help heal his son. The father called the illness a demon; we might call it epilepsy. Jesus healed the boy, but even if he hadn’t been physically healed Jesus provided his family shelter from fear and despair. You, too, have provided shelter this past year for families in need of comfort, hope and encouragement, through the uncertainties of illness and foster care, even as we have been mightily blessed by their gifts and their presence among us.
How do we provide shelter? By staying awake and alert to what God is doing among us and the opportunities that come our way. On that Mount of Transfiguration Luke writes that Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory! It is easy to feel weighed down by the challenges of life. It is tempting to become distracted. It is easy to miss God’s glory, even when it’s right under our noses. But by God’s power and God’s grace we are able to stay awake and see the glory of God—miracles great and small–all around us! Our eyes are opened to see God’s presence and God’s power working among us and through us.
How do we provide shelter? We have two main choices: We can follow our own small ideas and impulses, as Peter was inclined to do. Or, we can take our cue from listening to the word of God! The voice from the cloud said, This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him! When we listen to God’s word we remember our purpose. Because God has provided us shelter, we look around us and see countless ways that God is at work using our gifts…to the glory of God!