February 26, 2017
The gospel readings move from Jesus' Sermon on the Mount in chapter 5 to chapter 17, and one more of several scenes with Jesus on a mountain. This time it is Mount Tabor, and Jesus, along with three of the disciples, disappear into the mist, out of view of the other disciples and the crowds. Fortunately we are allowed to follow and wonder, along with Peter, James, and John what the meaning of all this is. Mountains are all over, of course. In the Old Testament reading, Moses encounters God on Mount Sinai. In the psalm, God enthrones God's envoy on Zion, the "holy hill."
Exodus 24:12-18 † Psalm 2 † 2 Peter 1:16-21 † Matthew 17:1-9
We who live in the shadow of Mount Rainier, and surrounded by white caps on all sides, know something of mountains and the wonder they invoke. There seems to be something about these imposing, far-off yet immediate places of limits and unsure footing that have everything to do with ensuring that we keep our bearings. What do we make of this? And what did these ancients make of them that had them continually connecting these so called "peak" experiences to faith? How is this Sunday preparing us for our work of Lent, and our living in a world guided by a steadfast love for one another, especially for the aliens among us? What does it look like to keep our bearings in the midst of a political season that seems to be shifting everything so far away from what we have known and been committed to as a country, and as Christians within it?
In his book The Solace of Fierce Landscapes, Belden Lane writes: “Language about God is as impossible as it is necessary.” It seems there is something about knowing God and the practice of faith that is a paradox—two seeming opposites are true at the same time. When we arrive at our limits, we also tend to arrive in the arms of God. The place of fearfulness—the place of risk—is also, the place of being known and loved. Lane again: “one is continually lured by God, through increasing levels of obscurity and vulnerability, to a deeper knowledge and love.”
For Further Reflection:
Marilynne Robinson, Gilead, 21st century
"It has seemed to me sometimes as though the Lord breathes on this poor gray ember of Creation and it turns to radiance--for a moment or a year or the span of a life. And then it sinks back into itself again, and to look at it no one would know it had anything to do with fire, or light....Wherever you turn your eyes the world can shine like transfiguration. You don't have to bring a thing to it except a little willingness to see. Only, who could have the courage to see it?" John O'Donohue, 21st century
"Much of the stress and emptiness that haunt us can be traced back to our lack of attention to beauty. Internally, the mind becomes coarse and dull if it remains unvisited by images and thoughts that hold the radiance of beauty."
Morgan Freeman, 21st century
"Learning how to be still, to really be still and let life happen--that stillness becomes a radiance."
Hafiz, 14th century
"An awake heart is like a sky that pours light."
Richard Bausch, Peace, 21st century
"He turned in a small circle and looked at the grass, the rocks, the river, the raining sky with its tatters and torn places, the shining bark of the wet trees all around. He could not think of any prayers now. But every movement felt like a kind of adoration."