Lisa Lefkow, Chief Executive of Habitat for Humanity of Collier County, shared the penultimate Lent Devotion, talking about the importance of inclusivity and loving your neighbour.
The story of the transfiguration in Matthew 17:1-9 is one of my favourites. After all, who doesn’t love a story that includes Peter wanting to build a bunch of little houses in that moment of extraordinary commotion?
As we journey on our Lenten road, this Scripture does so much more than amuse me, however. Here, we encounter the fullness of the Trinity — God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit — and we acknowledge the importance of the moment. Through the appearance of Moses and Elijah (representing the law and the prophets), Matthew reminds us that we must cherish the gifts of the past as we continue to move into God’s future (led by the Holy Spirit).
In this day when Habitat organizations are faced with pressures of finding ways to serve more families and of being relevant in our various contexts, it is critical that we honour our core values and our foundational principles. We must continue to demonstrate the love of Jesus Christ in all that we do. A primary part of that demonstration of love is to act in ways that are radically inclusive.
Muriel’s home dedication brought this reminder to life for me. Muriel had been born into a prominent Nicaraguan family that was persecuted by the Sandinistas. His brother was murdered in front of the family, and the parents paid a coyote (one who smuggles migrants) to bring Muriel to the United States. With political asylum, he worked two full-time jobs for years to save enough money to bring his wife and children to join him.
Once reunited, they focused on their future by becoming Habitat homeowners. At their home dedication, Muriel, speaking in broken English, delivered a heartfelt message of gratitude. “I came to this country as a stranger,” he said. “But today, I look at all of you who have helped make this dream come true and see only brothers and sisters.” Among those gathered were members of the Temple, faithful Christians, other individuals with great faith, and some of no faith at all. Also present were donors, volunteers and supporters who hailed from different countries and who had skin of varying tones. They were his friends and neighbours. It was a powerful moment of transfiguration as we witnessed the radically inclusive love of Jesus Christ demonstrated through the testimony of this one family.
The last line of our Scripture text may raise an eyebrow for those of us to want to shout about God’s love from the mountaintop. A quote often ascribed to St. Francis of Assisi is “Preach the Gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.” Too often we talk a good talk but fail to walk a faithful walk. In reminding Peter, James and John not to talk about their experience, I hear Jesus reminding me to simply live out the Gospel imperative: “Stop talking and just love everyone, just as God does.” In this, our lives are transfigured, and we move closer to God and God’s future of hope and promise.
God of all, You have called us Your children, woven us into one family and endowed us with various gifts. As we travel along our Lenten journey, help us to remember the gifts of the past and to recognize the importance of these foundations. May we continue to grow in our demonstration of Your relentless love for all people, until we reach that day when all of Your children have a good, healthy and affordable place to live. Thank You for those moments of transfiguration when we see Jesus in one another’s eyes. It is in Your name that we pray. Amen.