- St. Luke's Dundalk
The Mighty Metamorphing God by Vicar A.J. Houseman
The cycle for water purification in nature is called The Hydrological Cycle. This cycle is Earth’s natural way of changing and transforming water.
When rain falls onto a mountain it pools and makes its way down a stream. As it does this it runs into boulders, through sand, and comes in contact with plants and animal organisms that live in the stream. When it rolls over itself into and around a boulder the water aerates, adding oxygen to the water. This oxygen is essential to the plants and organisms in the water. These organisms will eat away at the contaminants in the water for energy and food.
As the water continues its journey, it may pool into a lake half way down the mountain, slowing it's progress until it filters into another stream. While it sits in the lake, all the heavier sediments fall to the bottom of the lake and collect in the silt and clay.
The water falls into another stream, getting sandier towards the base of the mountain. This sand, made up of tiny rocks and minerals continues to filter out the tiniest of the sediments left over in the water and enriches the water with minerals that are essential elements for humans and other animals that will eventually drink the water.
As the water moves and is transformed, it is intentionally agitated by nature. Agitated by the boulders, plants, the microorganisms, the sand. And on the other side we get renewed, transformed, reformed, enriched water.
I’m not a microbiologist… or really a biologist at all. But there is something beautiful in the natural way that the living world is constantly renewing itself.
Like take our very bodies: every single millisecond we are changing. The electrons in every atom of our body rotates around the nucleus 7 thousand trillion times per second. That number is so high I honestly don’t know how many zeros that is.
Our mind is changing. Creating new synapses that are firing rapidly in our brains with each piece o f new information we take in. Our hearts pump 5 to 7 liters of blood carrying new oxygen to our ever-changing cells every minute.
As much as we want, as much as it feels good to us, we aren’t meant to live in a singular moment. We aren’t meant to stay exactly as we are right now.
Like sometimes change seems hard. When the world changed drastically in March it was tough at first, to adapt, to understand, to navigate through new social standards and safety regulations. And they are still changing, sometimes it seems just as rapidly as those electrons in our atoms. We are constantly being renewed, changed, transformed, and re-formed.
Romans 12:2 from our reading this morning talks about being transformed. The New Revised Standard Version that we read says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God-- what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
To break it down a little further, I offer you my own translation based on the original Greek text that I think will help us get to the deeper essence of this, “Do not be conformed by the present age, but be continually reformed by changing your capacity to comprehend for the better, so that you may determine what is to be carried out according to God’s purpose-- what is healthy, serves well, and free of any omission.”
The Greek word for Transform is metamorpho, what’s important about this verb is that it's an imperative present passive 2nd person plural. That almost sounds like a tongue twister, but this is what it means: Imperative means it's a command, not optional, present means it's actively happening like right now, passive means it's being done TO you, and 2nd person plural means that it's being done to YOU ALL, not just one person in particular. This version of metamorpho means that YOU ALL are continually presently being changed by God whether you like it or not.
And it is important to recognize that it is: YOU ALL. Y’all, as they say in some places. When we read English translations of the Bible we often see the word “YOU” and read it as singular. But just like the water, “YOU” aren’t being transformed by yourself. One molecule of H2O doesn’t change independently. Remember that. It flows as a body of water that is being changed as the water is agitated over the course of it's collective journey. We, as the Body of Christ, as a community of Children of God, are being agitated and changed over the course of our collective journey together whether we like it or not.
To get just a little bit more superheroy this morning, the God that is doing the Metamorphing of us is an Agitator. That’s God’s superhero name this morning: God the Agitator.
When water is coming down the mountain there is intentional agitation that is going on to create the change in the water. This process of agitation is how we purify water artificially. Say you are using iodine tablets: you add a tablet and shake it, or agitate the water. If you are filtering water with UV rays, it's the same thing, you shake it!
In the same way, God the Agitator is alive in our lives shaking and moving us. Take a moment to think about your own spiritual journey. When were times that you think God the Agitator was shaking you? What happened when it was over?
God works this way in creation. As we talked about before, the living cells of everything on this Earth are moving and changing, morphing throughout time.
The Greek word aion is translated as WORLD in the NRSV, which doesn’t fully capture its meaning. To say “world” suggests a place, however aion means a space of time, an age.
And the space of time that we live in is a dangerous one to conform to. Violence, racism, oppression of the marginalized. Pulling your own self up by your bootstraps. Looking out for numero uno. These ideals are common in the age we live in. As members of the Body of Christ we are being called to change it. We are being called to determine what is to be carried out according to God’s purpose-- what is healthy, serves God well, and free of any omission. We are being called to learn and to grow and to be changed so that we can make a difference in this present age whether we like it or not.
Last week in our reading from Romans we heard that “God’s gifts and God’s call is
irrevocable”. This is Romans 11:29. God has a purpose for us. Whether we like it or not. Whether we want to run away, to be stubborn, stamp our feet, to ignore, to try and thwart God’s attempts to transform us and to call us. Because God doesn’t leave us. Whether we are being stubborn, or hurt, or feel lost. God is there. God is ALWAYS there. Always loving us. Always changing us. Always calling us. Because God loves us and has a purpose for us and for the world, no matter what.
A long time ago, this guy Jesus, (maybe you’ve heard of him), was a radical reformer. This guy flipped over tables in the temple, this guy sat down and shared meals with tax collectors and healed prostitutes. Who spoke out against oppression and violence. Who agitated the status quo of the political field of Jewish laws and the Roman Empire.
This guy gives us a little insight into what is to be carried out according to God’s purpose. He said: “Blessed are the poor” – Luke 6:20, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself.” – Matthew 22:37, “Everyone will know you are my disciples if you love one another.” - John 13:35, “He who is without sin cast the first stone.” – John 8:7, “Shoulder your cross and follow me.” – Matthew 16:22. God doesn’t say “CHANGE!” and then leave us on our own. No. God is always guiding us, continually presently changing us whether we like it or not. God challenges us to be kind, to stand up for one another, to love always. To make peace, to learn, to be humble, to see the beauty in others.
Do not be conformed by the present age, but be continually re-formed. Our reading in Romans goes on to say that we are all one Body of Christ with many gifts given by God’s grace. Each of us has different gifts that are put together to be this body of water flowing down a mountain being agitated together, growing stronger, gaining minerals, coming out different, changed and renewed together.
God will never stop stirring, never stop agitating each and every one of us to grow. To learn to love. To gain more understanding of God’s mercy, God’s grace, and God’s purpose for this world. God will continue to agitate our gifts. Agitate our shortcomings, our failings, and our mistakes. God will continue to agitate our families and communities. The Great Agitator is never done with us whether we like it or not.
God the Agitator is continually re-forming us, all of us, whether we like it or not because that is the kind of God we have, the one that will lever leave us or forsake us. The God that is moving and breathing in every single living cell.
So may God agitate you, move you, and love you every second of your lives. Amen
Our reflection song of the week is "Signature of Divine" by NEEDTOBREATHE